McCarrick report is one small step to dismantling clerical culture

It has long been understood by those who take a measured and thoughtful assessment of his papacy that the story of St. Pope John Paul II was sent off to the printer long before it was ready.

The narrative had not had time to mature, to incorporate the layers of complexity that marks us as truly human, to account for contradictions and flaws. The McCarrick report is the most persuasive evidence to date that the appellation "The Great" was applied too soon. In that regard, the report also serves as warning not to rush to conclusions about the abuse crisis itself.

John Paul II, confronted with the most damaging scandal the church faced in centuries, ignored the disturbing warnings from victims and from bishops entrusted with the care of the flock and instead embraced the adulation and counsel of serial predators. In doing so, he became not a figure of the courage that he persistently demanded of others, but the highest profile example of a corrupt hierarchical culture responsible for perpetuation of the abuse disgrace.

The editors of this publication do a great service to the church, and to sexual abuse victims, by asking the U.S. bishops to put the brakes on the John Paul II cult. It is, indeed, time to rein in the cult that has grown up around a garish superhero version of a pope.

The greatest value of the recent report, however, is not in establishing the weight of blame for the McCarrick debacle, though that is significant. Its greatest value is establishing that for all of his legendary achievements on the international front, at home John Paul II was a rather pedestrian member of a culture that has deep underlying maladies that became manifest in the abuse crisis. What he did, which warrants condemnation today, was not extraordinary at the time. He did what was expected of one deeply invested in and rewarded by the culture. He protected it at all costs, ignoring credible and impassioned warnings about McCarrick and another of his favorites, Marciel Maciel Degollado, founder of the corrupt Legionaries of Christ. The costs have been globally destructive of the church's credibility and authority.


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