March 22nd, 2010
Pope Benedict XVI has sent a Pastoral Letter to Irish Catholics in response to the Church’s crisis over child-molesting priests. It has been fairly universally condemned as inadequate and uncaring. Personally, I find it to be one of the most arrogant and self-serving of all possible responses the Pope could have given. But perhaps I’m biased.
I did, however, note two things I want to note.
First, the Pope writes as though this were a letter to the Southern Baptists, rather than to part of the Catholic family. All condemnations are directed at “you” and “the Church in your country”. It seems to me that this Pope wishes to make clear that he holds neither himself, the Vatican, the hierarchy, nor the political, legal, or pastoral policies of the Church as a whole to have any share in the failings.
It seems that he wishes to portray this tragedy as a singular incident, a failing of the Irish, rather than as a part of what is rapidly becoming a global epidemic.
Second, the Pope seems to want parents to take their share in the blame. He writes:
8. To parents
You have been deeply shocked to learn of the terrible things that took place in what ought to be the safest and most secure environment of all. In today’s world it is not easy to build a home and to bring up children. They deserve to grow up in security, loved and cherished, with a strong sense of their identity and worth. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person, to be inspired by the truth of our Catholic faith and to learn ways of behaving and acting that lead to healthy self-esteem and lasting happiness. This noble but demanding task is entrusted in the first place to you, their parents. I urge you to play your part in ensuring the best possible care of children, both at home and in society as a whole, while the Church, for her part, continues to implement the measures adopted in recent years to protect young people in parish and school environments. As you carry out your vital responsibilities, be assured that I remain close to you and I offer you the support of my prayers.
While this, on the surface, appears as sage counsel to live up to our duty to our children, I wonder if His Holiness has considered the meaning of this advice.
The Pope has said that it is the duty of parents to ensure the best possible care for children. Taking this in the context of priest abuse it means, in effect, that parents failed by trusting the Church and her officers.
When the Church said, “bring your children to us for altar duty”, parents failed by listening. When the Church said, “send your children to Catholic boarding school”, parents failed by agreeing. When the Church said, “teach your children to trust God and trust the Church as His representative”, the parents failed by doing precisely that. When the Church said, “you can trust us”, the parents failed by believing.
This Pope seems to be arguing the con-man’s defense: “I may have deceived you, but it’s your fault for believing me”.
Perhaps he’s right.
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Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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