Facing John Paul II’s legacy in sex abuse crisis

John Paul II

After the Vietnam War ended, U.S. military leaders recognized that they could not grasp what went wrong and begin to fix it unless everyone could speak with absolute candor.

Every crisis demands the same, including the sex abuse crisis.

So, while it is always a mistake to try and figure out what the crazies at Church Militant will do or say, it is important that we monitor what is being said by seemingly responsible people to make sure we are all keeping each other honest.

In a recent essay at The Weekly Standard, Mary Eberstadt wrote “The Elephant in the Sacristy, Revisted,” a kind of reprise of an article she first wrote in 2002.

“Back then, like today, the plain facts of the scandals were submerged in what we now call whataboutism,” she writes.

“According to these evasive maneuvers, the wrongdoing was supposedly explained by reference to clericalism, celibacy, sexual immaturity, and other attributes invoked to avoid the obvious.”

And, for her, then as now, the key to understanding the scandal was:

A cluster of facts too enormous to ignore, though many labor mightily to avert their eyes. Call it the elephant in the sacristy. One fact is that the offender was himself molested as a child or adolescent. Another is that some seminaries seem to have had more future molesters among their students than others. A third fact is that this crisis involving minors—this ongoing institutionalized horror—is almost entirely about man-boy sex.

First, it is always an honor to be mentioned alongside Frs. Spadaro and Martin, as well as Professor Faggioli.

But, while I can’t presume to speak for them, I can assure Ms. Eberstadt that the reason I called Vigano’s filthy lies a “putsch” attempt was because he not only mixed just enough truth amidst the lies to tantalize many journalists for a week, and apparently still has her believing him, but he called for the pope to resign.

In the face of the fact that Francis is the only pope who ever really took action against McCarrick, this call for his resignation was self-evidently an attempt at triggering a putsch, the modern day ecclesial equivalent of the shot fired by the cruiser Aurora to trigger the October Revolution in 1917.

This is what Viganò and his crowd of admirers want, for Francis to go.

“The Catholic laity is far from blameless in this hour.

“The scandals might have been reduced long ago if the laity’s rejection of church teaching on birth control hadn’t led to collusion of mutual misuse,” Eberstadt writes.

“Many priests winked at the laity’s breaking the law against contraception and many laity tacitly returned the favor by not worrying overmuch about their priest and some of his friends.”

She is actually on to something important here.

It is true that a sense of unreality and deceit surrounds the subject of sexual ethics within the Catholic Church, but that is a consequence of the deeper problem, namely, that the church’s teaching on sex has been for too long presented in the language of neo-scholasticism and with no apparent connection to the Gospel.

And, at least in the Anglo-Saxon world, and precisely among writers like Eberstadt, sexual ethics has been the primary focus of Catholic identity, giving the subject an outsized importance within the church.

Eberstadt is not alone.

In a column at First Things, and distributed through syndication, George Weigel takes a swipe at Cardinal Blase Cupich, albeit without naming him.

Weigel mistakenly compares a Cupich interview with a press conference given by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, then-prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, in 2002.

John Paul II was the one who set the pattern for ignoring victims, reinstated priests and promoted McCarrick four times.

Cupich did not say, as Castrillon Hoyos did, that the pope had better things to worry about than sex abuse.

The Chicago cardinal said the pope had better things to worry about than the self-serving, score-settling “testimony” offered by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a man Weigel had previously dubbed the best nuncio to the U.S. ever.

Weigel then goes on to quote at length and approvingly from a letter issued by Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair to his priests and seminarians. Blair wrote:

The anger and disillusionment of our Catholic people is only matched by my own, and no doubt yours as well. After all the massive effort that has been made since 2002 to rid the Church of this evil and to try to bring healing to victim survivors, how is it possible that we find ourselves confronting the same perception of the Church, and of us as priests and bishops, as if nothing has changed?

But, why, then, if he is so angry and disillusioned, and so resolved to do what it takes to eradicate this evil, why has not Archbishop Blair taken the simple step of publishing the names of those priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse against a minor?

Why does Weigel attend to his words and not his deeds?

And why should anyone think Weigel — defender of serial molester Fr. Marcial Maciel, friend of enabler Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, biographer of the pope who set the pattern of dismissing victims and covering up crimes — credible on this subject?

You can spend time checking to see which essayists quote which bishops, and whether those bishops have actually done anything to put the sex abuse scandal behind us.

You can examine their arguments and decide whether they make sense to you or not.

But, here is a shortcut, a quick way to tell if they are serious: Do they even mention St. Pope John Paul II ?

He was the one who not only set the pattern for ignoring victims, but who led the Vatican in the ’80s and ’90s, when bishops were routinely told to reinstate priests, not to be too tough on “poor father.”

He was the one who promoted Theodore McCarrick not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times. Continue reading


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