Monthly Archives: March 2010

Culture Change in the Church (by Father Raymond de Souza) http://fatherdesouza.ca/?p=277

A Collection of Articles and Publications

Culture change in the Church

There has been much advice given to the Catholic Church in regard to the sexual abuse scandals. There are, though, only two real options. The Church can become more Catholic, or less Catholic.

Much commentary favours the latter approach. If the Catholic Church were to become less distinctively Catholic — begin to teach as false what she now teaches as true, modify her traditional practices, adopt democratic modes of governance — she would fix the problem. Though rarely put so bluntly, the advice to Catholics is to become more like Protestants.

The alternative is for the Church to become more fully who she already is — a preacher, a teacher, a mother, a mediator, a ruler. The sexual abuse scandals are a result of the Church’s infidelity to her own identity and mission. That demands the response of being more Catholic, not less.

Obviously that’s the case for the perpetrators of sexual abuse. Sin, especially such grievous sin and criminal activity, is a betrayal of the graces of baptism and ordination. The scandals, though, have been as much about a failure of governance and oversight; it’s from the Greek for “overseer” that we get the word “bishop”.

In the 1960s, like much of society and after the Second Vatican Council, the Church simply abandoned her disciplinary life. Doctrinal dissent was not corrected, but often celebrated. Liturgical abuses, both minor and outrageously sacrilegious, were tolerated. Bishops simply stopped inquiring into priestly asceticism, prayer and holiness of life. Non-Catholics often have an image of the Catholic Church as a ruthlessly efficient organization with a chain of command that would make the armed forces jealous. The reality for most of the 1960s to 1980s was the opposite. A priest could preach heresy, profane the Holy Mass, destroy the piety of his people and face no consequences. The overseers decided to overlook everything. It is any surprise, then, that when accusations of criminal immorality emerged they too were dealt with inadequately, if at all?

Pope Benedict, in his bluntly-worded letter to Irish Catholics last week wrote that the bishops “failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse.” Too many bishops weren’t Catholic enough. They failed, for example, to follow the clear direction of the 1983 Code of Canon Law that a cleric who commits sexual sin with a minor “is to be punished with just penalties, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants.”

A culture of laxity had so infected bishops that their disciplinary muscles had severely atrophied. It was not as if they were vigilant rulers in all aspects, but perversely indulgent of sexual abuse. Indulgence was shown to abuses of all kinds. So latitudinarian had the clerical culture become that even modest attempts at doctrinal discipline were widely mocked — or do we forget that the progressive press, inside and outside the Church, calling Joseph Ratzinger “God’s Rottweiler”?

The great task for the Holy See then has been to restore those disciplinary muscles. On doctrine, a universal catechism was issued in 1992 to make plain the orthodox teaching of the Church. In the liturgy, instruction after instruction has declared the age of endlessly inventive innovations to be over. The Holy See wrested control over translations of the Mass away from national bishops’ conferences, deeming a failure three decades of rhetorically insipid, theologically dubious and linguistically dishonest work.

On sexual abuse? In the late 1990s Cardinal Ratzinger launched a review of how such cases were being handled. In 2001, he and Pope John Paul II lost patience. That year — before, it should be noted, the explosion of the American scandals in 2002 — local bishops were told they no longer could handle the canonical aspects of such cases on their own authority. All cases of sex abuse had to be reported to Rome. The age of majority was raised from 16 to 18, the statute of limitations was extended and often lifted altogether, and speedier dismissals from the priesthood were authorized. If local bishops would not govern, then the Holy See would intervene directly.

Like doctrine and liturgy, the attempt was to effect a culture change — precisely because any existing rules are useless in a culture of laxity. It takes time to change a culture, but what does culture change in the Church look like?

Since 2001, Rome has dealt with some 3,000 cases stretching back a half century or more. Canadian bishops were
ahead of the curve; since 1989 there have been strict protocols in place. The current one for the Archdiocese of Toronto requires reporting abuse to civil authorities within one hour. Just last week my superiors dispatched a letter to another diocese I intend to visit testifying to my probity — including criminal checks, sobriety and soundness of morals. That’s now routine.

On Tuesday, the American bishops released their annual national audit of all charges in the last year. It reports that there were 398 new allegations in the entire United States last year. Six of them were from current minors; the rest were older incidents only now being reported. Over 70% of alleged offenders are already deceased, suspended from ministry, or dismissed from the priesthood. In a Church of some 60 million Catholics, aggressive action has seen the problem reduced to six cases of alleged current abuse. That did not make the news.

The backlog from the sins, shame and secrecy of the past is still to be dealt with. It will take some time. The victims’ pain endures, the Church’s shame remains. The abdication of discipline in the Church has taken a terrible toll. Slowly though we are becoming more Catholic and restoring the years that the locust hath eaten.

http://fatherdesouza.ca/?p=277

Pope Benedict writes to Ireland (by Sandro Magister)

Genesis of a Crime. The Revolution of the

1960’s

The scandal of pedophilia has always been there, but it was magnified by the cultural revolution of half a century ago. Benedict XVI makes the claim in his letter to the Catholics of Ireland. Two cardinals and a sociologist comment

by Sandro Magister

ROME, March 25, 2010 – Law and grace. Where earthly justice does not reach, the hand of God can. With his letter dated March 19, Benedict XVI has given the Catholics of Ireland an order never before given by a pope of the modern era to an entire national Church.

He told them not only to bring the guilty before the canonical and civil courts, but to put themselves collectively in a state of penance and purification. And not in the privacy of their consciences, but in a public form, before the eyes of all, even of their most implacable and mocking adversaries. Fasting, prayer, reading the Bible, and works of charity on all the Fridays from now until Easter of next year. Frequent sacramental confession. Continual adoration of Jesus – ” himself a victim of injustice and sin” – present in the sacred host, exposed on the altars of the churches. And for all the bishops, priests, and religious, without exception, a special period of “mission,” a long and strict course of spiritual exercises for a radical review of life.

It’s a daring step, this one taken by Pope Benedict. Because not even the prophet Jonah believed any longer that God would forgive Nineveh its sins, in spite of the penitential ashes and sackcloth worn by all, from the king to the lowliest beast of burden.

And today as well, many conclude that the Church remains irremediably under condemnation, even after the letter in which the pope himself expresses shame and remorse for the abomination committed against children by some priests, with the culpable negligence of some bishops.

And yet God’s forgiveness descended even upon Nineveh, and the skeptical Jonah had to face this fact, and Michelangelo painted this very prophet at the top of the wall behind the altar in the Sistine Chapel, to show that God’s forgiveness is the key to everything, from the creation of the world to the last judgment.

On Sunday, March 21, while his letter was being read in the churches of Ireland, Benedict XVI commented to the faithful, at the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, on Jesus’ forgiveness of the adulterous woman: “He knows what is in the heart of every man, he wants to condemn sin, but to save the sinner and unmask hypocrisy.” The hypocrisy of those who wanted to stone the woman, even though they were the first to sin.

Ruthless with sin, “beginning with our own,” and merciful towards persons. This is the lesson that Joseph Ratzinger wants to apply to the case of Ireland, and, by extension, to the entire Church.

On the one hand, the rigors of the law. The price of justice must be paid to the last penny. The dioceses, the seminaries, the religious congregations in which the abuse was allowed to run free have been warned: apostolic visitors will come from the Vatican to uncover what they have done, and even where there is nothing that can be prosecuted under civil law, canonical discipline will punish the negligent.

But at the same time, the pope is kindling the light of grace. He is opening the door of God’s forgiveness even to those guilty of the worst abominations, if they sincerely repent.

As for the foremost accusers, those most armed with stones to throw at the Church, none of them is without sin. It is a stretch for those who exalt sexuality as a pure instinct, free from any constraint, to object when it is abused.

The tragedy of some priests and religious, Benedict XVI has written in the letter, was in part that they gave in to these widespread “ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel,” to the point of justifying the unjustifiable.

A lapse that certainly cannot be attributed to Ratzinger as bishop and pope, not even by his staunchest adversaries, if they are sincere.

_______________

The commentary reproduced above is published in “L’espresso” no. 13, 2010, on newsstands March 26.

At the end, the commentary makes reference to a specific paragraph, the fourth, of Benedict XVI’s letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

It is the paragraph in which the pope looks at the factors that fostered, in the 1960’s, the expansion of sexual abuse among the clergy, and above all the incomprehension of its gravity.

Here it is in its entirety.

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BENEDICT XVI. PARAGRAPH 4 FROM HIS LETTER

“In recent decades, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected.

“Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.

“Only by examining carefully the many elements that gave rise to the present crisis can a clear-sighted diagnosis of its causes be undertaken and effective remedies be found. Certainly, among the contributing factors we can include: inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life; insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates; a tendency in society to favour the clergy and other authority figures; and a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person. Urgent action is needed to address these factors, which have had such tragic consequences in the lives of victims and their families, and have obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.”

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The Pope’s Letter:  http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1342563?eng=y

E-mail: s.magister@espressoedit.it
Postal address: Sandro Magister, “L’espresso”, via C. Colombo 90, 00147 Roma

© 1999-2010  Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso Spa – Partita IVA 00906801006

CMSWR spoke up in support of the Catholic Bishops of the United States! http://catholic-sf.org/news_select.php?newsid=8&id=57002

Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious
P.O. Box 4467 • Washington, D.C. 20017-0467
Telephone: (202) 832-2575 • FAX: (202) 832-6325 • E-mail: cmswr@ix.netcom.com

March 18, 2010

In a March 15th statement, Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago, president
of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke on behalf of the United States Bishops in opposition to the Senate’s version of the health care legislation under consideration because of its expansion of abortion funding and its lack of adequate provision for conscience protection. Recent statements from groups like Network, the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) directly oppose the Catholic Church’s position on critical issues of health care reform.

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, the second conference of
Major Superiors of Women Religious in the United States, finds the provision of
the bill to include expansion of abortion funding and fails to include conscience
protection. We believe the bill needs to include the Hyde Amendment as passed by the House in November.

Protection of life and freedom of conscience are central to morally responsible
judgment. We join the bishops in seeking ethically sound legislation.

Mother Mary Quentin Sheridan, R.S.M.
President
On behalf of the Membership of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious

***

http://www.cmswr.org/pdf/Mother%20Mary%20Quentin%20Statement%20on%20Health%20Care%20Proposal.pdf

***

The CMSWR represents approximately twenty per cent of Women Religious in the United States, or 150 communities with about ten thousand Sisters.

Hooray for Mother Mary Quentin!

CMSWR

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) is a canonically approved organization founded in 1992, to promote religious life in the United States. Its statutes were definitively approved by the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on October 26, 1995.

Composed of major superiors of women religious with communities in the United States, the group is dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Church and Patroness of the Americas. Members of the Council wish to serve the Church and to foster the progress and welfare of religious life in the United States.

CMSWR

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) is a canonically approved organization founded in 1992, to promote religious life in the United States. Its statutes were definitively approved by the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on October 26, 1995.

Composed of major superiors of women religious with communities in the United States, the group is dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Church and Patroness of the Americas. Members of the Council wish to serve the Church and to foster the progress and welfare of religious life in the United States.

CMSWR

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) is a canonically approved organization founded in 1992, to promote religious life in the United States. Its statutes were definitively approved by the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on October 26, 1995.

Composed of major superiors of women religious with communities in the United States, the group is dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Church and Patroness of the Americas. Members of the Council wish to serve the Church and to foster the progress and welfare of religious life in the United States.

f Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) is a canonically approved organization founded in 1992, to promote religious life in the United States. Its statutes were definitively approved by the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on October 26, 1995.

Composed of major superiors of women religious with communities in the United States, the group is dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Church and Patroness of the Americas. Members of the Council wish to serve the Church and to foster the progress and welfare of religious life in the United States.