A New Day Shines – The Tower, April 23 2010
A month ago, as Christians entered into Holy Week, I wrote an article about the revelations of abuse by Catholic clergy in Europe. Since that article new victims continue to come forward around the world and the hierarchy’s response continues to be largely inadequate.
Earlier in the week, as I prepared my column, I desired to bring to light on campus the visit of Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos to the Basilica. The Paulus Institute is holding a Mass to honor the 5th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s inaugration to the papacy and Cardinal Hoyos was to be the celebrant. The history this man was to cast a heavy pall over the day’s events.
One prominent example comes from September 2001. Hoyos wroteto French bishop Pierre Pican, who was convicted and jailed for failing to report a case of abuse by one of his priests. The cardinal wrote to Pican the following words, which speak for themselves, “I rejoice to have a colleague in the episcopate that, in the eyes of history and all the others bishops of the world, preferred prison rather than denouncing one of his sons, a priest.” Furthermore, Hoyos recently claimed that Pope John Paul II approved the letter and desired it to be promulgated to bishops around the world.
Fortunately, officials involved with Saturday’s Mass recognized they could not allow a man who favors the abuser over the abused to possess such a prominent stage. The sad fact remains though that Hoyos’ continued assaults against victims are not the actions of a single crazy man. Seemingly one damaging statement after another emerges from many Church leaders more interested in salvaging the Church’s reputation (and their own!) than in seeking the truth.
Examples of the wrong responses have made headlines, as high ranking priests liken the crisis to “gossip” and compare the Church’s suffering to that of the Jewish people. These unfortunate comments do not limit themselves to the boundaries of the Vatican either. It has not been an isolated instance where I have attended a Mass around campus during which the sufferings of Pope Benedict and the Church emerge as themes in the homily. The priests who preached neglected comments about the culpability of many officials, or even prayers seeking healing for victims of abuse.
Recent steps are only starting steps towards reforming a seriously broken system. Pope Benedict’s meetings with abuse victims, his statement Wednesday, and the actions that stripped Cardinal Hoyos’ of his glorified moment Saturday all provide evidence the Church’s stance is changing. I applaud leaders like Bishop Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville who respond openly and clearly when allegations arose regarding one of his priests. Action came within hours, not weeks or months.
As a people called to pursue to truth there can be only one response to the repeated incidents. Genuine action means shedding the sordid past to which Cardinal Hoyos and other Catholics cling, a past where clergy are above questioning and above the law. The true traditions of Catholicism will survive, while those polluting elements needing ejection must be permanently done away with.
What really needs to happen now for the good of the Church, the faithful, and most importantly the victims is that the laity must call the clergy at all levels to account for their actions. We must remind the bishops they are the servants of the People of God, not their masters.