Three words were missing from Pope Francis’s much-heralded addresses In Ireland last week following recent revelations of a further terrible sexual abuse cover-up in the Catholic Church.
They were ‘evil’, ‘wickedness’ and ‘shame’.
Even before the latest allegation of last weekend – that the Pope himself is deeply mired in the cover-up, having ignored the facts about the Archbishop of Washington’s serial predation because this prelate was useful to the promotion of his liberal agenda – came to light, his words of apology both to an audience in Dublin and to the Irish bishops rang hollow and were inadequate:
‘In Ireland, as elsewhere, the honesty and integrity with which the Church chooses to confront this painful chapter of her history can offer an example and a warning to society as a whole. Continue on this path. Humiliation is painful, but we have been saved by the humiliation of the Son of God and this gives us courage.’
Jolly convenient, but it’s not quite so simple as warning others and moving along, as anyone who’s read St Paul (Romans 8) would know.
As his trip came to an end the Pope did plead for forgiveness for the Church.
But however dramatic this was, it was premature. Is forgiveness possible before full confession? And does that not require naming and identifying the evil that’s inhabited his Church. Does it not require to a commitment to investigating its roots, to punishing and expunging it – not just to depending on various ‘safeguarding boards’ to make sure it didn’t happen again? Where too was any denunciation of the wickedness of the perpetrators and their concealing co-conspirators who’d abused their godly mission and the trust it had given them? Did punishments in hell promise for them? Not that he mentioned.
Finally, what about his personal anguish, shame and remorse given a Catholic hierarchy, that he rose through and now leads, still sounding out trivial responses to this, its gravest of moral crises?
If there was a time for public self-flagellation, it was surely this. If there was a moment to commit publicly to a major internal investigation and examination of the Catholic Church, it was this.
But he flunk it. Why? What are the faithful meant to think?
John O’Sullivan’s National Review essay Is the Pope a Catholic? offers answers to these questions. These hinge, he suggests, on the critical issue of what did the bishops and priests who failed at chastity, at justice or at both, actually believe? Nothing much, he suggests. The modern secular age, with its sexual liberality and progressivism, he argues, has seen priests’ loyalty inevitably shifting from their faith to their church. At the same time they’ve adopted ‘humanitarianism’ as a substitute for their lost faith:
‘Instead of persuading people to confront their vices and change their lives . . . it offers therapy, welfare dependency and bureaucratic control as the solutions to social evils . . .
‘In the early stages of the sex-abuse scandal in Boston, bishops and priests showed a naïve faith in Freud rather than God and thought that deeply rooted paedophilia could be massaged away with a few courses of psychiatric counselling. Some of the cases in Pennsylvania show bishops expressing more concern for a predator priest than for his victim.’
O’Sullivan provides a convincing analysis of the corrupting influence of modern secularism on faith – what inevitably happens when priests turn from spiritual and moral guidance to social work and socialism. You can read it in full here.