IN A VOTE CARRIED ALMOST UNANIMOUSLY BISHOPS PROMISED THAT THE CHURCH’S DAYS OF CONCEALMENT AND INACTION WERE OVER. CHURCH LEADERS VOTED TO REMOVE ANY PRIEST WHO HAD EVER ABUSED A MINOR AND SET UP CIVILIAN REVIEW BOARDS TO INVESTIGATE CLERGY MISCONDUCT CLAIMS.
Sadly this vote was taken not in 2018 but in 2002 at a Dallas gathering of bishops. Little it seems has changed. While they imposed new standards that led to the removal of hundreds of priests, the bishops in Dallas specifically excluded themselves from the landmark child protection measures. They contended that only the pope had authority to discipline them, saying peer pressure and public or private shaming euphemistically called “fraternal correction” would ensure their good conduct. Clearly they were wrong.
Such attempts to maintain internal control through the hierarchical process lie at the very heart of the scandals now engulfing the church.
When a vote was taken at the recent Baltimore bishops conference to recommend the Vatican make public the entire file of the disgraced Cardinal McCarrick, Cardinal Cupich took the floor stating that the bishops should vote down any such measure. Cupich a close supporter of Pope Francis, presented an alternative plan, in line with Vatican policies which would maintain the status quo ensuring any allegation against a bishop would be investigated through the Vaticans’ internal procedures. The surprise proposal is alleged to have been a collaboration with Cardinal Weurl whose resignation the pope was recently forced to accept, due to his alleged involvement in covering up the prolific sexual abuse of McCarrick.
Corruption and criminal behaviour is only ever curtailed by identifying and removing the enablers. Law enforcement and the justice system target drug dealers rather than drug users and traffickers and pimps rather than prostitutes. The criminals now operating within the catholic church as a pedophile and pederast web are enabled by a shadow network of bishops and their superiors who at the very least are guilty by association. Some are themselves enmeshed in the activities or manipulate them to their own ends. This is characterised in a manner befitting the mafia consciousness they represent. (Mafia: ‘an organized international body of criminals, having a complex and ruthless behavioural code’)
The catholic church has a 2000 year history based in establishing networks at every level of society from the local community, to regional, national and international levels. Its organisational strength lies in the web of global communication channels which connect directly from the lowest to the highest levels of the Vatican via its bishops, archbishops and cardinals. This strength is also its weakness for the mechanism operates equally well for good or ill creating at best effective management and at worst indoctrination and ultimate control. When operating for the greater good the body of the church is infused with spirituality, morality and the highest ideals. When infiltrated by opposing forces it is vulnerable to deception and concealment, manipulation and depravity.
It is becoming clear that very many bishops were aware of the appalling sexual abuses which were taking place over decades but allowed expediency to govern their decisions. This factor has made it virtually impossible for parish priests to report abuses for they are often viewed as troublesome rather than as whistle blowers and vilified for their attempts to inform the hierarchy. Church protocol is based in Cannon law and demands strict obedience from its priests with a swift response where authority is challenged. As in any hierarchical structure, power is vested at the top, making effective disclosure at grass roots level virtually impossible.
An organisation which creates total dependency at its foundation deepens the conflicts facing priests who are forced to consider the personal consequences of speaking out. Every priest is housed and fed by the diocese he serves, priests normally receive a salary and a package which can include housing, utilities, groceries, health insurance, and retirement insurance. In addition there may be a car and a clothing allowance. Health care and social needs are met and in old age and infirmity, provision is made for residential retirement. While this supports the clergy it also creates dependency, for in the event that they may wish to leave the church (or be forced to leave) they do not have the means to begin a new life, inadvertently creating velvet bonds of servitude. A TRUE PRIEST- Sacked for telling the truth.
Such bondage does not apply equally to the ‘princes of the church’ the bishops who are well rewarded in material terms for their service, residing in the bishops palaces and often amassing great wealth on their rise within the church. Sadly, the price, it appears is obedience for such an environment does not encourage freedom of speech. Bishops who oppose the pope risk reprisal from Rome and may find their career prospects severely curtailed. Strength is to be found in numbers for in reality the bishops and the priests hold the power if it is used collectively and wisely and without self interest. In recent days the American bishops were effectively silenced until the February Synod in Rome. This risks being one more token event involving the same empty promises as before unless some among the many bishops who continue to serve the church faithfully, find the strength to ensure their voice is heard. If the church is to survive, it is for each bishop to step forward and speak of what he knows, to be the voice for those who have bravely and often fruitlessly disclosed the torments they have endured. It is the bishops who can and must provide a new structure for the church which allows them to be heard.