Saturday, April 17, 2010

ZenTiger Pope recommends penance

In spite of all the public statements; the apologies the Pope has made since he became Pope; the positive procedural changes he personally has instigated; the fact he was the first pope to meet with victims; , the media comes out with some slanted statements. The headline starts off the nonsense:

Pope ends silence on explosive issue of abuse

Silence? That's just rubbish. I cover just one event of several that indicate anything but silence on this matter - his visit to the USA in 2008 and his meeting with some of the victims of abuse from one of the worst diocese in this whole sorry affair - Boston. (No surprises it had a heavy Irish influence).

Firstly though, the rest of the article said little to expand the point of the Pope's statement that the Church needs to do penance. Instead, it managed to find a couple of dissidents that make out the Pope has done nothing and should resign. Yawn.

The Pope's discussion on penance is significant. It goes much further than an apology - it discusses something that infuriates the anti-Catholics when they say that any Catholic can commit a sin, and just say sorry and be forgiven. That's not the case. What they need to do is confess their sins, be absolutely sincere in their repentance, commit never to do these sins again and receive absolution only on condition of doing their penance. The concept of forgiveness and starting over is a very powerful thing. However, I believe many liberal thinkers that make up the Church grant absolution too easily, and make penance too light. Pope Benedict XVI is clear on the importance of penance:

Taking Mass in the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican on the eve of his 83rd birthday and a weekend visit to Malta, the pontiff also urged Christians to seek divine mercy.

"Now, under attack from the world, which talks to us of our sins, we can see that being able to do penance is a grace and we see how necessary it is to do penance and thus recognise what is wrong in our lives," he said.

"I have to say that we Christians, even lately, have often avoided the word 'penance', that seemed to us too hard."
As a relatively recent convert to the Catholic faith, I've had to research a fair amount of material given my leap of faith had to be off the stepping stone of reason, and there is a lot of good in this very Catholic idea of confession of sins and doing penance. It's a shame it's not taken very seriously by some of the "liberal" Catholic thinkers but I hope the Pope's mention of this inspires the local parish sermon in the near future.

The Pope back in 2008
As mentioned, I think the "breaks silence" headline typical of the recent misleading headlines in the wave of anti-Catholic media coverage. So we'll go back to Washington in 2008, with the Pope's historic meeting with victims of abuse:

The story behind the meeting. Here's an excerpt for those who want the brief version:
[Interviewing Journalist John Allen who covered the story]
Why do you think he took it on [meeting victims] so directly?
I really don't know. Certainly his experience at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith exposed him to some of this. I would hope that his conversations he may have had with the nuncio and the bishops here would have helped him to realize how important it is for the church to address the issue of sexual abuse.

Beyond that, I think that he is a profoundly pastoral person. He has a pastor's heart. Some people look at this in terms of the economic damage and so on, but I think he looks at the spiritual damage that has been done by the crisis. I think that's what concerns him the most -- the damage to the victims, to the clergy, and to the faithful in general.

You mentioned voices telling the pope not to do this. What were they saying?
I suppose people were afraid that the sexual abuse crisis would eclipse every other aspect of his visit. I have to say, though, that when it took place, some minds where changed. After the meeting with the pope, one bishop came up to me and said, quite gratuitously, 'I want to apologize to you. I had opposed all this, and you were right, it needed to happen.'

This is why I was so relieved that the meeting was not made public ahead of time. It would have turned into a circus, and it may very well never have happened.

This was Pope Benedict's first meeting with victims. Can you think back to your first encounter with victims and talk about what affect it had on you?
It certainly makes it a human problem. It's not something that's theoretical or fictional. You see the suffering in the person's face, listen to their story, and realize how much suffering has been caused by this.

Due to my relationship with McDaid [a victim he interviewed], the three survivors who decided to speak publicly about their encounter with the pope did so for the first time on television on CNN, just three hours after the meeting ended. Video of that interview with McDaid, Horne, and Faith Johnston can be found here: [Sorry, CNN have removed link].

I was in contact with McDaid and Horne leading up to the meeting, so I know something of the pressures the survivors faced. For one thing, the two who did not wish to go public were aware that publicity surrounding the meeting might result in disclosure of their identities and their personal stories. (To date, that hasn't happened). All five knew that other survivors, including organized survivor groups, would likely be critical, suggesting that the meeting was a publicity stunt and that the five victims were playing into the church's hand. To some extent the victims were also rattled by the church's insistence upon confidentiality, since demands for secrecy were a central element of the pattern of abuse they had suffered in the first place. The survivors also knew there would be massive press interest; the night the three appeared on CNN, for example, producers from other television programs camped outside the network's Washington bureau hoping to pounce on them when they exited.

Despite those strains, by most accounts all five held up remarkably well. As Johnston put it, "We are no longer just 'victims' -- the Holy Father now sees us as individuals who have survived terrible physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse."

We must do penance

4 comment(s):

Anonymous said...

Johan Hari on BBC's dateline on why the Pope should be prosecuted.

ZenTiger said...

I perused some of Johann's previous work, and he manages to invent theories of conspiracy by quoting Canon Laws without understanding them.

For example, in the case of the 1962 document, Crimen sollicitationis which dealt with abuses involving the sacrament of penance (confessions), it would of course require utmost secrecy, as whatever is said in the confession by any confessor must be held in the strictest of confidence. This concept is stronger than the journalists who go to jail to "protect the confidentiality of their source" or the lawyer who keeps the confidence of a client.

Even so, these "procedures of secrecy" related only to the internal trial, and were for the protection of the accused and the victims, until the facts of the case had been ascertained. The results of the trial could have public implications - such as defrocking, excommunication etc.

This is in addition to the victim's rights to take the case to the secular authorities and the secular authorities impose punishment according to the laws of the land.

Yet Johann sees it as some sort of conspiracy of silence.

It's a ludicrous thought, because it would be like arguing that there is only one law and one action that the Church has ever done, and that it is this law, ignoring all the other laws and processes in place to deal with the issues arising from sexual abuse. This short explanation might clarify this for you:

Interviewed for a television programme in 2006, canon lawyer Thomas Doyle described the tight secrecy demanded for the procedure as "an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy, to punish those who would call attention to these crimes by churchmen".[8] However, in the study of the instruction that he revised less than two years later he stated: "According to the document, accusers and witnesses are bound by the secrecy obligation during and after the process but certainly not prior to the initiation of the process. There is no basis to assume that the Holy See envisioned this process to be a substitute for any secular legal process, criminal or civil. It is also incorrect to assume, as some have unfortunately done, that these two Vatican documents are proof of a conspiracy to hide sexually abusive priests or to prevent the disclosure of sexual crimes committed by clerics to secular authorities."[9]

John L. Allen, Jr. has said the secrecy was aimed rather at the protection of all involved, the accused, the victim/denouncer and the witnesses, before the verdict was passed, and for free finding of facts.[10]

Bearhunter said...

"Boston. (No surprises it had a heavy Irish influence)."

Nice, it's not the Church, it's the Irish. That must be everyone else blamed now surely?

ZenTiger said...

Not exactly. I meant that comment in a slightly different way than I think you interpreted it:

Given the widespread Irish abuse cases, I was not surprised to see that the Irish managed to export some of the abusers.

It's like saying "no surprises" to find that a man caught abusing his own child was also abused as a child. In that context, the idea is not advanced as an excuse, but as a measure of understanding.

So I think you have taken the wrong interpretation.

Your counter implied answer of "it's just the Church" would also indicate too simplistic a response.

By studying the causes and effects, we will learn how to safeguard children in other large organisations from a small percentage of abusers, and the few evil or naive managers who cover it up. There are many organisations from the 30's through to the 80's faced with exactly the same history, less reported but no less prevalent.

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