04 January, 2010

Interesting articles.. and subsequent ruminations for the Canadian Church

I have listed a number of interesting articles in the 'referenced articles' box on the left hand side of the page. Peggy Noonan, former American Ambassador to the Vatican and a leading voice in the societal debates of the public square of the arguments for faith published a column in the Wall Street Journal on the proper attitude to face the challenges of 2010. The tag line that introduces the article says it all,

"While so many of our institutions have failed, we can repair them. The first step is to take personal responsibility."

Deacon Greg Kandra posts on his blog an informative article on the process of choosing Bishops. Given the example offered in the face of the Irish Bishops who have resigned in the wake of revelations that showed their complicity in the recent scandals that have recently come to light via a government inquiry into the scandal, this may become an increasingly relevant issue for Canadian Catholics.

I am left to wonder if the Irish episcopal experience of the Dublin Inquiry does not provide a positive example for Canada in the face of its ongoing scandals. Insofar as the Canadian Church is suffering what seems to be a 'death by a thousand cuts' as year after year a few more cases are discovered and made public, would now not be the time for the Parliament of Canada to follow the path of their fellow Irish politicians and launch an inquiry into the issue of sexual abuse of children here in Canada?

I believe that there is nothing for the Canadian Church to lose by participating in such an inquiry. After all, if the American experience teaches us anything, it is that civil litigation has pretty well eliminated any protection previously used by the Church to shield its private documents. Thus given that the information is eventually going to make its way into the public square anyway, (with all its concomitant deleterious consequences). Would it not be better to "rip the bandage off" quickly in the cleansing light of an independent investigation into the issue than continue to rip it off one painful bit at a time with various corners of the Church suffering the fever brought to them by the misdeeds of some of its priests and the subsequent legal actions?  It's just a thought for consideration if the Church fathers in Canada are serious about standing behind their commitment to reach out to victims of its own clergy.

Further there is no reason to limit the investigation into just the Catholic Church. The subject of the inquiry could be framed in terms of all forms of child sexual abuse. This would  provide a greater societal perspective from which to understand the numbers and small percentages of clergy who have offended. This would certainly at least serve to paint the church in a better light than it is current held by Canadian society, Catholic, Protestant or other. The good achieved by cooperating with such an objective investigation most certainly cannot be denied (in my opinion) either morally or politically given the antiseptic effect of a 'truth and reconciliation' exercise such an inquiry would offer the Church, and strengthen its voice of the Church in the great debates of today (abortion, euthanasia, parental rights to name just a few).


It seems that the only arguments presented to me from within the Church against such an inquiry are firstly, the concern of the intrusion of the State into the Church's internal affairs. Concern was also raised that the public witness of a priest presuming to stand 'in opposition' (as my blog sometimes is accused of doing) to the episcopacy is oft times maliciously spun by the Church's opponents, with grievous harm to the Church. It is an example of a 'good intention' bringing unintended negative consequences to the faithful. Yet, is the pain that is being experienced now by the Canadian faithful any more damaging than the results such an investigation might expose if the Irish path were replicated in Canada? Is it wrong to raise these questions when they are posed respectfully, and without any intention of impugning in any way upon the Bishops authority to chose the best path and manner in handling such matters (as in this case)? I have no illusion that they would act in any other manner, no matter what I might write in these pages.

The call for the Irish Bishops to resign in the wake of the Dublin Inquiry came from within the Irish hierarchy and the Vatican. If a similar institutional response were to follow any potential revelations that might come to light with such an inquiry, then I would trust the Canadian episcopacy to also respond just as faithfully to their superiors as did their Irish brothers. 

Just a few interesting thoughts brought to mind by the articles linked on this blog. 

Don't forget to check out the latest links and offer your own opinion in the comments of this post. I would very much appreciate gathering a virtual "sensum fidelium" on these questions. The goal of this blog is to facilitate a conversations on such issues, and your remarks are always appreciated.


Fr. Tim

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5 comments:

  1. Have you been following the appointment of Spanish Bishop Munilla, to the Basqueland diocese of San Sabastian? Benny is lighting the fuse there.

    We will hear a lot more about that one. I wonder how Munilla's media savvy will stack up against ETA C-4 in the autonomous regions?

    My heart is with the Republicans, down with the Royalist tools who groveled to Franco.

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  2. Reddog: To quote Billy Joel, "You may be right; I may be crazy, but it might just be a lunatic your looking for." Insofar as these national expressions of the Catholic Church are little more than canonical creations, it is insane (religiously speaking) to hold that they possess some inspired presence of the Holy Spirit that stands in opposition to the Bishop of Rome.

    Joel might be right as well in saying that one might need to be crazy to accept to try to faithfully shepherd as a Bishop when the essence of what it means to be "Roman Catholic" (which does not stand opposed in any way to being fully "Christian as well) is so ferociously attacked in western societies. Trying to be both effective and orthodox in such an environment does call to mind that Bishops such as Clement of Alexandria faced in their day when they endeavored to argue in favor of the correct understanding of our faith.

    So I too shall watch these developments with great interest, in the hopes of witnessing the grace of God work through the Petrine inspired decisions of Pope Benedict that brings a renewed vitality to these regions as the take up the awesome challenge and joy of orthodoxy.

    Fr. Tim

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  3. I keep forgetting that the Roman Catholic Church is not a political or partisan entity. How foolish.

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  4. "Further there is no reason to limit the investigation into just the Catholic Church. The subject of the inquiry could be framed in terms of all forms of child sexual abuse. This would provide a greater societal perspective from which to understand the numbers and small percentages of clergy who have offended. This would certainly at least serve to paint the church in a better light than it is current held by Canadian society, Catholic, Protestant or other."

    THE REASON NOT TO LIMIT AN INQUIRY TO THE catholic church specifically is because it would then serve to minimize the damage done. Let the catholic church stand bare in front of us so we can clearly see the number of offenders, and hopefully the number of victims so that they can begin to heal.

    The only reason you can say that the number of offenders is so small is because the catholic church is a powerful (and rich!) entity that can hide the real truth. The numbers aren't so small - just the ones that we're aware of. With gag orders and the bishop's ability to move offending cleric (sometimes across borders), the only one who really knows the damage and the number of pedophiles within the catholic church is the pope, and he ain't talking.

    Further, saying there are very few perps really minimizes the victims. Given the years one is a priest, the access to (trusting) children and the fact that many parishes are beside elementary schools, conservative estimates indicate that the average offending abuser has around 200 victims each.

    " ...small percentages of clergy who have offended..." my ass!

    P.S. I need to remain anonymous due to pending litigation.

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  5. Anonymous: Wow! Given the slanderous and foolish allegations you level, how could you possibly be involved in litigation?

    Fr. Tim

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