Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"To Deplore and Condemn"

On Monday, the Pope received the quinquennial plenary of the Pontifical Council for the Family... yet while B16's talk focused primarily on the positive, accentuating the graces of marriage and the need for adequate preparation of engaged couples, a week before the pontiff's unprecedented two-day summit with the Irish bishops amid the devastating fallout of November's Murphy Report on sex-abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin, the following line stuck out:
In the course of the centuries, the Church, following the example of Christ, has promoted the protection of the dignity and of the rights of minors and, in many ways, has protected them. Unfortunately, in some cases, some of its members, acting in contrast to this commitment, have violated these rights: a conduct that the Church does not cease and will not cease to deplore and condemn.

The tenderness and teaching of Jesus, who regarded children as a model to imitate to enter the Kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 18:1-6; 19:13-14), has always constituted a strong appeal to nourish profound respect and concern for them. Jesus' harsh words against those who scandalize one of these little ones (cf. Mark 9:42) commit all to never lower the level of this respect and love.
Albeit subtle, hidden in the passage is a significant shift of emphasis: unlike Benedict's prior treatments of the abuse scandals that've rocked the global church over the last two decades (to the Irish bishops in 2006 and last December, and during his visits to Washington, New York and Sydney, all in 2008), yesterday's message conspicuously eyed a wider target than the depravity of the abuse itself...

...and, well, complete the sentence.

Given the incandescent public reaction in Ireland over the state inquiry's finding of egregious mishandling of accused clerics by a half-century of Dublin archbishops and their aides, the shift of focus raises expectations for the pontiff's high-stakes address to the Isle's 24 ordinaries during the summit and his impending pastoral letter to the Irish people, both of which promise to be unlike anything come from a Pope to date on the church's most visceral hot-button issue.

In a Monday preview of the "mini-synod," the Irish Independent reported that each diocesan bishop will have a seven-minute private audience with the pontiff, following which the prelates will meet with the heads of the dicasteries with competence on sex abuse: the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, Bishops, and Clergy.

Additionally, the Irish summit could offer another unforeseen development; the video-based service said earlier this week that B16 was preparing to sign "a special document that will prevent child molestation cases within the church and would punish those who commit those crimes."

If the report pans out, the move would cap a years-long process -- attempts at crafting more stringent universal norms for abuse cases have reportedly been underway since the first months of the current pontificate.

* * *
Meanwhile, having seen an anonymous group of his priests subject his Murphy response to "scathing criticism" as the Rome meetings draw near, a "defiant" Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin "shrugged off" claims of a "dictatorial" leadership style and that he had become a "source of division" among his presbyterate:
"I believe my reaction was to recognise something terrible happened on our watch," Dr Martin [told] the Irish Independent.

"We got it spectacularly wrong," he added. "We have to admit that, and admit it unconditionally."
As one notable look at the former Vatican diplomat's predicament put it, "just as a prophet is not recognised in his homeland, so too, it would seem, a church reformer is fated to meet resistance from defenders of the status quo."

In the run-up to Monday's command performance in the Apostolic Palace, several Irish prelates met with a group of victim-survivors earlier in the week. While several leading survivors released an open letter to the Pope, a separate missive to be delivered during next week's meetings calls for the Holy See to provide a €1 billion (US$1.37 billion) compensation package for victims and requests a meeting with Benedict during his expected mid-September visit to Britain.

PHOTO: Reuters