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To Assist in Confusing Yourself

  /   Thursday October 24, 2002  

If you want to really confuse yourself as to what’s going on with the Dallas policy, be sure to read this op-ed by Margaret O’Brien Steinfels. Better yet, let me quote some real gems from that article.

Due process has not been a hallmark of Vatican decision making. Why raise it now?

Uh, documentation please.

The Vatican has raised it as a way to protect church authority.

Yeah, that’s it. The Vatican officials are a bunch of power-hungry monsters who will do anything to save their beloved power. Nevermind that we Americans have a tendency to think we’re the only Catholics who count and therefore need no interference from someone who sees a wider picture. Nevermind that we Americans may have the quick-fix, lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key mentality.

They recognized that their failure to resolve the abuse problem in the mid-1980’s, when it first made headlines in Louisiana, was in some measure because there was not a national policy binding on all bishops.

I fail to see this connection. How can not having a national policy stop a bishop from acting within the authority he already has? The problem is not a lack of policy; it’s a lack of enforcement of the policy.

Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, the man at the center of the abuse scandal since January, was finally allowed in 1998 to defrock Father John Geoghan, a serial abuser, only on personal appeal to the pope.

I will try to avoid judging the author’s intentions, but this statement is just plain misleading. Cardinal Law had the authority to deal with this matter all along. He did not, however, have the authority to laicize a priest without approval from Rome. Fr. Geoghan could well have been removed from ministry while awaiting the laicization. Besides, lacization is very serious and darn well should take a long time, whatever the case.

The bishops did not have any reason to believe that these boards [consisting of professional experts, parents and victims of abuse] . . . . would be cavalier about due process for priests.

The very sound of this makes it seem that these “review boards” that the author advocated would be the equivalent of a trial of an accused murderer by a jury of families of murder victims. Impartial? I think not.

The article goes on to Steinfels’ real point, “More power to the laity.” I don’t have a problem with lay participation, but they can’t operate over a bishop’s head. The problem with having an authoritative “lay review board” is that they give the bishop the perfect excuse to abdicate his responsibility, whether intentionally or not. This is exactly why we are in this mess in the first place. Why build it in to the structure?

The Vatican had good, sound reasons for rejecting the Dallas policy. I am grateful that they did. Now I hope that the root of the problem will be addressed. If you aren’t already doing so, please pray for the Church.

Category: Posts imported from Danger! Falling Brainwaves, Uncategorized



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