Wednesday, 9 July 2008

WYD update

Well the good news is the trains will be running for WYD. Last minute negotiations led to next week's threatened strike being called off.

And while I'm not very comfortable with the anti-protest laws for WYD (on the one hand they do seem to align with older views on religious liberty; on the other hand they set a dangerous precedent that could be used against us in the future), there is growing evidence that they will be necessary. From Melbourne comes the news that Archbishop Hart's Sunday Mass was disrupted by protesters chanting slogans about the abuse scandal and drowning out his homily. Police had to be called to restore order.

The continuing bad news is the allegations of mishandling of an abuse claim by Cardinal Pell (and a separate case involving Archbishop Hickey of Perth) are still running. The Cardinal put out a statement yesterday, and braved the cameras to admit he had made a mistake, apologised, but reiterated that there was no cover up.

It is worth knowing that the guy gave up on suing the Cardinal and priest in question only two weeks ago on the basis that the case was going no where. And the original court case seems to have come to the same conclusion as the Cardinal.

But last night's ABC Lateline program added that a subsequent report, given to the Cardinal in July had found the priest concerned admitted to a long history of inappropriate behaviour (going back to propositioning fellow seminarians). The implication drawn on the ABC was that the Cardinal should have known this when he made his decision - hardly fair given that he had only just moved to Sydney at the time of this case. The Sydney Morning Herald today argues that he should have corrected the letter when he received this later report. This story clearly has a way to run yet.

The timing of all these revelations has obviously been chosen very strategically to do maximum damage.

The secular media (and many within the Church with agendas on things like clerical celibacy and democratization) are trying to portray abuse as a Church specific problem. It isn't. It is widespread and entrenched in our society.

It has roots in the culture of self-indulgence, the abandonment of asceticism, and the loss of the sense of sin.

But it is worse when it is a priest or religious. First because a public commitment to a life of holiness should be a statement that they stand against all those evils, and reject secularism. And secondly because they stand in a special position of trust and authority. And of course we should be scandalised by the failure of those in authority to put protecting parishioners, students and other victims over the welfare of the perpetrators.

In this particular case, though it is clear that Cardinal Pell did act promptlyand decisively to address the problem, notwithstanding some failings in the process.

More fundamentally, the abuse scandal to me is fundamentally about the failed theology of the last several decades. And about failures in the discernment processes used in seminaries; inadequate supervision and ongoing support of priests; and failures to identify and handle problems adequately when they arise.

It is quite clear that the Church has still got a lot of serious learning to do on all these fronts. Confidence won't be restored, and the protests won't go away until it shows more active and public signs of working on all these issues.

1 comment:

Peter said...

I agree with your analysis of the media timing and motivation.

I'm saddened by the realisation of just how DUMB George can be. And as ever, he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a microphone or a camera because he is a walking PR-disaster.