Humanae Vitae … and Child Abuse: Part II

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there.  🙂

I would suggest that to this day, many Cardinals, Bishops, and others in the Church hierarchy seem glaringly detached from the harm caused to the many thousands of children by abusive clergy over the last decades (perhaps centuries) and stunningly oblivious to the visceral reaction that parents have had across the world to the revelations.  It has seemed to me that from the first revelations decades ago, the Church’s condemnation of these atrocities has been largely pro forma … curiously antiseptic.  Many in the Leadership clearly appear to believe that if the Church issues suitable expressions of regret when necessary, and keeps its head down, things will return to normal.  They haven’t yet realized:  things are not going to return to normal – at least in their lifetimes.  They literally don’t “get” the visceral effect that these continuing scandals have had on the faithful, and the crippling impact they have had on the Church’s credibility.

Pope Paul wrote in Humanae Vitae:  “No member of the faithful could possibly deny that the Church is competent in her magisterium to interpret the natural moral law.”  Only members of the Magisterium apparently fail to recognize that due to these child abuse atrocities and the ensuing cover-ups, many of the faithful do now deeply question the Church’s competence to interpret natural moral law and its claim to moral leadership.

Despite the Church’s professions of love for the children, why did Church leaders all the way to the Vatican (that it reached the Vatican is no longer disputed) go to such lengths to cover up what has happened?

In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul addressed priests as follows:  “[B]eloved sons … you who in virtue of your sacred office act as counselors and spiritual leaders ….”  He addressed Bishops, “… We turn Our mind to you, reverently and lovingly, beloved and venerable brothers in the episcopate ….” [My italics].

Our mothers all taught us:  actions speak louder than words.  It’s hard not to suppose that they covered up because their visceral reaction was to protect the Church and the brotherhood of priests – these were their family.  Who turns in his son? Brother?  Organization for which he has labored a lifetime?  They seem not to have heeded Matthew 18:6:  “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea …”

Ironically, August 15 – the day after the latest abuse revelations — is the Holy Day celebrating the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, during which the Church waxes rhapsodically about the Blessed Mother’s devotion to the Lord.  I’m confident … she gets it.

A few closing thoughts to these long notes:

I am absolutely certain that the vast majority of priests do their best to serve God and the faithful.  There is no man on earth I respect more than Pope Francis.  I feel deeply for the burden that these devout clergy carry as a result of the actions of their fellow priests.  I hope – notwithstanding the fact that the abuse appears to have been rampant throughout the Church – that many had no inkling of what was going on.  For those that did know, had no authority to act, and didn’t speak:    John 8:7:  “… Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone ….”  I wasn’t in their place; assessment here seems to me best left beyond the earthly realm.

Something even the most steadfast members of the Church hierarchy would probably agree with me about:  that those that conspired to cover up these instances of abuse in order to protect the Church suffered – ironically – from insufficient faith.  The Church didn’t need their “protection.”  Matthew 16:18:  “And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

After reading this, one might ask why I remain a practicing Catholic.  Because as imperfect as its leadership can sometimes be, it remains for me … the gateway to the Almighty (I believe that there are many gateways, in and outside the bounds of Christianity; it is just that this is mine).  My feelings are best described by a character in The Vicar of Christ, one of the three best novels I have ever read:  “The Pope is the Vicar of Christ, the symbol of the universal Church.  To whom could I now turn in my old age?”

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