“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” – the 8th commandment of God, “The Baltimore Catechism,” page 100
“A person who has sinned,” The Catechism declares, “by detraction or calumny, or who has told a secret he is bound to keep, must repair the harm he has done to his neighbor, as far as he is able.”
For decades, it appears that some Catholic priests rationalized away their crimes by keeping the secrets of others even as a Pennsylvania grand jury found evidence of horrific abuse as well as a cover-up:
“…credible allegations against over three hundred predator priests. Over one thousand child victims were identifiable, from the church’s own records. We believe that the real number of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward is in the thousands. Most of the victims were boys; but there were girls too.”
“All of [the victims] were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institutions above all. Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible not only did nothing: They hid it all.”
Reaction to this latest scandal (the last was uncovered by The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team of investigative reporters in 2002) was swift.
“The rot in the Catholic Church,” The Week magazine bluntly states, “runs deep.”
“the abomination that’s searing the world’s conscience once again — threatens to undermine much of what Francis has built,” The Globe editorial staff writes. “To save it, he needs to act. And he needs to act now.”
And the Globe doesn’t stop there. A separate opinion by Spotlight team member Walter Robinson doesn’t mince any words, as the headline reads: “Every Attorney General in the Country Must Force the Catholic Church to Tell the Truth.”
“Sixteen years later,” Robinson writes, “too much later — it is now time for a full and final reckoning. In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, prosecutors in every state should finally find the backbone to force the church to tell the truth. The truth we can handle. It is the endless cover-up we must no longer abide.”
Washington Post writer Elizabeth Bruenig was even more blunt. “Evil is real, and it walked the earth in Pennsylvania. It entered through our church doors.”
In an extraordinary letter to 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis writes, “The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. … We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. …
“I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future. …
“May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.”
Francis is going to need a lot more than “interior anointing” and courage to regain the trust and confidence of Catholics worldwide, beginning with specifics: what will he do and when?
“There is plenty Francis could do,” The Globe’s staff adds, “build a better system for holding bishops and other high-ranking church officials accountable, for instance, and work closely with international law enforcement agencies to investigate abuse.
“It is a test not just of the conscience of the church, but of the conscience of the pope. This is a leader the world wants to believe in. He can’t let us down.”
Washington D.C. Peace Studies educator and lifelong Catholic, Colman McCarthy, offers this proposal:
“One way to deal with the pedophile mess is to recognize the huge difference between Catholicism and Christianity. The Catholic church is a membership organization with dogmatic rules, unelected all male leaders, an owner of immense wealth (the church is the world’s second largest land owner, after McDonalds), an owner of an Italian-based bank, and, until recently, a longtime supporter of the death penalty.
“Christianity is an unorganized faith with no membership, no rules except what personal consciences dictates, no central headquarters, and whose followers agree with an unemployed amateur Middle East rabbi who taught and practiced nonviolence and was a victim of the death penalty some 2,000 years ago.
“My humble counsel, good Brother Francis, is to begin working to convert the Catholic church to Christianity, starting of course with your papacy resignation. I suggest you come to the USA and get on the lecture circuit. I’d be glad to find an agent for you. Bookings shouldn’t be hard to get.”
Something tells me that we shouldn’t contact StubHub for tickets any time soon.