Hold the Applause, Please


Hold the Applause, Please

We considered not saying anything about the homily delivered by Pope Francis yesterday or the Vatican’s comments about the private meetings he held with six survivors from Ireland, Germany and Great Britain.

Silence for what was, in essence, another round of someday we are going to do something – just you wait – theater seemed the most appropriate match to the events.

It is possible that many of our readers will think we should have stuck with our initial reaction

As the day flowed on and news outlets including the Vatican carried the full text of the homily and characterizations of Father Frederic Lombardi’s comments, we changed our mind.

We changed it in large measure because silence practiced and nearly perfected by the Vatican is a foundational block of why sexual abuse by priests and nuns and the octopus of its cover-up still hangs like the sword of Damocles over the Roman Catholic Church today.

We changed it.   We believe every voice should be raised to rail against the missed opportunity the day presented.

We changed it because of a growing feeling that the possibility existed the real outcome of the day may be spreading of the illusion for Catholics in the pews and indeed men and women of goodwill who seek good intent from this pope that movement was taking place and accountability was happening.

We ask Catholics in the pews and men and women of goodwill to look hard, look deeper, look for the real and ask themselves what has changed in the past 24 hours in regard to sexual abuse.

First, we believe it is important to say that the survivors should not have been asked for anything by the  pope – including forgiveness – no matter how pleasant the pope, how well turned the phrase, how Scripturally linked, how beautifully spoken the ask.

This is not about the forgiveness of the survivors.

This is about what the chief authority in a worldwide institution can and should do about the rape and sodomy of children and its aftermath by the men and women whom the institution gave power to, and sustains with power, and the men and women in the institution who actively blocked aiding these children both as children and as adults and who are complicit not only in sin but in crime.

If this pope – or any pope wanted or wants an accountable Church regarding sexual abuse by priests and nuns, he can have it. He can order it. He can create it. He can make it happen. This simple fact cannot and should not be lost, swept away in lovely language, or overshadowed by gesture.

Eleven years ago, Pope John Paul II said, “ People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.”  Yesterday, Pope Francis made nearly an  identical statement. Full text of the homily:

Full text of Pope John Paul II’s statement http://www.vatican.va/resources/resources_american- cardinals-2002_en.html

How is it that this Church cannot get to the place where these words mean something?

Francis referred to the “sins of omission” that had covered up the crisis. These were not sins of omission. The cover-up by popes, cardinals, and bishops and heads of religious orders was not and is not a passive activity. It was and is intentional and actively worked at and intently created and sustained.

Francis pledged accountability by his Church.

One need look no further than the weekend’s announcement that the Vatican would not turn over the documents requested by the Royal Commission in Australia or closer that the continued sitting of Bishop Robert Finn at the head of the Diocese of Kansas City- St. Joseph to doubt this statement.

In its simplest fashion, yesterday could have been a signal call to Catholics by the Pope to do as he does — to open their parishes that have remained in overwhelmingly large measure cold and castigating toward sexual abuse victims. But he did not do so.

We ask Catholics and men and women of goodwill to examine the events of yesterday and to hold both Pope Francis and the chief architect of the day, Cardinal Sean O’Malley to account.

— Kristine Ward, Chair National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) KristineWard@hotmail.com


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