John Allen wants to end the ‘blame game’

Over at the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen says that too much has been made lately of letters sent by officials in the Vatican to various American and Irish bishops, letters that appear hesitant about immediately reporting sexual abuse allegations against priests. Allen says some people want to turn such letters into smoking guns, as if this shows that the Vatican was complicit in covering up the abuse; while on the other hand, some try to insist that these letters were written by rogue bishops who never represented the mind of the Vatican to begin with.

The truth, Allen says, lies somewhere in between — and the sooner we acknowledge it, the sooner we can end the “blame game” that has taken hold in the Church:

Here’s the reality: In the main, it’s not that local bishops wanted to cooperate but were barred by a secret Vatican edict, and neither is it that Rome, aside from a few troglodytes such as Castrillón Hoyos, always believed in full transparency. Until quite recently, the culture in institutional Catholicism, at all levels, put a greater premium on the church’s independence and its right to privacy than on seeking justice for the victims of sexual abuse. Everyone helped create that culture, and everyone must share in reforming it.

Allen is certainly right that there’s enough responsibility to go around. What do readers think?

Margaret Cabaniss

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Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

  • Brian

    I returned to the Church after 50 years in the middle of the scandal. I spent my life as an investigator and analyst. The Church should acknowledge its institutional failure, strengthen its safeguards against future occurences and then just move on. Her enemies will inflict torture by a thousand cuts if they can provoke her to responding by rehashing old allegations.

    I am not suggesting that the scandal be minimized, just resolved. We must get on with the business of being the “light of the world.” The world needs the Church now more than ever.

    Brian

  • dymphna

    I think it’s pretty cruel to tell people to shut up. Way too many chanceries were and still are rotten with silence. It’s time to scream. If my screaming upsets John Allen that is not my problem.

  • Deacon Ed

    with Brian. Time to move on.

    The Catholic Church has done a creditable job of correcting its approach to the issue of homosexual practices among its clergy. Those who still want to beat a dead horse do not, I am afraid, have forgiveness and healing in mind but getting as much mileage as possible from these sins.

  • Margaret C

    I think it’s pretty cruel to tell people to shut up. Way too many chanceries were and still are rotten with silence. It’s time to scream. If my screaming upsets John Allen that is not my problem.

    Hi, Dymphna: I don’t think Allen’s point was that people should “shut up”; he struck me as wanting to move the conversation in a direction that actually does some good. For him, it seems to come down to this line: “Everyone helped create that culture, and everyone must share in reforming it.” That doesn’t sound like an attempt to ignore the problem; to me, that’s trying to acknowledge that we all share in responsibility for it and should move from there to finding effective solutions.

  • Mary

    When I had to sit through the “Protecting God’s Children” presentation/workshop in order to continue volunteering at my kids’ Catholic school and parish, I admit, I got angry. There was NO scandal about a cover up of sexual abuse on the part of the laity, yet I had to sit through this and allow myself to be subjected to a criminal background check. Although (now) Archbishop Aymond said in the video that only a small number of priests were involved in abuse, he did not point out that over half the bishops were involved in the cover up (as documented in Faithful Departed by Lawler). Until that fact is acknowledged, penance is done by those who neglected their responsibility, and personal and public apologies are made by name to those whose veracity was denied, will this scandal ever be put behind us. There are just some things that money can’t atone for. That’s the way sin works. I am sure we will live with the consequences of this failure on the part of the hierarchy until all of these bishops are dead.

  • Michael

    Mary is correct and John Allen is not.

    “Everyone helped create that culture, and everyone must share in reforming it”.

    No, not everyone helped create that culture. It was a clerical culture that festered in the many chanceries. The bishops who abetted and covered up this behavior for the most part escaped scrutiny and consequences for their actions. The institutional Church may move on but there will always be the impression that those who should have protected their flocks failed in their duties and were never held to account.

  • Michael PS

    The clerical culture that created the cover-up has a very long history indeed; it actually goes back to the fall of the Roman Empire!

    It was then that the Church began insisting on the Privilegium Fori, the rule that the clergy were only answerable to Church courts. In the Dark Ages, it really was essential that the clergy should enjoy a sort of

  • tad

    Until Allen and the NCR admit the real problem, homsexuality, they can never move on.

  • Chris in Maryland

    Tad is right: Bob Bennett, Leon Panetta & the Nat’l Review Board faced the Truth, see p. 81 of their report. It was swept under the rug in Washington Archdiocese’s “Child Protection Program.”

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