The Relative Comment

soothing waves of relativity

Why can’t the Church own its evil?

with 4 comments

Relative to: the release of a 1997 letter from an Irish Archbishop recommending Priests not speak to authorities regarding sexual abuse allegations.

It has been 19 years since Sinead O’Connor stunned the US and ripped up an image of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live. As John Paul II moves towards sainthood, the justice of O’Connor’s action continues to become evident. More and more evidence of abuse is piled at the foot of the Roman Catholic Church and it remains a mystery why the RCC cannot admit that everything it did in this scandal was wrong. Everything.

Now, there is the 1997 letter from Ireland, which “shows that the Vatican’s intention is to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities.” It doesn’t seem to get much clearer than that. Still, authorities in the Church maintain little culpability in what transpired, and offer two differing arguments on their behalf. The first is to deny that these things were written/agreed to/known within the Vatican–an extremely difficult argument to believe. The second is to “move on”, as in: “It refers to a situation that we’ve now moved beyond.” Which is an admission of error only in that it is not at all an admission of any error.

Resolving this matters a lot. I love the Catholic Church, though I’m no adherent. I think the social power and the ability to move on behalf of justice and in eradicating poverty are as strong in the Catholic Church as they are anywhere. But there must be a simple, it is simple, decision to own the evil that has been committed. Pope Benedict has been particularly insensitive and deflecting–protecting abusers and blaming victims . I suppose this is no surprise considering his position in the Vatican at the height of the sex abuse scandal.

But this doesn’t matter. Without a full admission of guilt, the Church is simply fooling its self. No right can come from the Vatican until the matter is correctly handled. And Catholics the world round need to call for the Vatican to own what it has done. In this light, Sinead O’Connor still serves as the example. Listen to O’Connor’s interview on NPR from last summer to hear how a passionate Catholic can call for justice.


Written by Christopher ZF

January 19, 2011 at 14:24

4 Responses

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  1. What sort of response do you want? Though not perfect, the Catholic Church has made significant strides since 1997. The Pope has met with victims and addressed the evil in his sermons and speeches. Various archbishops have led services of repentance and forgiveness (see particularly the Archbishop of Vienna). I’m sure they could do more, but more of what?


    January 19, 2011 at 15:45

  2. good question. I should have put that in the post.

    the response that i’d like would be: the only responsible party for these abuses are the priests, and the Vatican-including the Popes-knowingly worked to cover up the scandal to protect those priests and itself.
    that doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable.


    January 19, 2011 at 15:52

  3. […] more likely, but either way, my take on how poorly the RCC has handled the abuse cover-up has been discussed here previously. Suffice it to say the problems continue to mount, and will do so until real admission of guilt […]

  4. […] Church. At least, symbolically. The Church is The Church, and has represented the best and the worst of Western Humanity.  And though I am no believer, I take heart and put stock in much of the […]

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