Monday, 11 March 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Competing Contrition

The Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair, Archbishop of Hartford, CT
Catholic Archbishop, on His Hands and Knees, Begged for Forgiveness Over Abuse - The New York Times

As Catholic bishops panic to release lists of abusive priests to avoid accusations of coverup, following the shocking Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, there appears to be a competition developing over who can show himself to be the most contrite.

The archbishop of Hartford, CT, The Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair, for example, held a special Mass of Reparations and went down on his hands and knees, even laying prostrate before the altar, and begged the congregation for forgiveness.

He had earlier released the names of 48 priests accused of sexual abuses; five of them from the same small church, St George's, in the small coastal town of Guilford where the special Mass was held.

He went one better than Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, who only expressed his "genuine sorrow and regret to the victims who put their trust in a member of the church only to have that trust so profoundly betrayed."

When their own jobs are under threat, unlike the victims of the priestly predators, the entire Catholic community is called on to give them support and comfort. In contrast, the victims, many of whom had their lives ruined by abuse in childhood, were ignored or even abused further as the diocesan leadership closed ranks around the abusive priests, hid the evidence from the authorities and 'administered' the problem so as the protect the church and minimise any compensation. Often, to avoid a scandal, the priest would be moved to a new parish or transferred to another dioceses where he could continue to predate on unsuspecting and trusting parishioners.

The Mass of Contrition held in St George's included the following intercession:

"For those clergy and church personnel who betrayed their sacred ministry through the abuse of those entrusted to them, that they accept responsibility for their actions, make reparation and experience the restorative depths of God’s purifying mercy, we pray to the Lord."

"Lord, hear our prayer."

"For renewal of our church, that we might earnestly seek God’s way through the insights of clergy and laity, may a culture of holiness and integrity fill every desire for power, we pray to the lord."

"Lord, hear our prayer."

So, that's the abusive priests and the church that tolerated and facilitated them, prayed for and taken care of. A mention of their victims might have been nice, but you can't have everything, especially when the scale of the abuse and the number of victims would likely bankrupt the diocese if fair compensation were paid.

At least during a regular Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, a priest mentioned the victims almost in passinge with "Hear our cries as we agonize over the harm done to our brothers and sisters." So, that's the imaginary friend asked for forgiveness, and that's what matters.

A Catholic TV network broadcast a 12-hour long service dedicated to rebuilding the church described as "a tiny offering" of prayer and penance as the culmination of a month-long effort called "Together We Rebuild". Once again, all the concern and effort is for the church and the harm the scandals have done to it. If only a little of that concern had been there for the victims of abuse when the church was allowing it to continue.

Meanwhile, the Pope's much-vaunted conference last month to address the problem was notable for its hand-wringing, searching for scapegoats ranging from Satan to the 'Gay Agenda', and again expressions of regret at the harm done to the church, but no discernible action. No action plan; no measures to prevent future abuses or vet recruits to the priesthood and no instructions for dealing with allegations.

And of course, no instruction to priests to notify the authorities if they discover evidence of abuse.

Hand-wringing expressions of sorrow, begging for forgiveness and contrite promises to do better next time, seem to be all we can expect from the Catholic Church and the dithering, do-nothing Pope that heads it.

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