THE Catholic Church has a turbulent future as probably a much smaller church in the West, with a ”vast amount” of sexual abuse cases yet to emerge, according to a retired Australian bishop.
”The church is not going to fold up its tent and disappear, but there could be very dramatic changes” as a result of the clergy abuse crisis, said Bishop Geoffrey Robinson.
The Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, blamed a failure of leadership and a lack of courage for the crisis and warned that while Australia had learnt its lessons, the difficulties for the church in many countries were still coming.
”It’s a big crisis for the church. We are all hurt by this, but we’ve got to face it and get on with it,” he said.
In the past month, Pope Benedict XVI has apologised to Irish Catholics after two devastating secular reports into clerical abuse and cover-ups, and hundreds of new allegations emerged in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
The Pope has come under attack for his record as archbishop of Munich, as head of the Vatican office responsible for abusers from 2001, and as Pope since 2005. There has been increasing pressure from outside the church for him to resign.
Bishop Robinson – the Sydney auxiliary bishop who designed Australia’s abuse protocol system – said he strongly doubted the Pope would resign but the Vatican could no longer dismiss abuse as a purely Anglo-Saxon problem or a hostile media campaign.
However, on Sunday the Pope dismissed ”the petty gossip of dominant opinion”, saying he would not be intimidated.
Bishop Robinson, the victim of abuse as a youth, was disowned by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference after suggesting that until the church reassessed its power structures and such fundamental teachings as celibacy it was not serious about tackling abuse.
”There are two problems; the abuse itself and how it was handled. We must be prepared to confront all aspects,” he said.
He said sexual abuse was arguably the world’s most common crime – research suggested one person in six was a victim – and did more damage to more individuals than any other crime.
”Abuse is in every country, so there’s a vast amount more to come out. But I fear it will be drip, drip, drip for a long time.
”There could be dramatic changes, and in the Western world [the Catholic church] could become a much smaller church, especially Ireland.”
Archbishop Hart defended the Pope as a proactive leader in tackling abuse, saying Benedict was ”absolutely aghast that any cleric could act this way”.
However, he conceded the crisis was deepening. Problems arose because paedophilia was not recognised for what it was. ”These are actions of evil people, not of the church, except that people sometimes lacked the courage to address them. It’s a failure of courage.”
The Australian church had acted strongly to tackle abuse but ”other countries have yet to address the matter, and their difficulties are coming later”.
Tackling abuse required zero tolerance, prompt action, careful scrutiny and insistence on appropriate professional conduct.
April 1, 2010
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
– Deaf Boys Tried to Tell of Priest’s Abuse FOR YEARS (New York Times)
– Christopher Hitchens Slams Vatican, Pope Over Sex Abuse Scandal (Huffington Post)
– The Pope Is Not Above the Law (Slate)
– Sex Abuse Victims to Sue Vatican (Times)
– Vatican knew of abuse in Ontario: Victim (Toronto Star)
– A church sex scandal where the truth is crucified (Toronto Star)
– Catholic Church quietly expelling and punishing children, homeless (Irish Central)
Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland routinely shredded copies of weekly reports about sexual abuse by priests, according to formerly sealed testimony turned over to Milwaukee County’s district attorney on Thursday.
– Catholic Church Child Abuse: Nuns Now Also Accused (Radio Netherlands Worldwide)
– Church: Pope Had Role in Moving Molesting Priest (Bloomberg)
– Pope will struggle to survive abuse scandal (Irish Independent)
– Benedict’s involvement ’shows extent of cover-ups’ (Irish Independent)
– Sinead O’Connor: I’d help Jesus to burn down the Vatican (Irish Independent)