That's my reaction to the Pope's latest call to Catholic priests who've been guilty of immoral sexual conduct.
Pope Francis on Friday capped a year of sex-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church by vowing to “do all that is necessary” to punish abusers for their “abominations” and urging the guilty to turn themselves in.
“To those who abuse minors, I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice,” the pope told Vatican officials.
. . .
In his speech, the pope noted that he has called a Vatican summit of bishops from around the world to discuss the abuse crisis over four days in February. The bishops will consult with experts on “how best to protect children, to avoid these tragedies, to bring healing and restoration to victims, and to improve the training imparted in seminaries.”
. . .
On Friday, he denounced clerics who “hide behind good intentions in order to stab their brothers and sisters in the back and to sow weeds, division and bewilderment,” comparing such people to Judas, the betrayer of Jesus.
There's more at the link.
I suppose I'd be one of those the Pope referred to in the final paragraph above. I'm sure he, and other Catholic Church authority figures, would regard me as an "uppity priest", who refused to shut up and play ball, to "get with the program", and present a united front to the world in response to the furore over clergy child sex abuse. Unfortunately for them, I don't agree, and I refuse to be silenced. I'm not some naive cradle Catholic who went from home, to school, to seminary, to priesthood, and never learned anything about life, the universe, or whatever. I learned from the university of life long before I became a priest, and what I saw "on the inside" of the Church during the unfolding of this crisis outraged me. It still does.
The Catholic Church, collectively, has effectively done nothing whatsoever, in real, constructive, meaningful terms, to address this crisis. Every step has been pious window-dressing, designed to portray the Church in the most favorable light - indeed, as the victim of vicious anti-Catholic sentiment - rather than admit that she's failed her members for many decades. The cover-ups continue to this day. Consider these US headlines from the past week alone:
- LA bishop resigns 13 years after church learned of sex claim
- Catholic Church failed to report hundreds of priests accused of sexual abuse
- Jesuits publish list of predatory priests accused of abusing children
I know at first hand just how far the Catholic Church has been willing to go to silence dissenters within the ranks of the clergy. (I was one of them, after all.) Pensions have been threatened; priests have been warned they'd be evicted from their retirement homes if they didn't toe the official line; pastors who objected to being ordered to lie to their congregations have been transferred to minor, out-of-the-way churches, where they've been left to rot in obscurity. In my case, when I applied for laicization over the issue, to my utter incredulity, I was informed that the officials responsible were "terrified" to submit my application to Rome, because they "dared not" allow a priest to cite the Church's deliberate lies as the reason for requesting laicization. Difficulties with celibacy they could handle easily, but a refusal to compromise over the truth - that was absolutely beyond the pale, because it would reflect on them and on their diocese in the eyes of Rome. The results of their cowardice and mendacity have affected me to this day. On the other hand, I didn't sacrifice my integrity. That means something, to me at least.
Therefore, the latest call by Pope Francis leaves me cold. The Church has done nothing to force the issue with its priests over the years. This latest appeal doesn't force it, either. Offenders are expected to "out" themselves. After overwhelming evidence that offenders have no interest in or intention of doing that, concealing their offenses for decades, accepting promotions and episcopal ordination in the process . . . what makes the Pope think his appeal will make any difference? It's just more pious window-dressing, intended to sound good to the faithful, but in practice achieving absolutely nothing.
Meanwhile, the millions of Catholics who've left the Church over this scandal still wonder what happened to it, and who took it away and hid it, and left a whitewashed tomb in its place. The priests who objected to the "official line", and were punished for it, have never received so much as an apology, let alone any form of redress, even though history has proven them correct. It's quite obvious that nobody in authority cares about the stand they took, except to dismiss them as irritating fleas trying to bite the body of Christ.
May almighty God have mercy on us.