The part of the church that formed around the teachings of Jesus and continues to seek guidance from his words has always looked out for those less fortunate and lent a helping hand where a need is seen. It’s the institutional part, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church that has become a corrupt and narcissistic ruling class. A “family system” so full of their own importance and need to survive that they are willing to do anything to protect themselves. For them, it is a greater sin, to tell the truth, if that might besmirch the reputation of the church or its leaders than it is to tell a lie to protect it. And they use the good works of true Christians as their cover, whenever they feel threatened.
It is a systemic problem stemming from a lie they tell themselves and believe their survival depends upon. Since the Catholic Church does much good, and since the Church’s good works depend on its leaders, the Church’s good works depend on protecting its leaders from scandal and so they must be protected They must survive, no matter the harm that is done in the process.
This is nothing new. The history of the Church’s hierarchy is riddled with corruption and manipulation, mainly used to remain in control of the people who remain loyal to the original teachings of Christ and blindly trust (or tolerate) their leaders’ interpretation of those teachings. How else does one get the Council of Trent, the Holy Roman Empire, the Crusades, the Inquisition and most recently the decades of covering up child sexual abuse?
It is systemic because it comes from the top. People don’t join the priesthood to become corrupt and lie, but those with personal ambitions start to believe the organization is more important than its mission. Only the elite hierarchy knows the whole truth and they are sworn to secrecy. Canon Law, the law that governs the internal workings of the church, clearly states that things which harm the reputation of the church are to be locked up and kept secret. From Wikipedia
The pontifical secret or pontifical secrecy or papal secrecy is the code of confidentiality that, in accordance with the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, applies in matters that require greater than ordinary confidentiality:
- “Business of the Roman Curia at the service of the universal Church is officially covered by ordinary secrecy, the moral obligation of which is to be gauged in accordance with the instructions given by a superior or the nature and importance of the question. But some matters of major importance require a particular secrecy, called ‘pontifical secrecy’, and must be observed as a grave obligation.”
This is how we get to a place where it is left to investigative journalists at the Boston Globe to uncover how for decades Cardinal Bernard Law hid predatory pedophile priests in parishes with access to children and merely transferred them to other parishes when complaints came in about them, not informing parishioners that this was happening.
And now Cardinal Angelo Sodano has buried Cardinal Bernard Law with the highest honors at St. Peter’s in Rome and Pope Francis has interceded with God on his behalf with this papal blessing:
May he be given a merciful judgment so that redeemed from death, freed from punishment, reconciled to the Father, carried in the arms of the Good Shepherd, he may deserve to enter fully into everlasting happiness in the company of the eternal King together with all the saints.
Although this has stirred up a lot of feelings of anger and grief in survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, none of this should come as a surprise or shock. The Roman Catholic Church’s leadership is possibly the oldest “old boy’s network” on the planet. As do most of the very highest officials in the Vatican (it is arguably how they got there) Cardinal Sodano has his very own history of protecting child sex abusers. As the Vatican’s Secretary of State, he was responsible for burying the investigation into the depraved sexual abuse by Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, and all but exonerating him even after the Vatican ordered Maciel to refrain from all public ministries and to adopt a “life of prayer and penitence”. Sodano also resisted an investigation into Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, the late archbishop of Vienna, who was found guilty of sexually abusing children in 1998. They have each other’s backs, no matter what and this is just what is commonly known and been reported in the press.
Consider for a moment, what all this means for survivors of childhood sexual abuse seeking some validation of what has been done to and taken from them as children. This is the powerful adversary they must confront in their uphill battle for justice. Not only are those preyed upon by priests denied a day in court, but all children who have been sexually abused are being re-victimized by the Church’s discrete but deep-pocketed lobbying efforts. Millions of dollars are spent getting politicians to block reform of victim-punishing statutes of limitation. The wealth and prestige of the Church have successfully been used to suppress the truth and preserve the status quo. Much less “good shepherd” than “wolf in shepherd’s clothing”.
These days one can sense a new wind blowing across the land as politicians, the entertainment industry, and corporate America are finally being held accountable for their sexual harassment, abuse, and cover-ups. But the Catholic Church (and other well-financed religious institutions) present a special challenge. Perhaps it’s because their victims were mostly children, or because they use impenetrable secrecy to hide their abusive behavior behind institutional good intentions, but unfortunately for survivors, they have mostly managed to avoid that same accountability.
The Roman Catholic Church is badly broken and beyond dysfunction. It will not be able to sustain any real relevancy for much longer if it doesn’t get honest with itself and its members. It is said that the first thing to do when wishing to get oneself out of a whole is to stop digging.