First we need to recognize that something has gone seriously wrong.
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A PARTICULARLY TROUBLESOME CASE was that of Hans Hermann Groër, who was appointed archbishop of Vienna in 1986, having been plucked from the obscurity of a Benedictine monastery and later made a cardinal. Then the press reported that he had sexually molested boys in his charge, maybe as many as 30 of them, and lied about it.
We are often told these days that we need a hierarchy more sensitive to the victims. We do, but a more fundamental point is that we need priests and bishops who fear God. Groër was forced out in 1995 and replaced by Christoph Schönborn, the current archbishop of Vienna. He has told journalists that when Ratzinger earlier tried to launch an inquiry into Groër he was blocked by “the diplomatic side,” by which he meant Cardinal Sodano and John Paul’s private secretary, Stanislaw Dziwisz. The reporter John Allen put it less diplomatically. In attempting to do something about Groer (who died in 2003), Ratzinger was “blocked by John Paul II.”
Is there not a pattern here?
It was detected by the National Review film critic and (now) New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. He wrote in April that while “the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up. This pattern extends to other fraught issues that the last pope tended to avoid — the debasement of the Catholic liturgy, or the rise of Islam in once-Christian Europe. And it extends to the caliber of the church’s bishops, where Benedict’s appointments are widely viewed as an improvement over the choices John Paul made….As unlikely as it seems today, Benedict may yet deserve to be remembered as the better pope.”
George Weigel, the author of Witness to Hope, the best-known biography of John Paul, wrote in a recent column that it was “virtually inevitable” that the “media firestorm” over Pope Benedict’s handling of clergy abuse would “spill backwards toward the late John Paul II.” Maybe that is where it belonged all along. Weigel, who among writers had an unrivaled access to the pope, said that John Paul “did not believe” the charges against Fr. Maciel. Some Catholics, Weigel added, “may find it shocking that envelopes of cash were left in the papal apartment.” (Count me among them.) He made it clear he was referring to the “support” given to Stanislaw Dziwisz, now the cardinal archbishop of Krakow.
Weigel concedes John Paul’s “failure of governance,” but assures us that this failure was neither willful nor venal. I am sure that John Paul himself had no interest in money, and it is also highly likely that he didn’t know what was going on in his entourage. But maybe that’s because he didn’t want to know. Maybe he turned a blind eye? And if so, would that be a willful act? That is the question in my mind, especially now that John Paul has been put on the fast track to canonization.
THESE ARE IMPORTANT issues. It is clear that the anti-Catholic strategy is to make Pope Benedict out to be the guilty party. He is more conservative than his predecessor, who is in any event dead and of no concern to the media. Nonetheless, it was John Paul II who tolerated in principle that crimes within the church should remain internal.
The goal seems to have been to protect the laity from scandal and the hierarchy itself from embarrassment and exposure. I hate to bring it up, but recent developments remind me of nothing so much as Watergate. Cover up a crime and now you have two crimes. Also, in an age of unprecedented sexual laxity, the possibility that the Church might actually have been attractive to sexual deviants because they knew their bishops would cover up for them is appalling. But the trial lawyers will expose them, if the bishops won’t. If not God, the hierarchy will at least fear bankruptcy.
There is also this. Some of the Church’s enemies are eager to show that the real problem in the Church is institutional: the unreasonable imposition of celibacy, for example, or the obstinate refusal to adopt the world’s indulgent view of homosexuality. So conservatives who misapply papal inerrancy to whatever is decided in Rome only encourage the view that the fault must indeed be institutional. But it isn’t. It’s human.
As to the event at the Shrine, it was standing room only and everyone agrees that Bishop Slattery did well. (His sermon can be heard on the web.) Maybe the substitution of Slattery for Castrillon is a sign that in times of trouble, and not for the first time, the Barque of St. Peter is capable of righting itself.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online