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Towards credibility and a clean conclave

  • 05 October 2018


Instead of engaging with the pain of profound change, the institutional Catholic church is still mired in a program of damage control. We are witnessing a double deflection. Globally, the topic of choice is Archbishop Vigano, Cardinal McCarrick and Pope Francis, the biggest bomb shell to explode into the Catholic news media since the death of John Paul I.

Locally, we retreat to a commitment around the seal of confession, the one definitive response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission made by the church. Both events evidence a willingness to talk about political cliques and red-herrings rather than what really matters: the re-establishment of the Catholic Church as an inclusive and trustworthy leader in the modern world.

Admittedly a hard topic to address, because it will require nothing less than a return to the Christian scriptures to undo centuries of bad theology which produced the sinful social structures defined by clericalism. As one small step towards this great ambition the fascinating question is, how can we find a cardinal to elect as pope who has not been involved in the cover-up of sexual abuse?

The structure of the Church is crumbling from the top down. Cardinal Bernard Law (RIP) of Boston and Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh failed to protect children. Cardinal Keith O'Brien (RIP) was forced to resign in Scotland. Cardinal Phillippe Barbarin is on trial in France for cover-up and Cardinal Pell (who, while Episcopal Vicar for Education, failed to report a Christian Brother, Edward Dowlan, who would later be convicted of abusing at least 20 boys at six schools) is facing charges of abuse.

There are repeated calls for the resignation of Cardinal Wuerl in Washington, and questions about Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga of Honduras covering up the criminal behaviour of his assistant, Bishop Fasquille. Two Chilean Cardinals, Francisco Errazuriz and Ricardo Ezzati, are the subjects of credible, criminal accusations of cover-up. Africa and Asia are yet to have their accounting.

The numbers show this is not a witch hunt, merely the tip of a conclave. What we need to recognise is that any man who becomes a seminarian, who becomes a deacon, who becomes a priest, who becomes a bishop, who becomes a cardinal, will almost certainly have bumped into, bounced off or blindfolded himself to the endemic, pandemic problem within the Church of the sexual abuse of children and other vulnerable persons. Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide is not alone.

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