Erring Shepherds – Aidan Hart

07/09/2018Print This Post

It has pained me greatly to write this article. I deeply love the Catholic Church – which has an unconditionally loving, merciful and triune God at its centre.  I have great respect and love for Pope Francis and have worked closely throughout my life with many dedicated, hard working and deeply spiritual priests.

But something is deeply wrong within the Catholic Church as is revealed in the short history below of clerical and institutional abuse. The Church has lost much of its moral leadership around the world, particularly among younger Catholics in the northern hemisphere.

The problem, as clearly and frequently identified by Pope Francis, is a pervasive and toxic culture of clericalism throughout the Catholic hierarchy. Within clericalism I would include the related problems of the sexual abuse of children by a small minority of clergy, unaccountable power, careerism, imposed celibacy and a major lack of effective involvement of lay men and women at all levels within the Church.

Lay people must be given back effective ownership of their Church, in which they will work, in word and action and partnership with clergy, guided by the Holy Spirit and a deep knowledge of Sacred Scripture and strengthened divine Eucharist – to help bring about on earth God’s Kingdom of unconditional love and mercy for all human kind and all of nature. Let us have a Church of mercy which is “a field hospital after battle” for the wounded, as Pope Francis has said.

“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to
warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church
as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person
if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have
to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds,
heal the wounds. … And you have to start from the ground up.”
(Published interview with Pope Francis by Antonio Spadaro, S.J. )

For many hundreds of years clerical sex abuse and the breaking of the priestly vow of celibacy (a separate though linked issue through shared guilt) were rarely talked about or discussed within the home or Church as a whole. Any raising of the subject, especially by those outside the Church, was quickly classified as anti-Catholicism, so no change within the Church was considered necessary. Then,  around 1985 in the USA, allegations concerning the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests began to arise in various countries and to be reported in national media around the world. The actions of some Religious Orders of nuns have also come under public scrutiny and condemnation.

At first, condemnation was mostly made only of the priests concerned. Recently however, the finger of blame has been pointed at bishops and superiors of religious orders and societies of priests for their covering up of the abuse. In some cases we now learn that a very small number of the latter were themselves involved in sexual abuse. There are so many common threads running through all of this that I think it is now time to admit that blame for what has happened over many hundreds of years goes all the way up to the Vatican and papacy.


In 2002 a film, ‘The Magdalene Sisters’, described in graphic detail the awful suffering and humiliations inflicted on four young women ‘imprisoned’ in a Dublin Magdalene laundry from 1964 to 1968. A survivor of the laundry who saw the film said her personal experience of incarceration in that laundry had been a thousand times worse than that depicted in the movie. The Vatican condemned the film as sensational anti-clericalism. The best that can be said of the depicted laundry is that it was perhaps typical of the culture of its time; the worst that can be said is that the physical, emotional and spiritual suffering had been inflicted by Catholic nuns whose religious calling and ethos should have enabled them to known better and act differently, as should that of the Catholic hierarchy under whom they worked.

The first such laundries for prostitutes, later to include unmarried mothers, females guilty of petty crimes or suffering mental problem, and even female orphans, had been set up in Ireland by the Protestant Church of Ireland in 1765 and in Belfast in 1839, along with one run by the Presbyterian Church. They were also set up throughout the UK and in many other countries. In Ireland the Catholic Church and its Religious Orders of nuns soon got involved. Several Orders of nuns established many such institutions throughout Ireland, each one financially supported by government, perhaps because income from the laundries exceeded that spent on housing and feeding the inmates and their babies, thus providing valuable income for the particular orders of nuns. Many of these laundries had in excess of 200 women at any one time.

The capacity of the Magdalen Laundry at High Park varied over time, but did not exceed 250. For instance, the occupancy was 218 in 1922; 210 in 1932, 215 in 1942 and 200 in 1952.The Laundry ceased operations in 1991.” (Report of the Irish Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries 2011, chaired by Senator Martin McAleese into 10 of these Magdalene laundries run by the Catholic Church).

As the Magdalene laundries expanded in number, so did the violence and abuse against the female inmates. This was done under the guise of being penance for their sins. Prayers, silence, poor and inadequate food, fear, guilt, shame, breast binding and beatings, coupled with long hours of back-breaking work in the laundries and daily cleaning of the attached convents, were the order of the day. No wages were paid and locked doors prevented escape, in spite of only a few having ever been tried and found guilty of an offence by a properly constituted civil court. The Irish police returned all caught escapees to their original laundry.

The inmates included female orphans, mentally disturbed women and girls who had been made pregnant by rape and incest. Many were referred to the laundries by Catholic parents, to hide the shame of a pregnant unmarried daughter, and by local Catholic priests. Some women spent the rest of their lives incarcerated in these institutions, having no family or a family willing to arrange for their release. Babies were regularly removed forcibly from their mothers and sold to rich American childless couples. The last Irish Magdalene laundry closed in Waterford in 1996. It has been estimated that 30,000 women were forcibly placed in these laundries in the 19th and 20th centuries. (Fintan O’Toole, The Observer, 16 Feb. 2003) Many lives were totally ruined by the degrading and humiliating experience – physically, emotionally and spiritually – of their time in a Magdalene Laundry.

The ‘Justice for Magdalenes Research Group’ found that there are at least 1,663 women from the Magdalene laundries buried in cemeteries around Ireland – many of whom are buried in unmarked graves. In 1993 a mass grave of 133 corpses – 22 being added to that number later – was discovered in the grounds of a former laundry owned and run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity. This led to media revelations about the operations of the secretive Catholic institutions of Magdalene laundries in Ireland.

In June 2011 the Irish government set up a committee to establish state involvement in the Magdalene laundries (‘Report of the Irish Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries 2011’, chaired by Senator Martin McAleese) into 10 of these Magdalene laundries run by the Catholic Church. Their report in 2013 found that there had been ‘significant’ state collusion, verbal abuse but, surprisingly and strongly contradicted by former female inmates, no regular physical or sexual abuse. A belated, formal state apology was issued in February 2013 by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and a £50 million compensation scheme for survivors was set up by the Irish Government. The various Religious Orders of Catholic nuns who had been in charge of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland refused to contribute to the Irish government’s compensation fund for survivors, estimated in 2014 to be around 600 women.

In 2002 the ‘Spotlight’ team of reporters for the Boston Globe newspaper in American claimed to have uncovered the widespread sexual abuse of children by some local Catholic clergy and that these offending priests, once found out, were then systematically moved between parishes, without the receiving parish priest being informed about the reason for their move. One priest was alleged to have abused around 130 children over decades while being thus moved between parishes. Complaining parents whose children had been violated were paid by the local Archbishop to remain silent about what had happened and to not report the incidents to anyone.

In 2003 the New York Times reported that “Boston (diocese) paid $85 million to settle 550 lawsuits from people who said they were abused by priests. According to the National Catholic Reporter (May 31 2018) the sex abuse crisis has now cost the US Catholic Church more than $3 billion dollars since the mid 1980s and Boston diocese $150.5 million dollars. Many American dioceses have applied for bankruptcy, some, it is said, to avoid further payments to abused claimants.

The film that tells the story of the Boston Globe’s investigation of Boston Archdiocese

Widespread public outcry forced Cardinal Bernard Law, responsible for that diocesan policy of moving erring priests around and paying parents to bind them to secrecy, to offer his resignation to the Vatican. This was accepted towards the end of 2002. Two years later, to the shock and horror of many people, particularly the parents of children abused by Catholic priests, Pope St. John Paul 11 appointed Cardinal Law as Archpriest of the Roman Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. This gave Cardinal Law a comfortable and well-paid living and access to all that was going on in the Vatican and Rome.

In 2015 the story of the Boston Globe’s revelations about sexual abuse by local Catholic clergy and its cover-up by the hierarchy was told in the award-winning film “Spotlight”. It was regarded as a great success and quickly went global.

In October 2002, Irish television’s programme Prime Time broadcast a special report entitled Cardinal Secrets containing accounts of children abused by Catholic priests serving in the Archdiocese of Dublin, where complaints over decades had been made to diocesan bishops and police but had been ignored by both.

In 2004 came the first detailed report of an American legal investigation into the issue. “The “nature and scope of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons in the United States 1950 – 2002” stated that around 4% of all US Catholic priests had been the subject of allegations of child sexual abuse.

In 2009 the Irish Government published The Ryan Report, chaired by Justice Seán Ryan, which had investigated the treatment of thousands of children since 1936 placed in Irish residential institutions, including industrial schools, reformatories and orphanages. These were controlled by various Catholic religious orders and congregations, although funded and supervised by the Irish Department of Education. The Ryan Commission took evidence from 1090 men and women who reported being abused as children in these institutions. Excessive physical punishments and prolonged sexual abuse were revealed, in addition to Church and State authorities refusing to intervene effectively or to report what was happening to the police. The failure of both State and Church to protect the vulnerable children placed in their care was appalling and the extent and severity of neglect and abuse criminal. Many witnesses to the Commission spoke of ruined lives.

In 2009, a few months after the Ryan Report, the Irish Government published The Murphy Report. This Commission had been set up in 2004 and was mostly chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy. Its remit had been to investigate how Irish Catholic and state authorities had dealt with reported cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin during the period 1975 – 2004.  (Report by Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin). Their original representative sample of 46 priests accused of sexually abusing 320 children later expanded to 102 priests. “One of those priests admitted to the Commission of sexually abusing over 100 children, while another accepted that he had abused on a fortnightly basis during the currency of his ministry which lasted over 25 years.” (Official Report) The Commission found that seventy complaints had been lodged against these two priests but no effective action had been taken by their bishop. One of the damning conclusions of the Murphy Report states that “The Dublin Archdiocese’s pre-occupation in the dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church and the preservation of its assets.” It was as if the sexual abuse of young children was of no consequence to Dublin’s Catholic hierarchy during the years being investigated. As to Dublin priests not involved in this sordid and widespread scandal, the Commission said that “The vast majority simply chose to turn a blind eye.” The Commission also reported that the Vatican had refused to co-operate with their enquiry.

The Vatican’s refusal to co-operate was based on Church Canon Law, even in its more recent revised form; Article 25 of Pope John Paul II’s The Norms of the Motu Proprio, Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela of 2001, giving the Vatican Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith responsibility to deal with and judge a series of particularly serious crimes within the ambit of canon law.  Article 30 of its revision by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 imposes what is considered as ‘the pontifical secret’ on all allegations and proceedings relating to child sexual abuse by clerics. It does this by stating that the results of a diocesan investigation and trial into serious immoral conduct by a priest should be sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; no mention is made of the results, where guilt has been determined, being passed to the police. That omission speaks volumes.

The above Norms of the Moto Proprio of 2001 states “In tribunals established by Ordinaries of Hierarchs, for the cases of the more grave delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative could be validly performed only by priests. Furthermore, upon completion of the trial in the tribunal in any manner, the acts of the case were to be transmitted ex officio, as soon as possible, to the Congregation”(for the Doctrine of the Faith). Pope Francis has never spoken publically about that Motu Proprio or seemingly sought to have it revised.

Around 2011 a Tuam amateur historian, Catherine Corless, began researching a former Catholic Mother and Baby Home (St. Mary’s) in Tuam (Co. Galway) for unmarried mothers, run between 1925 and 1961 by the Bon Secours Order of nuns. The building had formerly been a workhouse, built in 1840. Her locally published research article in 2012 aroused little interest. However, in 2014 the Irish Mail on Sunday carried a front page spread detailing the research by Corless. It quickly went viral.

In 1975, fourteen years after the Home closed, two local boys playing in a field at the rear of the former Home had uncovered a hole covered with cement slabs which, to their horror, contained many skeletons. They reported this to the local priest but the only action taken was to celebrate Mass at the site and recover the hole. Corless spoke to many local people who knew of the grave, as did, she claimed, the police and local council. She got no help for her research from statutory agencies or from the Bon Secours Order. The latter claimed they no longer had files or information on the Home. Corless claims to have been asked by local people “What are you doing? It’s a long time ago. If there’s bodies there just leave them.”

Through her own painstaking and meticulous research at the Galway Registry Office over a number of years and at her own expense (€3,184) through a large number of records of death (there was only one burial certificate), Corless uncovered an unusually high number of deaths of pre- and post-birth babies and young children up to 3 years old, 796 to be exact, at the Tuam Home. Her original article in 2012 (‘The Home’ in the ‘Journal of the Old Tuam Society’), which had aroused little local interest, also claimed an unusually high number of deaths of young mothers and that most, including the babies, had been buried in an unmarked and unregistered grave at the Home.

Using a site map from 1890 Corless claimed the site of the mass grave was the same location as that of a former, large septic tank (“a large vault with 20 chambers”), a claim later verified by an official Commission of Investigation in December 2017. However that Commission did not claim to have evidence that this structure had ever been used as a septic tank. The scientific use of carbon dating clearly showed that that the human remains in the former septic tank dated from the time when the Bon Secours nuns ran the Tuam mother and Baby Home.

Catherine Corless – at Tuam grave site

The headquarters of the Bon Secours Order in Cork contacted Corless to tell her that the claims in her research were untrue and had upset older nuns in the Order. In 2012 the Irish Health Service Executive reported concerns that up to 1,000 had been sent, without their mothers’ permission, from the Tuam Mother and Baby Home to be adopted illegally in the United States. Various claims have been made about the nuns having received large sums of money for this cruel export of babies.

In 2015 the Irish government, concerned about the many reports in the media about the unregistered mass grave at Tuam, set up the ‘Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters’, to be chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy. Its remit was to investigate the Bon Secours Home in Tuam and a further thirteen other such Mother and Baby Homes. It is due to report in February 2019.

In March 2017 seventy year old Marie Collins, an Irish national and herself a severely traumatised victim of clerical abuse as a child of 13 while a patient in a Catholic hospital, resigned from the recently established Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors. This had been set up by Pope Francis in 2014. Marie Collins said in an article for the National Catholic Reporter that her resignation was because of continued inactivity and refusal to co-operate with the commission by a small number of Vatican departments. She wrote of “shameful resistance”. The final straw for her was the refusal of an un-named Vatican department (likely to be the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the department with the main responsibility for dealing with reports to the Vatican of abuse by clergy) to comply with one of the new commission’s recommendations. That recommendation was a basic and simple protocol, based on good manners and sound practise, requesting that all correspondence from victims sexually abused by clergy should receive a response. She wrote; “It is a reflection of how this whole abuse crisis in the church has been handled: with fine words in public and contrary actions behind closed doors.” Marie said that Curial officials also blocked the attempts by the new Pontifical Council to set up a tribunal of accountability of bishops who had failed to protect children. Marie Collins praised the work of Pope Francis and the Cardinal chairperson of the new Pontifical Council. However it is sad to note that Marie Collins also said she had never had the opportunity to speak to Pope Francis during her three year tenure and had never been contacted by him since her resignation to learn of her reasons for resigning. I would have thought this a fairly fundamental and important thing to do. One wonders if Pope Francis did so when he met her recently in Dublin, along with 7 other victims of clerical and institutional abuse.

Marie Collins in August 2018 accepted an invitation from Pope Francis to meet him in Rome in mid-September, hoping he would clarify for her the Vatican process whereby Catholic bishops are judged for their adherence to rules governing the disciplining of priests accused of child sexual abuse. This follows a report that on his flight back to Rome from Dublin, Pope Francis had commented, rather unkindly and undiplomatically I think, that he thought Marie Collins to be “fixated” on the necessity for a central Vatican tribunal to judge bishops alleged to be covering up cases of clerical child sex abuse. (Refer to a previous post and comments for further information about this invitation to Marie Collins by Pope Francis.)

In 2013-2017 the Australian government set up a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Again, the problem was uncovered not just of the widespread sexual abuse of children by mainly Catholic religious Brothers but also of a cover-up at all levels of the Australian Catholic hierarchy by moving these offenders between parishes and Catholic institutions and paying parents to ensure their silence. The Royal Commission into ‘Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse  established that some 4,444 claimants alleged incidents of child sexual abuse in 4,756 reported claims to Catholic Church authorities  and at least 1,880 suspected abusers from 1980 to 2015. The Commission also found that in 75 Australian archdioceses and dioceses approximately 7% of priests who worked in Australia between 1950 and 2009 were accused, but may never have been proved in a civil court, to have sexually abused children.

In June 2017 Cardinal Pell, former Archbishop of Sydney and Melbourne and recently appointed by Pope Francis to reform the Vatican City’s finances, was investigated about multiple accusations of sexual misconduct with minors. Following a four-week committal hearing many of the charges were dismissed but it ruled that the Cardinal will stand trial on at least three different complaints.

In July 27, 2018  Pope Francis accepted the resignation from the College of Cardinals of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. This followed a series of allegations of sexual misconduct (sexually interfering with seminarians, priests, young boys and others) that had been made against him. Pope Francis ordered him to observe “a life of prayer and penance in seclusion.” In August 25, 2018 Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former apostolic nuncio ( Vatican ambassador) to the United States, released an 11-page document describing a series of prior warnings to the Vatican regarding McCarrick’s immoral behaviour. Archbishop Viganò stated that Montalvo, then Papal Nuncio to the United States, had informed the Vatican in 2000 of McCarrick’s “gravely immoral behaviour with seminarians and priests” and that he himself had done the same in 2013. Pope Francis now stands accused of being aware, since 2013, of Cardinal McCarrick’s long-term immoral behaviour and doing nothing about until last month. In fact, it is reported that Pope Francis previously removed the ignored restrictions imposed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict. Pope Benedict XVI had previously imposed sanctions on Cardinal McCarrick (no public celebration of Mass, no attendance at public meetings, no giving of lectures, no travel etc.) but seems to have ignored McCarrick’s non-observance of most of them. It is reported that McCarrick was often seen in and around the Vatican, at major religious events in Rome and had even concelebrated Mass with Pope Benedict during the time of restriction. It has to be noted that the former papal nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Viganò has himself been accused, while an apostolic nuncio to American, of quashing an investigation by two auxiliary bishops of Minneapolis into the behaviour of Archbishop Nienstedt in sexually interfering with seminarians and covering up sexual abuse. The situation is complex and is still one of claim and counter claim by the many clerics, Vatican officials and legal people now involved. It is also complicated by accusations that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò may have a hidden agenda to embarrass Pope Francis, belonging as Viganò does to a very conservative and anti-Pope Francis wing of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy – a sadly unedifying and fragmenting situation for the Catholic Church now to be in. Pope Francis has refused to comment on the case.

In July 2018 Fr. Óscar Muñoz, the former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Santiago was placed under arrest. He was charged with abusing seven children since 2002. Father Muñoz, had admitted his guilt to church officials in one case in January but remained in post. He was in charge of maintaining diocesan archives of clerical-abuse investigations and took testimony from victims in other cases. Chile’s national prosecutor’s office announced in July that it was investigating 36 accusations of sexual abuse by clergy and church employees. It also summoned Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati to defend himself against accusations of his alleged cover-up of these sex crimes. In at least five cases, Catholic Church leaders are suspected of having concealed crimes of sexual abuse by clergy or obstructed the course of justice by refusing to hand over the appropriate files. Recently, all Chilean bishops offered Pope Francis their resignation, in light of the Bishop Juan Barros affair, a situation when Barros was appointed bishop by Pope Francis while being accused of concealing the crimes of Fr. Fernando Karadima whom the local Church found guilty of paedophilia in 2011. Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Barros.

In August 2018 a Pennsylvania Grand Jury 884-page 2-year report alleged 300 priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses had abused more than 1,000 children over 70 years which had been systematically covered up by local bishops. Among its many findings it alleged a ring of predatory priests had manufactured child pornography on diocese property and used whips, violence and sadism on their victims. That same group of priests gave boys their favoured gold cross necklaces, which, the report states, “were a signal to other predators that the children….were optimal targets for further victimization.” One priest, it alleged, abused five sisters in a single family despite prior abuse reports about him that were never acted on. Another priest confessed to raping at least 15 boys, some as young as 7. A bishop later said that the latter priest was “a person of candour and sincerity” and complimented him “for the progress he has made” in controlling his “addiction”. The report stated that abuse complaints were kept in the church’s so-called ‘secret archive’. It also stated that Catholic Church officials had worked to hide incidents and had failed to discipline priest or to report the allegation to law enforcement agencies. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a former long-time bishop of Pittsburgh, was faulted for his role in allegedly concealing sexual abuse of children by his priests. The high-profile archbishop of Washington released a statement, according to the Associated Press, saying that Cardinal Wuerl had “acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse.”

This is a truly shocking list of sexual abuse by priests and Catholic institutions and of the refusal by the Catholic hierarchy at all levels in the Church, including the superiors of religious orders and societies right up to the Vatican and Papacy, to report any of it to the police. Instead they kept it secret, paid out large sums of money to parents and others to ensure it was kept secret,  and moved the offending priests between parishes whenever parents or others complained. That is a damning indictment of the Catholic hierarchy in many parts of the world and of the Vatican. One wonders what else has been kept secret from Catholic laity and general public.

The above account deals only with matters concerning Ireland, Australia, America and Chile but the problem is most likely world-wide within the universal Catholic Church. Other areas, particularly African dioceses, have yet to reveal the existence of this problem within their midst. Their usually rather conservative hierarchies are no doubt reluctant to do so in order to protect themselves from what they see as having happened in other parts of the world where the problem has become public. Since an undisclosed number of sexually abusive priests were sent to work in Africa and South America in order to export the problem away from their home dioceses in Europe and America, it is most likely that they brought their sexually abusive behaviour with them.

We can no longer pretend that this problem of sexually abusive priests, small in terms of the total priesthood as it might be, remains only at the lowest level of priesthood or even at the level of bishops and both male and female heads of religious orders and societies. Nor can we any longer pretend it is only a recent problem of the last 40 or 50 years. I would surmise that the problem, and its cover-up by the Catholic hierarchy and religious superiors right up to the Vatican and papacy, has gone on for many hundreds of years. It has been too widespread to have been merely a local problem in a few countries. Apologies, however sincere, are no longer enough. Nor are structures that are aimed at the present and future protection of children, vitally important as they are, but fail to tackle deeper questions as to the cause of what happened in the past and more recent times. What is now needed is a root and branch reform of the priesthood (including compulsory celibacy), hierarchy, Vatican and governance of the Catholic Church at all levels to ensure that the root causes of the problem are identified and tackled effectively and openly.

“The church also needs a blue-ribbon international group of experts charged with investigating, across a range of disciplines, the clergy culture, how it developed to this stage and what changes are necessary. This has to be an exhaustive study of the growth of the culture, of seminaries and formation programs, and all of the encrustations and presumptions of privilege and power that have accrued over centuries.” (National Catholic Reporter; Editorial of August 30th, 2018.)

The boil must be lanced effectively! Accountability must also be open and spread throughout the whole Church at all levels, from parish to the Vatican. The hierarchy must not be judge and jury of illegal behaviour by clerics at any level within the Catholic Church. Only then can Catholics be confident that the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable people and its subsequent cover-up, can never arise again in the numbers and geographical spread of the past and present priesthood.

I say again, as I said in my opening paragraph; lay people must be given back effective ownership of their Church. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with a deep knowledge and understanding of Sacred Scripture, strengthened by divine Eucharist to a deeper union with Christ Jesus, and in close partnership with the clergy, they will preach, in word and action as disciples of Jesus, about God’s Kingdom of unconditional love, mercy and justice for all humankind, especially the poor and marginalised and all of nature.

The above information shows clearly the Catholic hierarchy’s unwillingness to reform itself. Silence and cover-up by bishops, cardinals, Papal Nuncios and Vatican must stop. Pressure to ‘reveal all’ has had to come from public exposures in the mass media and from civic legal processes. Catholic laity must now develop an ever-maturing faith and take responsibility for their Church. This will include the Catholic Church’s willingness to provide the unsettling and prophetic self-criticism which prevents that which is present in all organisations i.e. service to others changing into self-service and self-glorification, which seeks to protect itself whether right or wrong and at whatever the cost. Only when the above fundamental reforms are put into effect throughout the Church and at all levels within the Church, will many of those priests and lay people who now feel ashamed of being Catholic, or letting it be known that they are Catholic or priests, recapture their former joy, hope and fulfilment in membership of that divinely instituted, and fully human, Catholic Church.


On 7th September 2018 the National Catholic Reporter revealed that New York and New Mexico and four other US states were initiating investigations into Catholic Church handling of clerical sex abuse allegations.  In the wake of the Pennsylvania revelations of July 2018 the New York Times reported that ‘Attorneys general across the United States are taking a newly aggressive stance in investigating sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy.’


32 Responses to “Erring Shepherds – Aidan Hart”
  1. Colette Archer says:

    This is a well written but deeply depressing article!! The Catholic Church needs to take a good long hard look at itself! The failure to deal with this issue and protect the victims absolutely flies in the face of Christianity and screams of utter hypocrisy!! I’m very angry having read this article!! Is it any wonder people are turning away from the church?!!!

    • soconaill says:

      Re ‘hypocrisy’, Colette, I am reminded that ‘hypocrite’ (originally ‘actor’ in ancient Greek I understand) was Jesus’s precise word for those who set out to *seem* pious or holy. Is this a key component of what Pope Francis and Aidan call ‘clericalism’ – the tendency of clergy to claim some kind of moral/spiritual/intellectual high ground, as if by ‘right of ordination’?

      I have to say – of course – that I know clergy who don’t have this particular fault, who are relaxed and open about their own fallible ordinariness (as is Francis himself). Nevertheless, it seems to me that the clerical institution tends to encourage ‘posing’ rather than sincerity – and this must surely be the reason for the universality of the ‘cover-up’: promotion to high office in the church was dependent upon a commitment to ‘keeping up appearances’ – the clergy’s public prestige as credible moral exemplars?

      Now that we all know that ordination does not in fact inoculate anyone against hypocrisy, is it not time for the papacy to say precisely that – by way of restoring the prestige of baptism and the baptised – and to warn every Catholic (especially every child) never to hold anyone else to be ‘beyond sin’? Do we need an encyclical dedicated to spelling out the dangers of clericalism?

      And has not the argument for confining authority in the church to the ordained (i.e. clergy) finally fallen apart? Thankfully, even some bishops are now calling for the presence of laity in new structures to make bishops accountable. Not before time!

  2. Mary Vallely says:

    Patriarchal authoritarianism needs to be exorcised from the Church and Aidan’s excellent, very comprehensive but depressing account of the history of abuse of children, women and vulnerable adults clearly shows that we can no longer expect our leaders to stop the rot that has infiltrated the very core of Catholicism. The Church’s refusal to engage in self criticism has been our downfall. It is still seen as a grave act of disloyalty, especially here in the North, to make any criticism at all of Church personnel’s patterns of behaviour or of Church teaching. I suppose it was partly our own centuries old engrained “ laity lie down’ patterns of behaviour.

    I agree too with Sean’s warning about elevating ordination above baptism thus reinforcing the supremacy of man over woman in many eyes.

    Thinking of Jesus’ advice to us all about becoming more like little children, guileless, loving, reaching out with the heart towards others, trusting… It is heartbreaking to think of the children destroyed by this patriarchal authoritarianism not just in the western world but also as Aidan reminds us there is no investigation yet into the terrible abuse of those in Third World countries by missionaries, many of them from our own country too.
    I can sense the pain In Aidan’s reporting especially as he himself is aware of the huge good that so many of those in consecrated life and in priesthood have done and still do. Their suffering as this is revealed, drip by drip, must be immense.

    How do we educate new generations to heal the hurt and to have enough confidence in their own God given faith and ability to keep working at trying to transform our world into as close an image as possible to the reign of God?
    Therein lies the challenge to all of us and I welcome Aidan’s heartfelt suggestions.

  3. Martin Murray says:

    Aidan lays it out in plain sight. Yet few Catholics will look in this direction. In light of what Aidan summarises so well it’s hard to argue with some of the hard hitting reforms suggested by the following article.…/article-the-radical…/

    Here’s a quote:-
    “To scour the church of clericalism requires more than righteous denunciation, the invidious scapegoating of gays, the marginalization of free thinkers. It involves the gutting of the seminary system.

    The way we select, train, and semi-cloister priests-in-the-making indisputably nurtures that sense of separateness, exceptional calling, all-male ethos and gender exclusivity that fuels the clerical culture.

    By demolishing the seminary, we can put in place new structures that foster mature growth and genuine inclusivity”

  4. soconaill says:

    This line of thought needs further development, Martin. As Richard Rohr has convincingly shown, spiritual development cannot be somehow ‘packaged’ or systematised by any institution for its own purposes.

    Early experiences of unconditional nurturing love (i.e. good parenting) are important if we are to develop a strong sense of our own dignity, and of the dignity of others. However, it takes an adult experience of suffering (i.e. of having no control over what is happening) to ground a steadfast faith in God.

    We see this very thing happening to Peter in the Gospels. He relies upon his own bravado until he is faced with the reality of just how unreliable that is. The Prodigal Son too supposes that he can rely upon his own resources to make himself secure – until these have left him destitute and alone. Paul too has become aware of his own fundamental weakness.

    The seminary system supposed that priests – Catholics ‘in persona Christi’ – could be formed like soldiers. That seemed to work while the enveloping culture supported this myth, but now we know just how great an illusion that was. The McCarrick story shows just how exposed to corruption young men in seminaries were – faced as they were with finding patrons and mentors among the hierarchy.

    Yet the earliest ‘ordinations’ were performed by men looking for spiritual maturity – evidence of character proven by action. Men like Sean Fortune would never have made it.

    We need to think hard about what new structures are needed to prepare all Christians for responsibility, and then to discern those who have been tested and proven by life itself. Far from marriage and parenthood being seen as ‘disqualifiers’ these should be seen as a training ground for the familial responsibility of priesthood – as they were for the apostles.

    This will obviously take time – given that those still wedded to the seminary system have not yet gone away.

    • Martin Murray says:

      Excellent comment Sean. You are digging into the core of the problem of seminary training. Yes, much more digging at this level needed.

  5. Con Devree says:

    “I deeply love the Catholic Church.”

    I have asked myself can I say that. Can I pose a genuine question?

    What does deeply loving the Catholic Church consist of? What does it look like, sound like?

    • Adian Hart says:

      A deep question Con and obviously a very personal one for me to answer; a bit like trying to identify exactly what first attracted one to his/her spouse and decades later still provides a strong attraction. There has to be a deep element of mystery. I’ll need to give you some of my background beliefs first so please bear with me.
      I believe that all mainstream religions that believe in God/Allah/the Divine etc can lead their participants to God and His eternal kingdom if followed sincerely and if they draw one into loving all others. I exclude the extremes and extreme branches of otherwise acceptable religions. Most participants of religion have inherited their membership as children from their birth-family so a merciful God is not going to punish them or banish them from His eternal presence because of an accident of birth. I also believe that Jesus did not come on earth to start a new religion but rather to bring the Jewish religion to its final stage of reaching out to all human kind through accepting with faith the resurrected Jesus as their personal and divine Messiah, the divine, redeeming, crucified and resurrected Son of God. Paul, who had encountered Jesus dramatically on the road to Damascus, was God’s early instrument in preaching the universalisation of His Kingdom. That Kingdom of God on earth, The Way, later became separated from the Jewish faith due to the early Jewish followers of Jesus, and then gentile converts, being expelled from their local synagogues. Behind that expulsion was the threatened power of the Jewish temple priesthood.
      I believe that Jesus gave us Eucharist, not for privatised religion or perpetual adoration but to renew and strengthen our awareness of His divine presence within each of us. By accepting the fullness of that presence under the species of consecrated bread and wine, I feel strongly His command to go out and make His unconditional, merciful love present to those I live with, work with and meet. Needless to say, I often fall short of that divine calling.

      Jesus fully and really present in Eucharist is a call to action, an outward movement from the quality of our lives and words to others. At the end of each Eucharist (Mass) – I feel commissioned and strengthened to go forth and announce the Good News by my words and actions, to love all others unconditionally. (My wife, family and friends will smile at that due to my many failings!) My Catholic faith has given me that deep assurance of God’s loving and forgiving presence within me and within all others and all nature. In Sunday’s communal Eucharist and in the private, reflective reading of Sacred Scripture and periods of silent contemplation (I’m still struggling with that), Catholicism has given, and, in spite of all the scandals, continues to give me the opportunity of renewing and deepening my awareness of that divine Presence with its unconditional, merciful love and its call to action as a disciple of God to do my little bit to help bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.

      So there is my answer Con; my apologies for it being a bit long but it is shared with you and our readers with all sincerity.

      • Mary Vallely says:

        Thank you, Aidan, for your honesty and courage in sharing your innermost feelings about why you still remain a Catholic. It has been an enormous help to me, seriously. You have put into words what I feel deep in my heart but could not articulate. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for releasing those words in you so that others like me could rejoice in that bonding of Spirit in us all! God bless the work. 👍

        • Aidan Hart says:

          Thank you Mary. That was very kind of you. May the God of surprises surprise you with His joy, peace and divine hope and a wonderful experience of His/Her unconditional, merciful love.

  6. Kevin Walters says:

    With regards to Pope Francis and his refusal to comment on accusations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò:

    This avoidance behaviour is called stonewalling, and its root is in Clericalism. It is what the bishops used against victims. Pope Francis and the Vatican have chosen to be “non-responsive” just as the bishops did for decades, when it came to the ongoing abuse cover-up.

    Perhaps Pope Francis could have been more direct, as in being open open, which would have created trust – by either stating that he was unaware of the crimes/sins of Cardinal McCarrick or confirming when he was aware of this on-going situation and in doing so give credence to his leadership. This should reflect the integrity of Jesus Christ; silence generally confirms agreement while avoidance relates to self-protection. True leadership instils trust.

    Of course Pope Francis could now make a statement, giving clarity to the present dysfunctional situation. But the problem now is how can Pope Francis with others break free from clericalism and reflect true headship, when he has with so many others been compromised within the clerical culture of the church. As no man is free from sin, all are entangled within its Web – some more so than others, but nevertheless compromised.

    A cleansing has to take place and it needs to start at the top as our Lord Himself has given the leadership of the Church the means to do this… “God will not despise a broken spirit and contrite heart” and neither will the faithful. The leadership has nothing to fear, no matter how compromised, as the cleansing grace of humility (Full ‘open acknowledgement of past failings/sins) is the communal bond of love that holds His flock together.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

    • Aidan Hart says:

      Today we are more aware than ever of the hidden effect within each of us of our upbringing, early life experiences and the culture within our profession or work-place.

      I think Pope Francis is perhaps unaware of the deep effect that a lifetime experience of clericalism within priestly communities and his own Jesuit Order has had on his own psyche. Certainly his early, tardy responses as Pope to the clerical sexual abuse of children scandal would seem to bear that out. I’m thinking particularly of the initial hesitancy of Pope Francis in believing the three Chilean survivors abused by Fr. Fernando Karadima and seemingly known about by Bishop Juan Barros, recently appointed as such by Pope Francis. Bishop Barros later resigned. I’m thinking also of Pope Francis’ inaction when Marie Collins resigned from the newly established papal commission (2014) because of the refusal of various Vatican departments to co-operate with it. And then came his injudicious comment about Marie Collins on his flight back to Rome from Dublin.

      All that gives me concern that a purely internal committee or commission of Vatican officials, bishops and cardinals, headed by Pope Francis and all infected with various levels of clericalism imbued subconsciously over a lifetime as priests, and of which they are likely totally unaware, will not be enough to bring about the necessary depth and width of reform.

      • soconaill says:

        So right are you, Aidan, to be doubtful of the reformist capabilities of bishops that there is an interesting question that necessarily follows: who should be dependent upon them for guidance on what we lay people should be doing to further the reign of God?

        ‘Lay clericalism’ is undoubtedly a form of dysfunctional dependence upon clergy, a ‘buying into’ the clerical mystique that would have us believe that we must not act on our own initiative – because somehow the Holy Spirit agrees with Pope Pius X that priests exist to lead and laity exist only to follow that lead.

        Just how much Irish ‘anti-clericalism’ is driven by resentment of that very clericalist expectation?

        Irish bishops especially have yet to measure the depth of scepticism that exists now in the country about the entire ‘apostolic succession’ claim. When we look now at the bishop’s pastoral symbol – the crosier, or shepherd’s crook – what are we supposed to believe about its symbolism?

        Even if by some miracle Catholic bishops were now to bring about an entirely credible system of child protection in the church, how could anyone forget that this had happened SOLELY because the world had discovered that, left to their own devices, Catholic bishops globally had an entirely different priority: the mere protection of that mystique of clergy?

        Why should anyone believe that the Holy Spirit has any interest in maintaining a system based on a dangerous clericalist illusion? Haven’t we been released, like Dorothy and friends in the land of Oz, from the need to look to the men behind the curtain for guidance on what to do next?

      • Kevin Walters says:

        You may be right Aidan, as this institutionalized discriminating (Self-serving) statement given by Pope Francis on Tuesday 11/9/18 in a homily confirms what you are saying:

        “In these times, it seems like the Great Accuser has been unchained and has it in for bishops.” He said: “True we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins so they are visible in order to scandalize the people”

        Yes we need change, but initially it has to come from the leadership, as moral authority has to be restored, otherwise the church will dissipate.

        Nothing focuses the mind as in a reality check. The leadership have made/painted God in their own image and this blasphemous action with the abuse scandal, calls for full honest repentance. This reality (Image) sits at the base of the present state of the leadership to-day, and it is manifest as Clericalism;(a policy of maintaining or increasing the power of a religious hierarchy)

        Pope Francis
        “There is something I have understood with great clarity,” he said. “This drama of abuse…has behind it a Church that is elitist and clericalist, an inability to be near to the people of God.

        But what is so galling about this statement is Pope Francis’s double talk, and apparent warped refusal to look at the state of the leadership honestly, and then hold each other accountable, as only then will they draw closer to the faithful (People of God) and our Father in Heaven.

        kevin your brother
        In Christ

        • Sean O'Conaill says:

          I am not clear on what you mean by the pope’s ‘doubletalk’, Kevin – or by the accusation that he has failed to look at the state of the leadership ‘honestly’.

          His persistent critique of ‘spiritual worldliness’, beginning with ‘Evangelii Gaudium’, his lambasting of the Curia and the example of humility he himself has provided, (e.g. in changing his mind entirely on the Chile situation) are surely unprecedented in the modern era.

          Remember that he is not in the position of a CEO of a multinational, who can fire anyone else because they are all subordinate to him. He is simply ‘primus inter pares’ – obliged by canon law to observe the dignity (read ‘unaccountability’) of all bishops that history has lumbered the church with.

          That, I suppose, is why in the end he has called this unusual conference of presiding bishops of national conferences – because whatever mechanism for bishop accountability is to apply must have a very high measure of consensus – to achieve radical canonical reform in that area.

          “We are all sinners, we bishops.” Where is the doubletalk exactly?

          Re your warning that if bishops do not grasp this nettle the church will ‘dissipate’ – I agree entirely and see that already happening. The most important kind of Christian leadership is moral leadership, a walking of the walk of Jesus himself. To my mind in Ireland that kind of leadership comes not from bishops but from those such as Peter McVerry who have given their lives unselfishly to accompany the poorest.

          Does not the pope set the same example for all bishops? What more – exactly – do you think he can do or say?

          • Kevin Walters says:

            “We are all sinners, we bishops” Where is the doubletalk exactly

            Words are not enough Sean, as the majority of us acknowledge that we are sinners, but ‘Sin’ acknowledged requires the manifestation of true repentance, as in, the ongoing cover-up of the child abuse scandal and blasphemy committed by the leadership, in regards to the true DM Image one of Broken Man, without which these previous words, by Pope Francis ‘I am a sinner’…. could be interpreted as a consolidation of serious sin. But, yes it would be a ‘sort of Truth’, a self-serving truth, one that has nothing to do with the ‘Truth’, the transforming action/’criteria’ of The Holy Spirit, as it maintains the status quo.

            Does not the pope set the same example for all bishops?

            Sadly yes, one of ‘personal’ ‘spiritual worldliness’ before the faithful, he does not confront evil openly, rather he colludes with it, in ‘double talk’ (Two faced) so as to maintain the status quo. While presuming to wear the mantle of Jesus Christ, resulting in ‘self-made image’ of worldly goodness

            True Christian leadership instils trust and it does this by telling the truth, Pope Francis needs to be open, by speaking to the faithful from the heart.

            Presently by dealing with the McCarrick situation transparently, in doing so he will have to show his own vulnerability/failings, at whatever the personal cost to himself, but in doing so he will lead the church into a new era of the ‘servant leader’. One who follows the teachings/dictates of Jesus Christ, setting an example before the leadership (Bishops), in been Peter, and stop trying to maintain the status quo, which is compromising ‘all’ within the leadership, to truly lead he must serve God (Truth) first.

            “The greatest amongst you shall be your servant” a servant gives account to those he serves, as humility/transparency is the ‘true’ unifying bond of Christian leadership.

            kevin your brother
            In Christ

            • soconaill says:

              ‘Doubletalk’ is language, i.e. verbal expression that is deceptively ambiguous, i.e. deliberately contradictory – e.g. ‘That’s a great plan but it won’t work.’

              If you cannot give an example of that in what Francis has said or written, Kevin, you need to withdraw the charge.

              As to inconsistency between speech and action, if you are referring to the McCarrick case, say so.

              Note that not until June of this year had there been a report of abuse of a minor against McCarrick, so what Francis could have known against McCarrick since 2013, if he was informed by Archbishop Viganò or anyone else, related to abuse of seminarians. That is very serious, if true, but it cannot sustain a charge that Francis is being inconsistent in his condemnation of bishops who cover up clerical child abuse.

              Given where the strongest opposition to Pope Francis is coming from – an alignment of socially right-wing and deeply clericalist hierarchs such as Cardinal Raymond Burke – it is surely unwise to join in that chorus of condemnation with a diatribe that is verbally imprecise and lacking in any clear specific charge that can be supported by what we know so far about this pope.

              Francis makes mistakes but admits those, and has both promised a statement on the McCarrick case and called the most important episcopal conference on the clerical abuse issue yet seen. He hasn’t set anyone’s misgivings at rest yet re bishop accountability, but that will surely be the purpose of this February conference. He may yet fail completely but surely we need to wait to see – rather than join a chorus of condemnation that seeks to overthrow completely the compassionate direction he has set for the church since 2013?

              No more extended non-specific condemnation please, Kevin. If you want to continue with this charge of inconsistency tell us exactly what you think Francis has been inconsistent about. As to ‘servant leadership’ if you expect that from Burke, Viganò et al, rather than from Francis, fire away.

              • Kevin Walters says:

                # Sean

                ‘Doubletalk’ is verbal expression that is deliberately contradictory

                Note I had amended my meaning of ‘double talk’ to (Two faced) insincere and deceitful, and this terminology relates to a homily given by Pope Francis on 11/9/18,

                “In these times, it seems like the Great Accuser has been unchained and has it in for bishops.” He said: “True we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins so they are visible in order to scandalize the people”

                Drawing attention to collusion with evil that has and is being committed by the elite within the church is ‘definitely’ not the work of the Devil, as a ‘divided house will not stand’ rather He delights in the manifest hypocrisy of the present leadership. Self-protection is the name of this game, as Pope Francis’s statement is fundamentally, insincere/dishonest or alternatively it comes from a mind that is deluded/blind in regards to the reality of the present situation.

                Quote from Aidan in regard to the Popes statement above

                I think Pope Francis is perhaps unaware of the deep effect that a lifetime experience of clericalism within priestly communities and his own Jesuit Order has had on his own psyche

                This may be so, but if so, Pope Francis’s statement, would imply that it was made by a self-serving (Protecting) heart, rather than one that tries to embrace the Truth.

                As to inconsistency between speech and action, if you are referring to the McCarrick case, say so

                From my first post above which clarifies my reference to Cardinal McCarrick, with regards to Pope Francis and his refusal to comment on accusations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò:

                This avoidance behaviour is called stonewalling, and its root is in Clericalism. It is what the bishops used against victims. Pope Francis and the Vatican have chosen to be “non-responsive” just as the bishops did for decades, when it came to the ongoing abuse cover-up…continue above

                kevin your brother
                In Christ

              • Kevin Walters says:

                # Sean
                ‘Doubletalk’ is verbal expression that is deliberately contradictory

                Note I had amended my meaning of ‘double talk’ to (Two faced)- insincere and deceitful, and this terminology relates to a homily given by Pope Francis on 11/9/18,

                “In these times, it seems like the Great Accuser has been unchained and has it in for bishops.” He said: “True we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins so they are visible in order to scandalize the people”

                Drawing attention to collusion with evil that has and is being committed by the elite within the church is ‘definitely’ not the work of the Devil as a ‘divided house will not stand’ rather He delights in the manifest hypocrisy of the present leadership, Self-protection is the name of this game, as Pope Francis’s statement is fundamentally, insincere or alternatively it comes from a mind that is deluded/blind in regards to the reality of the present situation.

                Quote from Aidan in regard to the Popes statement above

                I think Pope Francis is perhaps unaware of the deep effect that a lifetime experience of clericalism within priestly communities and his own Jesuit Order has had on his own psyche

                This may be so, but if so, Pope Francis’s statement, would imply that it was made by a self-serving (Protecting) heart, rather than one that tries to embrace the Truth.

                As to inconsistency between speech and action, if you are referring to the McCarrick case, say so

                From my first post above which clarifies my reference to Cardinal McCarrick, with regards to Pope Francis and his refusal to comment on accusations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò:

                This avoidance behaviour is called stonewalling, and its root is in Clericalism. It is what the bishops used against victims. Pope Francis and the Vatican have chosen to be “non-responsive” just as the bishops did for decades, when it came to the ongoing abuse cover-up…continue above

                kevin your brother
                In Christ

                • soconaill says:

                  Believe it or not, Kevin, the name ‘Satan’ originally meant ‘the accuser’ – the spirit of accusation itself, operative in, for example, those who dragged the woman ‘taken in adultery’ before Jesus. The point is NOT that the accusation is necessarily false but that its purpose is to imply the innocence of the accuser, deflecting blame so as to avoid the need to atone for one’s own failings. It is the opposite of the spirit of mercy.

                  Pope Francis’s dealings with the Chilean bishops, as well as his letter prior to his visit to Ireland, show clearly that he does NOT deny that many bishops have covered up clerical abuse. He is simply saying that now bishops as such are *subject* to accusation and that this tests the faith of many. Those are verifiable facts and just now this scandal focuses attention upon our internal Catholic problem, allowing those who wish to do so to believe that this is ONLY a Catholic problem.

                  You have simply misunderstood the pope’s reference to Satan as the Great Accuser as a denial that bishops could be guilty. It isn’t, as the calling of a conference of bishops to resolve the issus of accountability, and other actions and statements of the pope, clearly prove.

                  • Kevin Walters says:

                    Yes in the case of the woman ‘taken in adultery’ we see the spirit of the Accuser.

                    The point is NOT that the accusation is necessarily false but that its purpose is to imply the innocence of the accuser, deflecting blame so as to avoid the need to atone for one’s own failings

                    So those who have been violated or seen others been violated and then seen those violations been covered up, by those who hold the responsibility to care for the flock, in wanting to see transparency, do so to deflect their own failings/sins, I do not think so rather they seek to protect the vulnerable.

                    Pope Francis’s dealings with the Chilean bishops, as well as his letter prior to his visit to Ireland, show clearly that he does NOT deny that many bishops have covered up clerical abuse. He is simply saying that now bishops as such are *subject* to accusation and that this tests the faith of many

                    Sean, Pope Francis’s about turn in his dealings with the Chilean Bishops was driven by public outrage (Accusations) of a cover up. Can the bishops truly expect anything other than to be the ‘subjects’ of this on-going masquerade as it has taken over five years to get to this point. To say that Pope Francis has been sluggish in dealing with this problem would be more than generous; avoidance and denial, is closer to the mark

                    You have simply misunderstood the pope’s reference to Satan as the Great Accuser as a denial that bishops could be guilty

                    “In these times it seems like the Great Accuser has been unchained and has it in for bishops.” He said: “True we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins so they are visible in order to scandalize the people”

                    The above statement by Pope Francis, was totally inappropriate. As it is his inaction that scandalizes the faithful as ‘accusations’ of spiritual corruption have again pushed the Pope into action in calling for a conference of bishops, to resolve the issues of accountability.

                    kevin your brother
                    In Christ

                    • soconaill says:

                      Please don’t misinterpret me. Referring obviously to the example of the group accusation of the ‘woman taken in adultery’ I wrote:

                      The point is NOT that the accusation is necessarily false but that its purpose is to imply the innocence of the accuser, deflecting blame so as to avoid the need to atone for one’s own failings.

                      Why did you choose to misinterpret this as implying that:

                      “…those who have been violated or seen others been violated and then seen those violations been covered up, by those who hold the responsibility to care for the flock, in wanting to see transparency, do so to deflect their own failings/sins” ???

                      Is it not obvious that the legitimate right and obligation to protest abuse and accuse a clerical abuser or failing bishop (by victims and those who support them) will be ACCOMPANIED in a media-saturated environment by finger-pointing from many others whose interest is simply in bashing the church?

                      The pope is at the centre of this storm and is therefore aware of BOTH the failings of bishops and the opportunism of much of the media storm that has ensued. That is the obvious meaning of his reference to the ‘Great Accuser’ which clearly includes his ACCEPTANCE that real sins have been uncovered. Who else has misinterpreted this statement as you did?

  7. Derek Le Mahieu says:

    There is only one way to The Kingdom of God ,through Jesus Christ Our Lord , we should try to imitate His life on earth ourselves .
    Today more than ever we need a strong Lay community just like the early Church , we are the Church all of us , it is up to us all to play our part , in deeds and words!
    As far as reform goes , I feel that recent scandals need to be sorted , if this cannot be done from within current structures then it must be done by an outside structure , but done correctly and with compassion for those who Love Our Church and have committed no wrong.
    Ours is the God of LOVE , whose Love for us is boundless and whose forgiveness never ends for those who truly seek it.
    May Pope Francis live long enough to see this current trouble through to its conclusion , may all of us keep to our Faith steadfastly.

    • Aidan Hart says:

      Well put Derek; I agree with every word.

      If only more lay Catholics would concentrate on living their faith, being transformed by it and developing their personal relationship with Jesus the Christ rather than concentrating solely on the outward trappings of religion, often dominated by clericalism, the Catholic Church would be in a different place and fewer would be leaving in disgust at what has been revealed.

  8. Sandy Corbett says:

    A well researched article, Aidan, written with conviction and passion. I can well envisage great resistance from the clerical hierarchy to cede even partial control to the laity – for one thing, they fear the consequences of what might be revealed, and, secondly, so many of them look down on the lay person with disdain, and in some cases, contempt. They talk humility, but practice superiority. There is too much hypocrisy in their ranks.
    In the corporate world, if one had such viruses in the computer system on which the company sets its functioning, it would start a new system from scratch, running it parallel to the old, until glitches were discovered and eradicated, then drop the old. It is this type of action that is needed in the Church. It will not happen, I fear.
    It is no excuse that clerics of other denominations or persuasions treat the less initiated with disdain. Clerics of all persuasions seem, in many cases, to seek to achieve power over their fellow beings. This is a typical trait of the psychopath. Abusing weaker beings is endemic among psychopaths.
    I have to admire your deep convictions in the goodness of the Church, but would love to see that goodness revealed more obviously.

    • Aidan Hart says:

      Thank you Sandy. I have Sean O’Conaill from ACI to thank for his guidance and helpful suggestions on my early drafts of the article.

      I would say “I hope for all the reforms I propose but am not hopeful of them taking place in my lifetime.” History teaches us that people with power are very reluctant to give it up or have it curtailed; the greater the power the greater the resistance.

      If, or when, Pope Francis and the bishops agree to married priests to ease or stop the current rapid decline in numbers training for the Catholic priesthood and raise the status of marriage and married love, it would be most unfortunate if it followed the current regulation governing married deacons; if the wife dies the deacon is not permitted to remarry but must remain celibate. That is also the rule within Eastern Orthodox Churches and some Eastern Catholic Churches where, in addition, only a celibate priest can be ordained bishop. However I understand that the recent Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has decided at long last to allow Greek Orthodox priests whose wives have died or abandoned their priest-husbands, to remarry.

      That tradition of only one go at marriage seems to be based on a literal interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:2-3, 12. “That is why the President (of the elders) must have an impeccable character. Husband of one wife…” and “Deacons must be husbands of one wife…” Surely that is a mandate against polygamy, common at the time, and not a mandate against a widower deacon remarrying. Scriptural literalism is no longer the tradition of the Catholic Church but rather “text within context”.

      In his papal Exhortation ‘The Joy of Love’ (Amoris Laetitia) Pope Francis gave a much richer view of marriage than that reflected in the above prohibitions, particularly in chapters 4 and 5 where he talks about love in marriage and that love made fruitful. That beautiful vision of marriage should be applied to all married clerics, including married deacons, married priests, married bishops, married cardinals and married popes and restrictions on remarriage after the death of one’s spouse removed.

  9. Kevin Walters says:

    In reply Sean O’Conaill comment above made on the 20/09/2018 at 11:47 am.

    Thank you for your comment Sean

    Who else has misinterpreted this statement as you did?

    Several on other sites. I am not intentionally trying to misinterpret you, Sean. As from my point of view, I see a man who at every turn has refused to look honestly (Possible due to an institutionalize heart) at the present situation, which was clearly seen by his attitude in the Bishop Barros affair, that demonstrating a total lack of objectivity (Alternatively it is the deliberate act of collusion with evil) to the present state of priesthood, as the sheep were not even secondary, in his concern, seeing them as ‘accusers’ rather than victims.

    Yes it is true the Accuser looks for opportunities to scandalize the ‘faithful’ and he does no to have to look far, as we are all sinners, but our defence is to serve the Truth in humility, as in, own our own sin, but to do this we have to confront the reality of the situation, but in this case, one of spiritual corrupt within the leadership, it must be done transparently, as to hide from this reality will only inflame the situation.

    It is fair to say Sean, that Pope Francis has been driven to call this meeting of Bishops in five months’ time, I see no urgency, as the photo issued by the “Holy See Press Office”, seen in the link below demonstrates

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

    • Aidan Hart says:

      I agree with you Kevin about the photograph showing a jocular meeting between Pope Francis and some of the US bishops.

      I accept that it may not reflect the tone of the whole meeting. However, to put it out for distribution to the media in the present climate was injudicious and hardly reflecting to the world a sense of urgency and disgust by those present at what is increasingly being revealed about clerical sex abuse and cover up by Catholic bishops possibly throughout the whole of United States of America and many other parts of the world. Nor does it reflect the sensitive and serious situation Pope Francis is in over Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s testimony against him with regard to the Archbishop McCarrick affair.

      • Kevin Walters says:

        Thank you Aidan for your comment
        From the article accompanying the said photo

        “After the meeting in the Apostolic Palace, the Holy See Press Office issued this jocular photo, with no accompanying statement (there has still been no statement):…

        Did the Vatican want to send the message that all is well and this is not going to be the showdown that Francis’ critics envisioned? Was someone in the press office purposely putting these photos out to discredit the Pope? Or the U.S. Cardinals? Or are they just incompetent and totally deaf to public opinion?

        Whatever ones opinion on this matter, whoever ‘looks’ at this photo it will causes confusion, as it contributes to a web of intrigue, which I believe emanates from a ‘controlling mind’. It is said that the right and left wings of the church hold hands behind each other’s back. Every picture tells a story; spiders hide in corners.

        Journalists and others in the media do not just use words to convey information, especially that which is covertly directed towards the powers of darkness.
        See my posts via the link.

        kevin your brother
        In Christ

        • soconaill says:

          The photo and accompanying text were selected and composed by Lifesite news – the homophobic source of the attempt to sabotage the outreach of Ireland’s WMOF to a marginalised minority via the contribution of Fr James Martin SJ.

          Vindictiveness, homophobia, bias – in favour of returning the church to the right-wing agenda of those with a hankering for the time of John Paul II – whose commitment to the cause of cover-up is far more thoroughly established than that of Pope Francis. Why on earth should anyone interpret that meeting of the Pope and Sean O’Malley through that lifesitenews lens? A photo of people laughing at one moment proves absolutely nothing about their demeanour and purpose throughout any meeting that preceded or followed. For evidence look at the photo here, and then read the account of Francis’ address in Milltown, Dublin:

          ‘You will have tribulation, but be of good cheer!’ Jesus (John 16:33). Even in the Gulags and the catacombs prisoners had a need, and a duty, to laugh!

          To add nothing more than innuendo to all that, and then a link to a ghastly accident involving an unstable crucifix in Italy? To spend any time on LifeSite news is to be in need of a week’s retreat. Please spare us, Kevin. Go to Crux or NCR for fairness, balance and sanity.

          • Kevin Walters says:

            @ Sean

            Yes, the photo issued by the “Holy See Press Office” was selected by Lifesite news. And most probably used to emphasize its readers concerns, as many people are shocked (Not just extremists) at what appear to be breeding rings of spiritual corruption, that facilitate and encourage homosexual activity within the hierarchy of the church. You do not have to be a bigot in agreeing with them.

            A photo of people laughing at one moment proves absolutely nothing

            True, but a comparison would be in seeing a photo of the local council of the Grenfell tower fire disaster, calling a meeting to discuss the said incident. To then be seen behaving in such a jocular manner, would it not incite public outrage?

            ‘You will have tribulation, but be of good cheer!’ Jesus (John 16:33). Even in the Gulags and the catacombs prisoners had a need, and a duty, to laugh!

            It is most inappropriate under the present circumstances to compare the difficulties of the pope and his cardinals to these who have suffered in Gulags and the Catacombs. As sympathy with transparency must be directed at those who have suffered under the churches hierarchical structures.

            then a link to a ghastly accident involving an unstable crucifix in Italy?

            Journalist and others in the media do not just use words to convey information, especially that which is covertly directed towards the powers of darkness. And this can be seen in the photo of the fallen crucifix, which fell upon a disabled man and killed him. As we see a stake/lance conveniently placed, as in, the side in the body of Christ, with the finger (authority) of God separated from the body, now laying upon the earth, accompanied by two black, obscure figures stood to the side of a Temple/monument, looking down upon the said broken image of Christ, and by implication His church, with the shattered stone, representative flags/tablets of the Commandments, broken, as in made worthless etc.

            kevin your brother
            In Christ

  10. Aidan Hart says:

    Down and Connor diocese will very soon have its first 9 Permanent Deacons and already the process of their being clericalised has begun, in spite of Pope Francis decrying clericalism in the Catholic Church!

    One wonders why all the deacons are men. There is now good evidence that the early diaconate had both men and women. Why a long period of discernment and long period of intense training for a role that any lay person can currently perform (except preach during Mass), and many do, with little or no training? When I was appointed Reader and later an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist absolutely no training was given, no prior explanation was given to the local congregation and no leaflet from the bishop by way of explanation. After such a long period of discernment and training why were these men not ordained as married priests?

    Last Sunday a professionally designed and produced leaflet from the bishop was distributed to the congregation which was then read out by the presiding priest in place of the sermon. One of the tasks listed for the new deacon was The Ministry of the Altar, when the deacon would assist the priest at the altar during Mass and distribute Holy Communion, as well as distributing Holy Communion in hospitals and in the homes of the sick, housebound and the dying. Why does he act as a glorified altar server, all dressed up in dalmatic vestments standing next to the priest at the altar as if it was a concelebrated Mass, other than clericalising him in the eyes of the congregation. The wearing of black suits and Roman collars helps reinforce that clericalisation. Why is he distributing Eucharist at Mass, in hospitals and in homes when that is already being done by lay people? Instead of laicising the clergy the Church now engages in clericalising the laity!

    The parish bulletin informed us that a reception was being planned for the new deacon after his first Mass officiating as a permanent deacon. Interestingly, when Readers of the Word and Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist are commissioned not a word is said to the congregations and certainly no ‘celebration’ has ever been organised by the parish to welcome them to their new role.

    None of this diminishes my admiration for the individual Permanent Deacons, for the long time they have spent in discernment and training, for the ongoing support of their wives and families and for the service they have volunteered to offer to their local parish communities. My worry is about increased clericalisation. My query is about how their presence solves the urgent problem of the increasing absence of Sunday Mass due to an ever decreasing number of priests, why the permanent deacons are being clericalised by standing beside the priest at the altar in full diaconate vestments during Mass as if they were concelebrating, why the black suits and Roman collars and why are they distributing Eucharist at Mass when that is already being done by lay people. The New Testament makes clear that the deaconate was instituted to serve the needs of the poor, a role now performed very adequately in almost all parishes by the lay Society of St. Vincent de Paul. What is badly needed in parishes are a good number of well trained laity to lead programmes of adult catechesis and scriptural spirituality. These programmes will be deeply informed by the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and lead to parishioners seeing their baptismal role as being active apostles for Jesus the Christ and the spread of His Kingdom on earth, for which they are fed and strengthened by Eucharist and encouraged by their parish community.

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