First, this item from the front page of today’s Boston Globe:
During a Holy Week news conference in Rome, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos noted that most of the questions on clergy sexual abuse had been posed in English, and called that fact ”an X-ray of the problem.”
Castrillon cited research by Philip Jenkins, a professor of religious studies at Pennsylvania State University, who argues that the problem is relatively minor. Jenkins then went on to argue in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that the clergy sexual abuse crisis is really an outgrowth of an ideological clash within the American Catholic Church.
”Questions about what the Church can or will do typically seem to assume that American Catholics represent the whole body of the faithful, which for no obvious reason finds itself under the supervision of a quirky, irascible band of elderly Europeans,” Jenkins wrote. ”It is salutary to recall that the United States accounts for a paltry 6 percent of the world’s Catholics, and that the fastest-growing Catholic centers are all in Africa, Asia, and Latin America – areas that do not share the American fascination with clerical scandal.”
Now this second item, from the very same front page:
The Archdiocese of Boston arranged the transfer of a known child molester, the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, to a California parish in 1990 with a top-level written assurance that Shanley had no problems in his past, according to a spokesman for the San Bernardino diocese.
The letter, which cleared the way for Shanley to work for three years at St. Anne’s in San Bernardino, without restriction on his contact with children, was written by Bishop Robert J. Banks, who was then the top deputy to Cardinal Bernard F. Law.
Back to item one: The arrogance of Professor Jenkins and that Roman prelate is almost breathtaking. Just how much money would the Catholic Church throughout the world lose if that “paltry” 6 percent of American Catholics decided to ignore the weekly collections every Sunday and stop sending money to charities and foundations overseas?
But, the attitude in Rome is very real. Confirmed for me by a friend in Rome who is a priest. This scandal is looked upon as an American problem. But as the story about Shanley makes clear–the real problem is the abuse of power going on in the hierarchy–and not just in America. It’s about bishops like Cardinal Law knowingly sending predators into other parishes and not informing his own flock or other flocks about the danger these predators pose to children and the community. This is not about sex. This is about accountability. And if Rome is going to truly take this attitude, the damage this will cause to the faith of Catholics everywhere will be incalculable.