By now, everyone in Blogdom has weighed in on Rod Dreher’s piece in The Wall Street Journal today. I don’t disagree with what he says, although I don’t think the Pope’s statements are as reflexively opposed to the stated US policy as is that of some Vatican officials. Or perhaps, I am missing the Pope’s nuanced approach. Anyway, I want to address the other part of Rod’s essay, i.e. the lack of Vatican response to the Scandal.
Sure, there’s been some attention paid to it. Last April, they had the big summit of US cardinals in Rome. And there was the rapid response to the Dallas policy including the re-shaping of it to fit canon law. But otherwise not much has been done as far as doing something about those who let the Scandal get as big as it has—the bishops.
I am reminded of something Cardinal Ratzinger said last year about the American media blowing this thing up out of proportion since only a very small percentage of priests are accused of abuse. And, in one sense, he’s right. It has been a very small percentage. But I think some in the Vatican have been willfully blind to the fact that a majority of US bishops—two-thirds by some counts—are implicated in having perverts remain in ministry to abuse victim after victim. That is something that hasn’t been blown out of proportion by the press, but which is accurately reported.
Rod is right that it is difficult for institutions to undertake self-reform without outside stimulus. Witness the Protestant Reformation and the Church’s reaction in the Counter-Reformation and the Council of Trent. I think the situation has more complexities than the way Rod phrased it, but to many people it boils down to this:
- In that spirit, it is appalling to watch President Bush, who has responsibility for safeguarding 280 million of us from terrorists and terror states, being lectured on his duties in that regard by a church that would not even protect children from its own rogue priests and the bishops who enabled them.
That may not be a fair characterization of the situation, but the Vatican should recognize that there are many of the faithful who see it that way. It’s time to do something to save the faith of those who are wondering what in the world the Church is about after all.