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The Tentacle


April 6, 2010

Pressure on the Pope

Roy Meachum

The “pope story” sprouted longer legs than I supposed; Easter Sunday it developed a definite hitch in its giddy-up that promises to stretch people’s reactions into Memorial Day, or beyond. And the resulting media attention. It is no longer about sexual abuse; it now has to do with the basic structure of the Roman Catholic Church.

 

In March 1967, I became professionally involved in what I choose to call the “Catholic Souris.” As part of my second-fiddle as a critic, I received a call from someone at Catholic University: I had recently done a story about how heavy snow threatened the roof of the World War II “temporary” structure that sheltered Father Gilbert Hartke’s famous drama department.

 

The student on the phone suggested I should attend a meeting scheduled that night on campus; he said, “Father (Dan) McGuire is going to raise the roof.” No more. When the theologian ended his speech, the roof was still intact, but the Roman Catholic faith would never be the same.

 

Now officially discharged of his priestly duties, married and teaching at Milwaukee’s Jesuit Marquette University, Dan wore a Roman collar when he proclaimed: “If there is no longer room for Charlie Curran at Catholic University of America, there’s no longer room for Catholic University in America.”

 

Classes were shuttered for a week at the Washington campus; both faculty and students staged protests, eventually Rome backed down; I was there in front of the library when Archbishop Patrick Aloysius O’Boyle surrendered for the Curia. Those who knew him understood that when under pressure the prelate sucked his teeth; there was a lot of tooth sucking going on that cloudy March day.

 

Cardinal Egidio Vagnozzi, then apostolic delegate in Washington, told me in Rome what happened; I went to Italy to cover the bishops’ synod on Humanae Vitae. After lunch in his high-rise apartment, we adjourned to his study. He proceeded to tell me that he had been asked “to find a liberal theologian” and make an example. The cardinal chose his words the Curia did not “want the American church to take the Vatican II reforms seriously.” Charlie Curran was his choice.

 

But then Italians controlled the church and they are justly famous for their flexibility on most manners; their “che sera, sera” – what will be, will be.

 

I was in Cairo when the Polish prelate Karol Jozef Wojtyla was elected for St. Peter’s seat in Rome; he began a northern European dominance along the Tiber River. Not long after, he named Cardinal Josef Ratzinger to the former Holy Office of Inquisition, changed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Under the German head, it reverted to its original meaning.

 

After a short while to secure his authority, Cardinal Ratzinger began to sack and transfer various ordained officers around the world, especially theologians. In several months after his first letter from the German theologian, Charlie Curran was on his way out of Catholic University. (By the way, he landed an endowed chair at Texas’ Rice University. But he has no longer license to teach in a Roman church establishment.)

 

I wrote before on TheTentacle.com on Catholic problems around the world with men and women who claimed they had been molested (or worse) by women and men of the clergy. The first sensational sexual scandal came with Boston’s Cardinal John Law years ago. For the record, before last week’s column, I last offered an opinion on my church last May, nearly a year ago. By no means, can I be accused of repeatedly hectoring the church or the pope.

 

Cardinal Law never rebutted charges that he had knowingly kept abusive priests by moving them around. He was forced to quit. Some Europeans demand the same route for Pope Benedict XVI. In his defense, a chorus of clerical voices from cardinals to merely priests. It baffles me why the Vatican’s brains fail to understand the problem, which guarantees a constant repetition. They are intent on defending the pope without addressing the cause.

 

Evidently, Josef Ratzinger believes popes are absolved by their office from doing any wrong in all sorts of ways. The Doctrine of Papal Infallibility only covers matters of faith and doctrine. Perhaps Mr. Ratzinger believes admitting error would crumble the Vatican walls. Those who lick his slippers do not understand what they are doing is totally against the best interests of the Roman Catholic faith.

 

The most recent official statement was addressed by the pope to the Irish church; it was received by that country’s primate, Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. To what purpose? He already had in his hands a Murphy report commissioned by the archdiocese.

 

Three years in the preparation, the report found "obsessive concern with secrecy and the avoidance of scandal" and had "little or no concern for the welfare of the abused child.”

 

Benedict XVI and all his supporting chorus would do well to honor those words, especially the phrase “little or no concern for the welfare of the abused child.” Their “obsessive concern with secrecy and the avoidance of scandal” has brought the rock-throwing, in the first place.

 



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