The Church has to ditch the culture that sees no evil


Catholic Herald, 3 January 2019

It is now clear that a culture of ‘overlooking’ has reached the highest levels of the Church

reached the highest levels of the Church

The most overlooked story of 2018 might become the most important story of 2019 and many years beyond.

The central question that emerged with great clarity in 2018 as the scandal stories rolled in from Chile to Honduras to America to Ireland and India is this: what kind of ecclesial culture permitted this rot to take root? The frequent diagnosis of “clericalism” is another way of asking the same question. To decry clericalism means to identify the specific ways of priestly thinking, the patterns of priestly behaviour and the kind of clerical culture which allowed this to happen.

On that front, the most important news of the year came from Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, in his blistering response to the “testimonies” of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Perhaps as a fellow Canadian I pay rather more attention to Cardinal Ouellet than most; in any case, I have long admired him as a theologian and he strikes me as the sort of pastor who is far from the intrigues and corruptions that Pope Francis regularly denounces in his Roman collaborators.

In coming to the defence of Pope Francis in relation to McCarrick, Cardinal Ouellet wrote the following:

Since I became Prefect of this Congregation on 30 June 2010, I never brought up the McCarrick case in an audience with Pope Benedict XVI or Pope Francis until these last days, after his removal from the College of Cardinals. The former Cardinal, who had retired in May 2006, had been strongly advised not to travel and not to appear in public, so as not to provoke additional rumors in his regard. It is false to present the measures taken in his regard as “sanctions” decreed by Pope Benedict XVI and revoked by Pope Francis.

Ouellet’s open letter clarified a few points. Some time after his retirement in 2006, McCarrick had been told not to appear in public. That might not be a “sanction”, but it is certainly something significant, and it was communicated by Ouellet, and his predecessor, in letters to the nuncio in Washington, “urging a discreet style of life, of prayer and penance for [McCarrick’s] own good and that of the Church”.

This was certainly the most overlooked news of 2018, that a culture of “overlooking” had reached the highest levels of the Church, the pinnacle of the clerical world of pope and prefect.

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