Last rant for the morning: On Robinson, the Pope's Apologies, and Various forms of Abuse

If I had been listening to live radio this morning, I would have had warning about the fire blocking Boronia Rd and the overturned truck blocking Springvale Rd and I would have gotten to work an hour early. Instead, I was listening “on the pod” to an old Religion Report, in which mine host, Stephen Crittenden, was reviewing the Pope’s trip to America–all reduced to one topic: the Sexual Abuse Crisis and the Pope’s apologies.

He was interviewing Yankee priest Tom Doyle, who has been something of a campaigner in the States for those who have have experienced sexual abuse by priests. Any way, what got me thinking was this comment by Doyle on bishops who have actually responded pastorally to the crisis:

There have been some bishops in this country who are really good, and there’ve been bishops in your country who’ve been outstanding, and one of them is going to be coming over here, Bishop Geoff Robinson, who has been prophetic.

Which is the real tragedy of the Bishop Robinson situation. Even his brother bishops noted in their statement on his book that they

are grateful for the contribution Bishop Robinson has made to the life of the Church… [and] are deeply indebted to him for his years of effort to bring help and healing to those who have suffered sexual abuse and for what he has done to establish protocols of professional standards for Church personnel in this area.

So why did he go and muck it up by putting all that other nonsense in his book? Why didn’t he simply stick to calling for justice for those who had been abused?

If it is right to hold priests to account for physically abusing the little ones in their charge, then it is also right to have the courage hold bishops to account–even though they may be otherwise deeply caring and loving pastors–if they spread doubts about the truth of the Church’s faith. It would be better for both kinds of abusers (and their victims) if they had millstones tied around their necks and were thrown into the sea (Luke 17:2).

You see, I could not help but wonder what the reaction of Fr Tom Doyle OP would be to hear that our Australian bishops have censured Robinson’s book. He would, no doubt, interpret it as the “boys club” closing ranks against one that has dared to hold them to account for the sexual abuse that has gone on under their noses. But many people (including Stephen Crittenden) have no concept of the enormity of the abuse that bishops commit when, despite all the love and care in the world, they betray their vows and the trust of their people by leading their flock astray from the Faith of the Church.

This is real, spiritual abuse. I contend that it is just as serious and just as harmful as sexual abuse. You will think I am overstating it. But only if it is not your faith and your spiritual life that is being abused. Those who have suffered under the spiritual abuse of false shepherds know what I am talking about. I know that no court, no support group, and certainly no radio station will ever hold a bishop accountable to his vows to faithfully teach the Gospel in accordance with the faith of the Church, but we should.

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4 Responses to Last rant for the morning: On Robinson, the Pope's Apologies, and Various forms of Abuse

  1. teajay says:

    Doyle isn’t too credible when he criticises the hierarchy. He consistently makes extreme and unsubstantiated claims about them. He seems to think that if the Church adopts the liberal agenda being pushed by organisations like VOTF and CTA then all of its problems will go away. Of course, there are ultra-conservatives that use the abuse crisis to argue the exact opposite (i.e. that the Church should go back to a pre-Vatican II model.)

    I’ve written about him before and his involvement in the Crimen sollicitationis conspiracy theory that some are using to stir up hatred of the Pope.

  2. Schütz says:

    Hi ya, Teajay. I recall you leaving a comment once before, but I don’t think I have had the pleasure of meeting you. I see from your blog that you are a Melburnian–are you Catholic? If so, you are a de facto member of the Melbourne Catholic Bloggers Association (a fairly select group!).

    The funny thing is that Crittenden gave Doyle a bit of a lead to comment on the Crimen Sollicitatioinis document, and Doyle dismissed it. He was actually pretty fair to the reigning pontiff. It was the US bishops he had it in for.

    Here’s a bit of the transcript:

    Crittenden: A lot of people hold Cardinal Ratzinger responsible for mishandling of the sex abuse crisis, right at the very top in Rome. Is that fair?

    Tom Doyle: I think it’s not fair, because I don’t think he is responsible. What I would say is he ran the Office for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He would have seen many of the cases that were sent over there, but the bishops in their dioceses what they have told the Vatican what they’re doing, is almost diametrically opposed in many instances to what they’re really doing. In other words, they’re not telling the truth. Now a lot of people point to the fact that they said that he was involved in a special document that came out in 2001 of procedural rules and that this was a conspiracy to cover it up. That’s not true at all. They’ve misunderstood that. I’m not covering up for, or making excuses for the hierarchy at all because they’re primarily responsible for this nightmare that we’ve been in. But in Ratzinger’s case, he could possibly have taken more direct, decisive action with the Pope. In his favour I will say this much: Pope John Paul II personally did not take any action with regard to this problem, because he didn’t want to offend priests, he didn’t want to turn them off, or something of this nature. Secondly, he continued to cover for and promote and sponsor Father Maciel Degolado who was the Head of the Legionaries of Christ, who was a known sexual abuser of young men. And Pope John Paul II caused the canonical process of investigation into him to be short-circuited, to be stopped, and people blamed Ratzinger for doing that, but it wasn’t Ratzinger, Ratzinger just got the order to cease and desist. After he became Pope –

    Stephen Crittenden: Things changed.

    Tom Doyle: Things changed. He fired the guy, and he did take some very serious punitive action against him.

    Stephen Crittenden: We should say also that Maciel died just a few weeks ago, in the United States, interestingly enough.

    Tom Doyle: He died in the United States. He’d been living in Mexico, he died in the United States, and it’s also interesting to note that when he died, the Vatican made absolutely no mention, no statement, no nothing.

  3. teajay says:

    Yes, I have commented here before and you left a nice comment on my website as well.

    I’m not a Catholic any more but I still have a lot of respect for the Church and try to defend it from my perspective as an agnostic. I was a ‘conservative’ Catholic when I a believer.

    There are times when I respect Doyle but there are times when he acts like a muck raker. He basically said the exact opposite to what you quoted him saying above when he appeared on the Sex Crimes and the Vatican documentary and the documentary is still widely viewed on the Internet.

    I’m not so perfect that I can go around condemning the failings of others, but I get a sense that Doyle is very unreliable as an expert and commentator, at least where there are ideological points to be scored. It’s good to see him backtracking from previous remarks but the damage is already done, and he makes no effort to correct the record.

    I have nothing personal against him, after all he seems like a nice man, just not someone I trust to be fair in his criticisms of his ideological foes.

  4. Terra says:

    Your point about the seriousness of bishops leading their flocks astray is well made!

    Bishop Robinson is certainly far from the only bishop who has made comments that might reasonably be construed as erroneous in recent times. And the effects of someone speaking in a position of authority can be severe.

    As for Mr Crittendon – he is hardly playing the role of neutral journalist when it comes to anything to do with the Catholic Church!

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