Bruges Bishop Resigns
The BBC reports today that Roger Vangheluwe, bishop of Bruges, Belgium, has resigned because of his own sexual abuse of a boy, abuse which continued into his episcopacy. The report also mentions another bishop who resigned last year, admitting abuse, and lists those bishops who have resigned for reasons other than direct sexual abuse themselves.
It strikes me that there are really three different phenomena going on: sexual abuse of minors (itself divisible into subgroups according to the age of the victims,) physical abuse of minors, and the cover-up of sexual and physical abuse of minors by Church leaders.
I fear that without careful parsing:
1. there will continue to be much sound and fury about direct abuse of minors, but little will be done to address the institutional structures of power that encouraged, enabled and enforced the cover-up.
2. we will fail to recognize the differing factors that lead to different kinds of abuse. For example, invoking the inclusion of women in authorized leadership in the Church as “the solution” fails to recognize that women as well as men participate in abuse of personal power, while women are much less likely to be sexual abusers than men. Also, questions around celibacy and clerical culture are related to the three kinds of abuse in different ways. More subtlety is needed.
Also, I wonder if any of the US bishops who were promoted to their own dioceses as a reward for their faithful participation in the cover-up will be shamed into resigning by the example of others who have done so.
The core of the institutional problem, I believe, is the cover-up and the institutional structures that fostered it. Even canning bishops who abuse won’t address that fundamental issue. It’s like removing the damaged wood from a house without doing anything about the termites that did the damage–the effect is fixed, the cause is ignored.