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The quantity & quality of bishops in Ireland

Fr. Vincent Twomey, a former professor of moral theology at St. Patricks College, Maynooth, Ireland, did his doctoral dissertation under the guidance of the present Pope. He is one of the former students who gather with their former professor once a year for theological conversation. Perhaps this gives greater weight to the column he wrote for the Irish Times on the scandal now shaking the Church in Ireland.

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Sounds like Vincent is recovering his youthful Vatican II style ardor. It is true that a shrinking church needs fewer bishops and that individual bishops, in the US. also hide behind the episcopal conference (as in the case of the contested missal translation). That such an intervention should be presented as of Ratzingerian inspiration sheds light on how Vincent sees his teacher -- as a misunderstood visionary bend on radically renewing the Church.There is a horrendous clericalist bureaucracy that is like a cobweb in which even well-meaning individual bishops become entangled, resulting in their moral paralysis. All are dispempowered. But the Vatican itself is part of this -- bishops dread it and call it the "bureaucracy of nothing". Let us not forget that the Vatican has taken the appointment of bishops into its own hands more thoroughly in recent years than ever in previous history, going quite against the policies now advocated by Vincent Twomey.

Useful suggestions but his focus is too narrow. He skips over the role of the Vatican both in the cover up and the choice of these very bishops.Would add other considerations that go well beyond Ireland:- this pope has been in power since 1982....he can say that he had no direct involvement in these scandals but that begs the question. His own decision in 2002 to order all personnel records and reporting directly to Rome created problems; this centralization led to what? No action; avoidance of the issue; delays while more victimization continued- he says nothing about the role or lack of response to the Murphy Report by the papal nuncio or Rome? - he skips over the fact that national conferences of bishops were empowered by Vatican II but under JPII and now B16 the movement towards collegiality, placing accountability and responsibility on conferences has moved in a totally different direction. One of the frequent complaints heard in the 1980's and early 1990's was that Rome would not act when bishops tried to address individual cases.....his call for even more radical renewal by a "misunderstood visionary"....please, the historical record on sexual abuse by this man sheds no evidence of vision or being misunderstood. He has taken little to no action beyond the obligatory few instances when he apologized- he needs to address conferences of bishops so that they have the power to play the role of conscience development, professional development, and weigh in on bishop choices that meet the needs of the local church- he needs to address the sexual and moral theology of the church that goes way beyond just Ireland (yes, Ireland has some unique circumstances in terms of schools with children assigned by the state, the link to the gardai and government) but the clericalism and sexual immaturity of clergy is an issue around the world- he needs to address the role of various dicasteries in supporting professional behavior and making bishops accountable - currently, there are little to no reprecussions if a bishop behaves unprofessionally, non-pastorally, or is personally guilty of mismanagement.Just decreasing the number of Irish dioceses; accepting resignations when they hit the age of 75, and putting out a letter signifies little action.

That Fr. Twomey did not say all that could or should be said doesn't mean that what he did say isn't worth reflection. I wonder if two of his suggestions aren't at cross-purposes. On the one hand, he proposes reducing the number of dioceses from 26 to 12, which would, of course, increase the responsibilities of each bishop, making it more difficult, I would think, for them to carry out their huge responsibility for the spiritual, emotional, social, and, to a certain degree, physical wellbeing of all the faithful, lay and clerical, practising or non-practising, not to mention their not-insignificant role in civil society. On these grounds one could argue that there ought to be more, not fewer, dioceses, if bishops are not to be consumed by their administrative duties, as is so often the case now. (Two Cardinals have told me that they dont have time to read any more, one of them saying that he feels fortunate if he can read book reviews, never mind the books themselves.) In addition, the larger the diocese the more remote the bishop will become to his laity and clergy, making more difficult what Fr. Twomey would like to see: some real participation by priests and laity of the newly constituted dioceses in the selection of bishops. This would, of course, be a return, long overdue, to the practice of the early centuries, when it was commonly regarded that the participation of clergy and laity in the choice of a bishop was of divine right. St. Cyprian gave the reason: because the people are fully conversant with the life of individuals and aware of how each has behaved himself. The larger the diocese, the less likely it is this expectation would be met.I would myself add another consideration, also attested in the early Church: that a bishop should normally be chosen from among the clergy of that diocese and not parachuted in from outside. There could be circumstances in which this would not be possible, but these, one would hope, would be rare. But now the common practice is to go outside the diocese.

There is a useful book recommending changes along the lines suggested by Fr. K. The author is Joseph F. O'Callaghan, Professor Emeritus of History at Fordham University and the title is Electing Our Bishops. As you might expect, the book is especially good on the history of the episcopacy and episcopal appointments. The legal claim of the Bishops of Rome to appoint all the other bishops does not go back beyond the revision of canon law in the time of Benedict XV. In antiquity bishops who moved from one diocese to another where thought to be guilty of spiritual adultery. How things have changed!

Bill:How right you are - how right you are!Truman had a sign on his desk reading the buck stops here. An inspired symbol of true leadership and responsibility if ever there was one. Completely absent from Rome. No personal responsibility or accountability.In our church, sadly, we have oodles of theologians creating more smokescreens and diversions to deflect responsibility from those who actually have it and have created the very ecclesial culture responsible for it.The more I read about how the Vatican operates the more utterly disillusioned I am. Clearly the cover-up or however you want to refer to it was systemic and involved the highest executives.

The lack of episcopal courage to confront scandal and wrongdoing is the main reason for all the Church's ills. The failure to see that the abusers were traitors in the ranks and would cause the failure of the Mission, is inexcusable. Imagine an effective military general officer that had traitors in the ranks and not taking action 'for fear of scandal and weakened morale'? An effective military general would take out the traitors in the ranks and publically punish them. [terminate?]. A general officer who failed in his mission because he 'covered-up. for traitors in his ranks would himself be publically punished [terminated?] I say this episcopal cowardice is the source of the Irish rage... cowardice in high places is like gas on the fires of popular opinion. [ Mr/Mrs everone says 'I may not be smart and a leader but I am not a coward in the face of danger to my family'] Fear of scandal is cowardice? say hello to Tiger Woods and Dick Nixon and .... ..............Legionaries!

I enjoyed a letter today in the Irish Times, responding to Twomey:Madam, Rev Vincent Twomey (Opinion, 9th December) calls out for some other way to be found for choosing suitable bishops. Perhaps the words of St Paul to Timothy about how to select a bishop are what is required: He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of Gods church? (1 Tim 3:4-5). Based on this, a whole new direction is needed and the faithful need to become faithful to what the Apostles taught. Yours, etc,SEAMUS OCALLAGHAN,Bullock Park, Carlow.

Twomey's article is a good one with the exceptions that Joe K makes. If the bishops could not supervise a smaller diocese, how are they going to handle a larger one. Dioceses have traditionally been too large. There is more pastoral care and personal touch possible with a smaller diocese. And bishops should always come from within the diocese. Not as the present practice where plum dioceses are given to the favored who are from outside its borders.Certainly the offending bishops should go. But they should be replaced with pastoral people and have the laity involved.One of the real lessons from the pedophilia scandal is that this is the first time in Church history, or at least since the fourth century, that forces outside the hierarchy effected change. The hierarchy rarely reformed it self. What is worse laity felt obliged to cover up the sins of the clergy since it was believed that this would do more harm to the church. We know now what a fallacy that is.

Paraphrasing the Rule of Benedict, let's have bishops who speak truth from the heart and do not practice deceit. And bishops from diocesan, not religious order priests, who have different characteristics, or it charisms?Maybe I can burden dotC readers with my unpublished letter to the Irish Times:"Is there some irony here, when it comes to bishops reactions to the Murphy Report? According to several Irish Times news articles, bishops meeting at Maynooth this week issued a statement saying they are shamed at the extent of cover-up; then indicate they have not discussed taking responsibility for a cover-up by anyone resigning; then individual bishops insist they did nothing wrong, which means they did not cover up; and so, we are left in a surreal landscape of bishop-speak.Rubbing salt in the wound, accountability is cynically dismissed by one bishop as being thrown in the river to satisfy the gods; that means you and me, the survivors, parents and parishioners who seek justice.After seven years of reading bishops conditional non-apology apologies in the United States, most often in the passive voice, and the bleached language of public relations, I feel I could write their press releases by heart, American or Irish. Its the same generalized message points of personal innocence, never intending harm, and following procedure. Its like a chorus of each one repeating not I, not I, Lord.But despite actions that directly contradicted episcopal intent, somehow countless children were abused in body and soul. It just happened, I guess. Perhaps it was the ethers. And so, who knew anything? In one recent interview, even Donal Murray (their Bernard Law) contends he acted appropriately.Thus, confession sounds more like Bless me Father for mistakes were made than Bless me Father for I used mental reservation to lie, obstructed justice by covering up, and criminally endangered children. Hierarchy is still endowed with its sense of exemption and privilege, while survivors listen to a stream of self-protective exoneration like that in your articles from Maynooth this week." and one in the London Times that I hope negated Timothy Radcliffe's assertion that there is some weakness in the English-speaking churches that leads to sexual abuse: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article6947750.ece

Carolyn,Fine letter. In corroboration of what you wrote I might note that the first two big cases of abuse (Frs. Gauthe and Cinel) emerged here in Louisiana whose basic laws derive from the Spanish and French laws but whose procedural law is derived from English commn law. I tried to post some background information about yesterday's meeting in Rome which the Pope called. It was to include the top Irish bishops and the papal nuncio, but the new dotC format wouldn't let me. Voice of the Faithful has been reporting on the current Irish situation and the meeting all week, but I've seen nothing in the US media about it. The one bit of good news was that the Pope is actually going to be presented with a letter from the Irish VOTF. That is the first time I've ever seen any direct communication to the Pope from a lay group. Let us pray it establishes a Let us pray it establishes a precedent.

If Cardinals don't have time to read, does it mean they don't have time to pray either? Is that why we failed to proved the faithful with a Prayer Book, and why the forthcoming new translations of the liturgy are bereft of the spirit of prayer?

Fr. K = "That Fr. Twomey did not say all that could or should be said doesnt mean that what he did say isnt worth reflection." As usual, your response is thoughtful and balanced.Agree with your points - believe they were articulated well by Archbishop Quinn in his book abour curial reform after his retirement. Interesting how most bishops only make recommendations after their retirements.Although your points are good, they focus almost entirely upon one area - changing the way bishops are nominated, appointed, and size of responsibility. Would suggest that this "issue" is about the Murphy Report whose purpose was to highlight episcopal cover-ups of sexual abuse, etc. Your response, like many clerical responses, makes no mention of abuse, victims, etc. That is the reason for the report; for the meeting in Rome, etc. To skip over that only heightens and reinforces exactly the type of clerical leadership response that has been a pattern since 1985 - the Gauthe case in Lafayette, LA.

The Irish Times also has an article on the cold reaction by victims to the pope's comments on the matter.http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/1212/1224260595018.html

Mr de Haas: I should think that one of the things one might be interested in the wake of these horrible crimes would be how to prevent them from happening again, namely by the appointment of more responsible, more accountable, more Christian bishops. That's what my post was about, and I'm sorry that you read it as heightening and reinforcing precisely the type of clerical response you bemoan.

If I may offer a couple of admittedly tangential links.Today an Episcopal diocese elected a bishop: http://www.bishopsearch.edusc.org/I find the nuts and bolts of this process interesting, including the enormous amount of information that is offered by all the candidates.Last week a Catholic bishop was named for Brownsville, TX. Here is Rocco Palmo's account, http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2009/12/we-go-together-or-we-do-... here is a talk Bishop Flores gave, which is one of the finest talks I've ever heard--and it is on the pastorate (it's long, and the quality is iffy, but I found it riveting). http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/1438404I have to wonder if Bishop Flores would have been elected by the people of Brownsville. Perhaps, as a Texan, he would have had a chance. But as a Thomist? Anyways, although I see an ecclesial point to having lay input in the appointment of bishops, I'm not at all sure that the quality of pastors would be improved in that way.

When the Pope met with the Irish Bishops he told them he "shares the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland, and he is united with them in prayer at this difficult time in the life of the Church. And he said the church would take measures to assure this sort of thing would not happen again. But if Carolyn's point that the reason the abuse scandals have broken in the English speaking world has to do with the legal possibilities for uncovering evidence available in an English common law tradition, it would seem that inquiries into the situation in non-English-speaking countries might be an urgent need. The Pope is planning a pastoral letter to the Irish church. But he might do more practical good at this point by requiring Bishops around the world to allow the sort of access to their files available in English speaking countries.

Sorry, that should read "If Carolyn's point is correct" in the second paragraph above.

Fr K and Bill deHaas,Your posts touch on the reaction of clergy to the abuse scandal, something that has bothered me from the beginning. Clergy responses I have experienced personally center around, "I'm sad, not angry," (former pastor and others), "there was no malice", "We were never told why anyone left", and so forth. There were statements of how horrible, etc. etc. but not once, other than my dear friends Tom Doyle, and Jim Scahill in MA, did I witness any outright anger, a slam your fist on the table disgust, that resonates like a biological father or mother.I find a sense of remove, almost an alternate universe, where bishops and priests just have this intellectualized, calibrated analysis devoid of urgency. Psychologist Mary Frawley O'Dea presented an outstanding review of clergy response in her book Perversion of Power. (They are the true victims, enduring the "passion" of the Church.)Now some may complain, perhaps rightly, of emotionalism on my part and that of parents and laity, but reading bishops' depositions (most recently the utterly incredible arrogance and legalism of Egan, or the casualness of McCormack or George, of Law, Goedert and Imesch, the cluelessness of Weakland) - all leave me to ask, what in the name of God beats in their breasts? Then Dolan defends Egan, after whining beforehand about anti-Catholicism!In the beginning, Tom was convinced priests and bishops would want to get on this right away, and act forcefully. When he learned how wrong that was, something died. Geoffrey Robinson of Australia is a notable exception among bishops.When I hear all this pious talk from clerics, I am just sickened. No matter how shamed, disgusted or whatever, it never translates into meaningful accountability. They indeed have become risk managers hiding the truth, instead of shepherds. Last week, Lori arbitrarily withheld 12% of documents the court ordered released, and continues the seven-year legal battle longer. Yet, I tell priests what is happening, and it's as though I commented on the weather. Impassive. Passive. Who gives a damn? Their silence is deafening, most likely rooted in their position of virtual servitude.Why aren't Tom Doyle and Jim Scahill the prototypical priests? VOTF gave Priest of Integrity Awards in Oct. to a priest in Louisville and the courageous Don Cozzens. So many honored over the years are treated as pariahs for advocating for survivors. They are an embarrassment to their bishops and fellow priests, who do all they can to avoid congratulations --- because it shows up their own failures. It's essentially a shunning from the so-called "brothers."Oh well, spontaneous ruminations on a frigid NH night...Ann, VOTF has been writing popes since our first conference in 2002. I even penned one myself for our affiliate; have the fax number in Rome. Offhand I can think of maybe four or five all together. It's part of the scene, circular file material, but silence is not an option if you want to be at least part of the conversation. VOTF Ireland has been doing a great job.

Susan,The need for effective legal redress in non English-speaking countries is acute. A US survivor attorney went with his Mexican client to Mexico and both barely escaped an attempted kidnapping at their hotel. Following international cases where the power of the Church and its political connections are secure is frustrating in the extreme. And we think our bishops are bad.Enter search terms for different countries at www.BishopAccountability.org to get the sense of the landscape. It's a nightmare in the third world. Victims in Haiti are threatened by locals angry that the financial support offered by an abuser's mission was cut off when the abuser was exposed.

Yet Leanza as the youngest and most recent member of the diplomatic corps in Ireland is its dean, honored as the most senior of all diplomats - an automatic honor for the Holy See.Such deference needs to end.In his press conference after meeting with the Irish foreign minister who complained about lack of Vatican cooperation in the production of documents, Leanza said IF there was any mistake from our side not that there actually was any mistake. So maybe the Holy see made a mistake in refusing to cooperate, maybe not. Leanza then reiterates the standard excuse, there was never any intention as though actions consistently contrary to intent do not negate it. The disconnect between action and intent is too sharp to be neutralized with his conditional drivel.

This is probably silly, but I continue to think that anyone who appreciates Mozart as much as the Pope does could not posdinly be indifferent to the suffering of the children, so I wonder if the Vatican bureaucracy kept him ignorant of the severity of the problem. The Mozart of the angelic music was also at least a junivile delinquent. I've even seen him described as a hoodlum. In other words, I have to wonder what sort of person Benedict really is.What did he know and when did he know it

Ann Olivier, It is impossible that anyone at the Vatican could have been more informed than the current pope.The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the main Roman Curia office that deals with abuse cases. Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed its prefect on 25 November 1981 and served in that capacity until his election to the papacy on 19 April 2005. I would argue that he has continued "de facto" as the CDF head even since becoming pope. Up to now Pope Benedict XVI has issued no public statement on Murphy Commission's report. The Vatican issued a carefully crafted statement on his meeting on Friday with Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin. It does not include a single direct quote from the Pope, but describes his reaction.Everyone is relieved (and I am not at all surprised) that the Pope shares outrage over the report. That should not be news. You'd have to be a monster not to. But look at this: the Vatican statement says he feels "profound regret" (this is not an apology) by "actions by some members of the clergy who have betrayed their solemn promises to God, as well as the trust" etc... He appears most horrified that priests have fallen from their pedestals.Again, this is what a Vatican communique says and not the Pope.The language is careful so as not to implicate the Vatican or the Pope in any of this. They will not admit any responsibility whatsoever in how these cases were handled. "Ultimate responsibility" rests with "local Church leaders", this communique clearly says. The facts tell a different story, however. The Vatican was slow to grasp the seriousness of sexual abuse by priests, urged the bishops to keep it out of the press and the courts (for the good of the Church and the good of souls), stripped the episcopal conferences of earlier powers they had to make and enforce binding, national policies, and so forth. Nowhere does the Vatican communique indicate that the Holy See or the papal nuncio bore any responsibility.There is a time honored adage in the Vatican. "Be discreet, but if you get yourself in a mess, you -- and you alone -- have to get yourself out of it." There is a long history of sacrificing individuals for the good of institutions, including the good of the Church.

Robert, I thought the CDF was only in charge of abuse cases since about 2002. Remember how Ratzinger declared himself shocked at what he was reading, and said that the day in the week set aside for it was his day of penance? The papal strategy is to keep publicity surrounding the Dublin report localized, and thwart its becoming world news.

I would not advise defense attorneys to cite their client's adulation of Mozart. Cherubino is 13, Zerlina -- 16 at most? And both are the objects of attention from much older and more powerful people - a Countess and a Don -- to Mozart's delight!

As to what kind of person Ratzinger is, see this celebrated incident:http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/02/a-question-...

The allusion to appreciation of Mozart as indicating goodness brings to mind the proverbial Russian Countess who is weeping at the show inside while her chauffeur is freezing in the carriage. If cultivated indicates goodness the apostles would have flunked badly. But there you have it. The transition from the Spirit of the Lord to eliteness. ""THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED." Luke 4:18Such intense attention to cover up only emphasizes the concern for empire over discipleship.

Mr. Mickens - excellent description of the facts. Fr. O'Leary - in an earlier post you cited the 2002 mark for Ratzinger - it started in 1981 - he has known; he has suffered from mental reservations.Mr. Mickens - your description reminds me of Egan's court testimony in Bridgeport when he tried to explain how he was not accountable for his priests; that he was merely the administrator and the priests were like "contract workers."Thanks, Carolyn. I also am embarrassed by the reaction and comments of good priest friends who seem incapable of understanding the depth of this scandal, sin, and damage. I would agree - if you have not had children of your own, you live in a different world no matter how much you may emotionally and psychologically understand that. It is truly sad - I have to force myself not to lay into my friends; I just move on.In the earlier posts above - we can change the way we nominate and choose bishops but half of the problem is the passivity if not compliance of the priests and then the passivity of the laity. If we, the laity, had more choice in our bishop - would that change things? Don't know? If the bishop was local, know the territory, had his extended family in the diocese, would that change things? Don't know.Again, this is a complex issue - episcopal appointments; accountability, empowering conferences; decentralization; changing canon law (Fr. O'Leary - canon law was basically rewritten by Ratzinger and he completely changed the laws governing penalties, reporting, etc. for sexual abuse and not for the positive - think that took effect in 1983). The last part of this issue is the moral theology and practice - my disappointment with Twomey is that he if the foremost Irish moral theologian - and yet, his comments hav enothing to do with the morality of this situation?

Carolyn:Right.Reminds me of the quote of some Christians as those who "love Jesus but hate people".But they just do not get it and with very, very, very few exceptions there is not an attempt to enter into meaningful dialogue in an attempt to understand.

Somewhere back in this thread is the thought that the problem with the Church is the failure of the hierarchy in this matter.I wish that were true, bu tit's only part of the many divisions and lack of unitive force that undergird some of the issues here.I want to agree, in spades, with Carolyn that there is much intellectuializing by the clergy and clericalist suppoorters, in general, about abuse.It's a phenomenon in some profssional groups but especially here.I also agree that there are and will continue to be major efforts to insulate BXVI from criticism in this.Close to home in Commonweal land (NYC that is) is the Egan deposition, the NYT editorial thereon and the reaction of the current Abp.I continue to feel that there is a lack of insight into the issue due to a lack of appreciative knowledge of the impac tof what has transpired.If a major shakeup is made in Ireland (including removing Murray), I wonder how many here think that wil resolve the problem? And will any bishop(s) removal be seen by the clericalists as making them sacrifical lambs?

Reinforcing my letter about the role of English common law in exposing abuse, Walter Robinson, the lead investigative reporter at the Boston Globe, told a conference I attended that without documents, there would have been no scandal, period. The Globe spent close to $1 million on legal fees to unseal documents. The insight does not originate with me, and the Times edited out my attribution.Jason Berry, the premier journalist covering clergy abuse in the US and half a dozen other countries, wrote about this a few years ago as well. In addition, a post early this month on the Hufffington Post also cites document production. SeeLawsuits Once Again Help Expose Clergy Sexual Abuse by Timothy Lytton at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/timothy-lytton/lawsuits-once-again-help_b_... To begin with, plaintiffs' have lawyers compelled Church officials to produce secret files concerning abuse allegations and to provide sworn testimony about their own failures to adequately address the problem. Media reports about Cardinal Egan's failures in Bridgeport are based on more than 12,000 pages of memos, church records, and testimony from 23 lawsuits against the diocese. Indeed, most media coverage of the scandal--dating back to the early 1980s--has been based on these types of litigation documents.Lyttons book is, Holding Bishops Accountable: How Lawsuits Helped the Catholic Church Confront Clergy Sexual Abuse.The real reason SOL reform is so vehemently opposed by bishops is the documents unsealed by the lawsuits that follow. In fact, declaring bankruptcy is a proven strategy to forestall trials and prevent disclosures. Do whatever is necessary, pay whatever is necessary to keep bishops off the stand forced to testify under oath, with the documents as evidence.Interestingly, I find a majority of the judges who opened the lid are women, beginning with Constance Sweeney (Geoghan) and Leila Kern (Shanley) in MA; and Netti C. Vogel in RI.

Robert Mickens, thanks! It is heartening to see that some people at last realize that a papacy that vets candidates for the episcopacy and claims the sole right to choose among them cannot evade responsibility for the results of having chosen those it has chosen.

We have to understand that Rome is mostly concerned with its own authority and what caters to it. The scandal diminishes that authority and therefore whatever one can cover up is important to keep Rome's authority intact. Congar said it best when he wrote: "It is clear to me that Rome has never looked for and even now does not look for anything but the affirmation of its own authority. Everything else interests it only as matter for the exercise of this authority."Sadly, Rome acts more like empire than the force for unity which it should embody.

Why not have a separation of powers within each diocese? A bishop could be responsible for spiritual matters, and a group of lay people could be responsible for management and financial matters (which parishes get closed or opened, where priests are assigned, how money is spent). Let bishops do what they're good at (or should be good at), and since they are not experts in management, let others deal with that.

Two excerpts from Fr. Twomeys column:Priests have been found guilty of unspeakable damage done to innocent children and their families, crimes that cry to heaven for vengeance.The unprofessional, inadequate managerial structures of the Dublin archdiocese, it seems, were partly responsible for the cover-up and inaction plus the tendency to blame others higher up. But the real cause and it is frightening is the lack of expected emotional response to reports about the abuse of children. Nowhere, as far as I can see, was there any expression of horror or outrage by those who were told. Horror and outrage are the natural passions of the good person which God gave us to ensure that we get up and do something in the face of injustice done to others.

"Nowhere, as far as I can see, was there any expression of horror or outrage by those who were told. Horror and outrage are the natural passions of the good person which God gave us to ensure that we get up and do something in the face of injustice done to others." My point above was that Twomey summarizes this well - but, does he himself have a track record of statements of his own "emotional response" - he is/was considered the foremost moral theologian in Ireland? He makes a very good observation but it is as if he is removed from the scene - as if he is seeing this for the first time? Where are his expressions of horror and outrage? It is easy for anyone to express what he stated after the fact.

Mr. de Haas: I have no idea what the answer to your questions is, and since they are your questions, neither do you, I conclude.

Not the least part of this tragedy is that, when we are confronted with such huge moral challenges such as climate change and fair distribution of health care, the bishops have such little moral authority. Rightly or wrongly, they all too often appear to be concerned with shoring up the institutional Church structures rather than with providing guidance and support to their members who have to take stands and make decisions about such matters. We recall with trepidation Dostoyevski's portrayal of the Grand Inquisitor. What would a latter day Dostoyevski do with the clergy that have so badly behaved in the child abuse scandal?

Bill DeHaas, Ratzinger became prefect of the CDF in 1982 I think. But my 2002 date (which I have not checked) refers to the point at which clerical sex abuse became the responsibility of the CDF, previously not connected with this topic. I still note a tendency in the media to exaggerate. Libby Purves speaks of beatings and "full rape", suggesting that this was routine. In face only one priest was into beating kids and the number of priests who were involved in full sexual intercourse, or buggery, seems to be about 3. The majority of the serious offenders were gropers. Vincent Twomey would not be regarded as Ireland's leading moral theologian; his doctorate is on the papal primacy in Eusebius and Athanasius, and his way of talking about conscience (even in the article quoted) causes Ireland's moral theologians to writhe in agony.I have no memory of him making any statement on clerical sexual abuse of minors until his "dregs of society" comment on the Ryan Report last June.

To slightly belabor the point about language and emotion:Note Twomey's choice of words: "The unprofessional, inadequate managerial structures of the Dublin archdiocese"How antiseptic, impersonal, and opaque.Instead, what about the "willful blindness, conscious ignorance and flagrant indifference of bishops to the dangers priests posed to children"? (per NH's atty general, bless him)Twomey: "unspeakable damage". At least it is one step up from "boundary violation" but on a par with the favorite US bishops' description: "harm". I thought if I saw "harm" in one more bishop's statement, I would scream. How about sexual molestation, sexual abuse, sexual assault? It was sexual, yes?No more bleached language or verbal gymnastics, please. Robert Mickens' deconstruction of the Vatican's press statement about Ireland was masterful in exposing the distance and lack of ownership of responsibility by Benedict and the bishops. Donal Murray was busy doing the same in Italy, reminding all he was mentioned nine times in the Murphy Report, and criticized only three times. How wonderful!

"We recall with trepidation Dostoyevskis portrayal of the Grand Inquisitor. What would a latter day Dostoyevski do with the clergy that have so badly behaved in the child abuse scandal?"Dostoevski is a very tricky author where child abuse is concerned. What are we to make of the romantic relationship between the protagonist and the girl waif in The Insulted and Injured? At the least he is an ardent proponent of love between adults and minors (Alyosha and the children in Karamazov); while at the same time his most obsessive image of evil is the rape of a child (Stavrogin).

Question: What role does celibacy play, not in causing sexual dysfunction, but in imparting a sense of being taken up from the community, set apart as someone above, superior in subtle but meaningful ways, so that the ordinary rules in life do not apply? I'm an alter Christus, after all.As Rev. Paul Stanosz noted in C'weal 8-12-05: "Priestly training in the seminaries I studied tended to impart a clerical difference, a sense of specialness that led the seminarians to see themselves as not only separate but also superior to laypeople..... "I found that this sense of specialness was also heightened by a feeling that their services would be in great demand following ordination. The day would come when men and women, a generation or more their senior, would address them as Father and kneel before them for a blessing." http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1252/is_14_132/ai_n27859689/ Celibacy is a large part of that, I believe. The young JPII's I've met are so caught up in their elevated status, just like the pre-V II of my earlier life. And they are totally oblivious...More Stanosz 12-1-06: "Faculty members I interviewed noted that todays seminarians are frequently drawn to theologies that exalt the status and distinctiveness of the clerical role, and are more interested in consulting the Catechism of the Catholic Church for clear answers than in exploring the wide breadth of Catholicisms theological heritage. My sense from my research visits is that a significant number of seminarians are looking for a religiously saturated environment that will bestow a special sense of sacred identity. Their rooms often have the appearance of shrines..."All part of the restorationist approach, IMHO. Abusers were mostly trained pre-VII.

Carolyn Disco, I would fault Twomey for judging the bishops' consciences. The managerial debacle is the better point. Policing male sexuality in any circumstances is a very difficult job, and in the case of devious molestors of children it is particularly so. Recall that the police themselves are accused of the same negligence throughout the report.What is wrong with "harm"? "How about sexual molestation, sexual abuse, sexual assault? It was sexual, yes?" According to the crop of experts who sprung up overnight, pedophilia is not sexual but has to do with power!A lot of the horror and scandal associated with sexual molestation of minors has to to with a residue of our inherited attitudes to sexuality; other forms of abuse exercise us less. I think we would do better to treat molestors as just nuisances like drunks or violent people or thieves, and to give kids the same attitude to them. A footnote: I once asked a class of Japanese female students to recount the most frightening experience of their lives -- every one of them recounted an incident of being exposed to gropers or flashers as children.

Bernanos scoffed at priests who "sidle along the wall" instead of proudly displaying the accoutrements of their sacred status.Now "seminarians are frequently drawn to theologies that exalt the status and distinctiveness of the clerical role". The solution lies in the middle: a functional ministry-based definition of the presbyteral role.Everyone talks of "sexual maturity" as if the meaning of the term were evident. Perhaps the best assurance of such maturity is given by marriage. The celibate state, however lived, seems to be more exposed to sexual immaturity.

Ratzinger was appointed prefect of the CDF on Nov 25, 1981. He was given responsibility for abuse issues only in 2001:"As Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the sexual abuse of minors by priests was his responsibility to investigate from 2001, when that charge was given to the CDF by Pope John Paul II." (Wikipedia)

Colm O'Gorman quotes the phrase "continue to have exclusive competence" in a 2001 letter from Ratzinger. A Google search shows only the words "exclusive competence" in quote marks; the May 2001 letter cannot have referred to continuing competence since the CDF had just had this competence conferred on it.http://colmogorman.com/?tag=cardinal-sean-bradySee: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/apr/24/children.childprotection

Re: "Ratzinger was appointed prefect of the CDF on Nov 25, 1981. He was given responsibility for abuse issues only in 2001."I recall press notice of something at the time, but wonder how it was Ratzinger oversaw the Maciel canon law case, filed in 1998 at his CDF office. Ratzinger and his deputy Franciscan Gianfranco Girotti handled it throughout; in 1999 it was officially accepted by the CDF and recorded as a case in its tribunal. Documents were provided personally to Ratzinger, and some of the survivors even ended up genuflecting and kissing his ring when they ran into him on one of their Vatican visits with Girotti. Were the big ones reserved for Ratzinger?A Mexican cardinal pushing for action discussed the case in 1999 with Ratzinger, who found it a "delicate matter" and wondered if it were prudent to proceed. The Vatican later denied the Mexican cardinal heard what he heard from Ratzinger....and the sordid story goes on.So, Ratzinger was intimately involved at least three years before 2001, whatever the official divisions of labor. When formal transfer to the CDF was announced, no doubt more came his way in greater detail. Somehow though, I suspect there was not much of which he was unaware.

I agree with Carolyn. Anyone who thinks that information actually follows the lines outlined in bureaucratic communiques does not understand how bureaucracies work and function. There are things like plausible deniability such as occurred with Reagan's staff in Iran Contra.On an aside, look how quickly they spring into action when a priest attends (ack) a woman's ordination. As a woman I know tells her daughter. Believe nothing a man tells you and believe everything you see.Good advice.

So, then, we should not believe the story you just told about mother and daughter?

Istm that Fr. Twomey places a good deal of blame on the national conference. Perhaps abolishing the conference should be the first step in the housecleaning.

The beat goes on in Rome and Murray renmains there.The longer that process plays out, the more credibility is lost, because, as noted, many understand how beauracracies work to limit damage.Today's NYT has letters about Cardinal Egan=s deposition (including one from William Donohue.)The notion of how to limit damage in contrast to real human reaction are apparent there s well.It's not about abolishing the national conference, but a real systemic change in how the clergy understand their role and how accountable they are.Clearly for many Irish, words no matter from whom won't do it.And they see the problem as going all the way to the top, despite any apologetics put forward.

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.