Posted by FatherTIm at 6/5/2009 11:05 AM EDT
While it's welcome news that Pope Benedict XVI will meet today with Ireland's top churchmen in the wake of a horrific report detailing decades of rapes and beatings at Church-run schools in Ireland -- This is Rome, not Hollywood, and Benedict isn't Charlton Heston.
Don't expect any partings-of-seas.
Benedict's private meeting with Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh and Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin isn't likely to mean a lot more than a visit to the principal's office. After all, it's not a visit to the principal's office at one of the Church's own living hells in Ireland.
Incredibly, the Vatican has yet to comment on the 2,600-page report, which took nine years to compile due mostly to the intransigence, obfuscation and blatant coverup by most of the Irish Catholic Church's hierarchy in their conspiratorial efforts to shield pedophile priests from arrest.
To be sure, Benedict is not in coverup mode. Then again, no one in their right mind could be, least of all the Church's spiritual leader -- and its leading politician. But neither is he going to make the walls shake with the kind of fury and rage that rebounds across Ireland.
The Holy Father has spoken out many times, and forcefully, about the sordid issue of clergy abuse. He has met with many victims, who describe him as being moved by the deepest emotions at hearing of the torture inflicted on them by his own brothers in the Church. He has asked the Faithful to forgive, and he has made clear that abusers and others should be held accountable in a criminal-justice system for their crimes. And that is significant. He has been clear, and sincere, and those who think otherwise have been watching a different program.
While it is almost as certain as a sunrise that Benedict will again apologize for the stain that now, rightly or wrongly, covers his entire Church -- it's far from clear whether there's a second act. A visit to Ireland is certainly being discussed, and I think many would consider it a healing gesture by Benedict. To be sure, it would be as scripted as any political convention, but that is standard operating procedure, and doesn't imply insincerity. Perhaps because of my Calling to missionary work, I believe the place for firemen is at the fire -- and so I think Benedict's place is in Ireland.
The Church is a very old and very large institution, and it moves slowly and deliberately. This is often frustrating. But really, it is to be expected, even though it is often mis-atrributed to ominous motives. It certainly does not move with the blinding speed of a politician who senses an open microphone or whirring camera. So, yes, the scandal has gotten a good lead on the Vatican, and it will take quite an effort to restore some balance.
But this is Benedict's moment. Like the Popes who have led the Church during plagues and world wars and despotic tyrannies, he must take a horrible reality -- and worse, one which his own Church has dropped at his feet -- and do what Christ would do. And he must explain why it is what Christ would do.
He cannot lead by being sad, or sorry -- we've already been there. So the question is well put to him by all in his Church:
Benedict, what will you DO?
God bless you all!
-- Father Tim