By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sane Analysis

Our Rhode Island friend sends us this link to an interview with a senior Vatican cleric involved in the prosecution of sex abuse cases. It is well worth reading. The monsignor interviewed points out again a deep problem with a culture of silence that views any criticism of clergy as a betrayal of the Church. I still see evidence of that inbred culture of silence among some Catholics who, by now, should know better.

There is still hesitation to call a spade a spade in cases where it is obvious that a cleric has severe problems that have been objectively corroborated in different situations. Let's set the record straight: it is not a sin to point out the defects of clergy. They are in effect public figures in the various parishes they serve. If their behavior is consistently bad in one situation after another in their relations with parishioners and with fellow clergy, then it is absolutely necessary for people to stop denying it and to seek a constructive remedy from the proper supervising authorities (as opposed to simply engaging in unproductive, superficial gossip that in effect trivializes and tolerates the bad behavior).

We should have certainly learned by now that the shuffling of problematic priests from parish to parish is surely not the solution when the pattern of bad behavior has been objectively established. In some consistently egregious cases, it is actually necessary and obligatory to let others know that there is a problem because, otherwise, harm is done to individuals who are unaware of a pattern of bad behavior and are susceptible to deception (and I am speaking of all kinds of bad behavior, not simply sexually related). For example, I am thinking of cases where clerics with serious personality disorders are giving spiritual guidance or direction to individuals (especially young people who lack the maturity to discern if the older adult is emotionally healthy or not) or spouting misinformation, exaggeration, and distortion from the pulpit or on the internet. To properly challenge problematic clergy is to protect our fellow Catholics, to actually be of charitable service to the problematic priest himself by no longer enabling his self-destructive behavior, and thus to strengthen the Church. How should it be done? It requires maturity, firmness, going through the proper channels, and giving necessary warnings to others. It requires courage.

Finally, there needs to be a new emphasis on developing and fostering the charism of discernment among all Catholics. We need to become better judges of character in all areas of life. We need wisdom from the Holy Spirit to stop being naive, irresponsible, and foolish in tolerating and excusing the intolerable in a warped and distorted caricature of Christian charity that feeds our egos. One of the serious problems that all of these crises point to is the virtual absence of the charism of discernment among too many Catholics, both lay and ordained--even among those who claim to be "charismatic," even among those running our seminaries and officially recommending the ordination of individuals to our bishops.