To the Editor:
"This has been a test of fidelity for Catholics; and the faithful, as Mr. O’Reilly says of himself, will put the scandal into its human perspective and move on with wholesome trust and love and hope. "
In his column April 22 ("Pope still hasn’t answered us"), Bill O’Reilly urges Catholic leaders to utilize mass media to “spread the word”: They are. Now in its 27th year, EWNT (local cable channel 23) reaches 140 million households internationally on television and more via 100 AM/FM affiliates, a Sirius Channel, a shortwave radio network and a worldwide web site. If, in fact, as Mr. O’Reilly says, Jesus would “definitely have a cable program,” then perhaps Mr. O’Reilly would concede that Jesus likely would applaud his representatives on EWTN.
Mr. O’Reilly’s call to Catholic clerics, however, to discuss the clergy abuse scandal in secular media seems to be an invitation to engage in sensationalism: That theater apparently has no appeal to Catholic leaders. They have chosen quiet, bold action that brings results.
After the scandal broke, Pope John Paul II issued an exhortation (March 25, 1992) detailing reform for seminaries. As noted in Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, few abuse allegations were reported afterward. Additionally, controversially, as noted in Wikipedia, the Church’s Congregation for Catholic Education responded early on by taking the position that the Church "cannot admit to the seminary…those who practice homosexuality.” Despite all, seminary enrollment went up, according to a New York Times article April 17, 1999.
We heard Pope Benedict say (on Fox News and EWTN) that the Church is deeply “ashamed” and that pedophiles have no place in sacred ministry. Speaking to priests at St. Patrick Cathedral, he said, “I join you in praying that this will be a time of purification and healing.” (Pope Benedict’s US visit talks may be read at Zenit.org.)
The Boston Globe reported in January 2004 that priests were being put on leave while investigated for possible canon law proceedings; and the Globe details results of an audit commissioned by the National Review Board, a group of laypeople overseeing the church’s response, “but conducted largely by retired FBI agents”: 90 percent compliance with provisions of the “Charter for the Protection for Children and Young People,” the church’s plan for response and prevention. According to the Globe, “In the charter, the bishops pledged to reach out to victims and their families; respond promptly to abuse allegations; stop the use of confidentiality agreements; report allegations of abuse to public authorities; permanently remove from ministry priests found to be abusive; establish clear standards of conduct for church personnel; and develop communications policies reflecting ‘a commitment to transparency and openness.’"
A subsequent study found, according to Wikipedia, that two-tenths of one percent of Catholic priests worldwide and four percent in this country had been named in the scandal. Small numbers: Staggering costs. The result is downsizing – and purifying. This has been a test of fidelity for Catholics; and the faithful, as Mr. O’Reilly says of himself, will put the scandal into its human perspective and move on with wholesome trust and love and hope.
Mr. O’Reilly says: “I sincerely hope (the pope) is able to challenge destructive secularism.” The pope addressed 45,000 at Nationals Stadium: “[W]e see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society…increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of God.” He called on Catholics to respond with “a comprehensive and sound instruction in the truths of the faith.”
To the Catholic bishops, he said: “Now that the scale and gravity of the problem is more clearly understood, you have been able to adopt more focused remedial and disciplinary measures and to promote a safe environment that gives greater protection to young people,” efforts, he says, that “are bearing great fruit.” However, he adds, “If they are to achieve their full purpose, the policies and programs you have adopted need to be placed in a wider context.”
Pope Benedict poses: “What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today? We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society. … All have a part to play in this task…the media and entertainment industries as well.”
Mr. O’Reilly expresses a pleading sentiment when he says of the pope’s exhortation, “God help him.” The pope, too, humbly pleaded at St. Patrick: "I will try to do all that is possible to be a worthy successor of the great Apostle (Peter), who…remained in the end the rock for the Church. … It is also your prayers and your love which give me the certainty that the Lord will help me.”
Pope Benedict’s prayer intention for the month of May is “that Christians may use literature, art and mass media to create a culture which defends and promotes the values of the human person.”
Nancy E. Thoerig