APOLOGIES ARE NOT ENOUGHThe latest developments in the never ending Roman Catholic pedophile priest saga are deeply depressing.
Cardinal Séan Brady, who as head of the Catholic Church in Ireland engineered an enormous cover-up of the epidemic of abuse of boys and girls, is nevertheless applauded at St. Patrick's Day Mass, while Pope Benedict XVI did not defrock a priest who molested more than 200 deaf boys and appears to have known far more about the groping, fellating and sodomizing of youngsters by the priests in his charge when he was archbishop of Munich than he has let on.
Beyond the seemingly bottomless pit of revelations is the fact that while Brady and the Holy Father have apologized, in the cardinal's case in part for once ordering two children to keep silent after they were sexually assaulted by a priest, there is the growing sense that the hierarchy of a church with over a billion members worldwide that first denied the scandal, then blamed the victims, then complained when diocese after diocese was bankrupted when courts ordered the victims to be compensated, is incapable of punishing their own if they wear miters.
That is to say that out of 5,000 cardinals and bishops worldwide -- and the scandal is pretty much worldwide -- only Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, Bishop John Magee of Ireland and two or three other bishops have resigned or been forced out.* * * * *My own back story does not predispose me to feel sympathy for these men. Or forgiveness were I a Catholic even as the church's reaction tp the scandal has moved from defending the undefensible to contrition by some people at the highest levels.
My father was raised a Catholic, was an altar boy and attended 12 years of parochial school with the mandatory assaults on his knuckles by nuns with rulers.
His big takeaway was that the church thrived on and controlled its congregants through the very guilt that the church has used as a cudgel to shame abuse victims. Back in the day, it also was anti-Semitic.
This was borne out when my father wanted to marry my mother in his own mother's church but was turned down because the father of his love was a goddamned Jew. Jane and Joe had to settle for a simple ceremony in an assistant priest's rectory office that was drowned out by the Gene Autry cowboy records being played at a high volume by an elderly and nearly deaf priest next door.* * * * *Don't get me wrong. Benedict is a vast improvement over John Paul II, whose orthodoxy did not allow him to appreciate the vileness of the pedophilia epidemic let alone act on it.
If progress is measured in terms of the number and sincerity of apologies, then Benedict would get a pass. If reform is measured in terms of developing stringent after-the-fact policies, then he also would get a pass.
But I -- and apparently a lot of Catholics, as well -- believe that not just abuser priests but enabling bishops must also be punished, and Benedict has been unwilling or unable to say that what they did was not merely sinful but criminal, while he has refused to accept the resignations of some offending bishops.
He needs to finish the job. Sacking Cardinal Roger Michael Mahoney of Los Angeles, who paid out $660 million to 0ver 500 abuses victims but still gets his ring kissed, would be a good start.
And then personally acknowledging deep shame at his secret 2001 edict to bishops instructing them to put the church's interests ahead of the safety of children.
PHOTOS (From top to bottom): Cardinal Brady, Cardinal Law, my parents, Gene Autry, Cardinal Mahoney.