By Elizabeth Tenety
Tuesday may have been Mardi Gras for many in the Christian world, but in Catholic America, Tuesday brought a much graver reality: In a mass suspension, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia placed 21 active priests on administrative duties due to what the New York Times characterized as “credible accusations of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior toward minors.”
After a February grand jury report that “identified 37 cases of concern,” Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, ordered an investigation into the accused priests in his diocese. (This was after the cardinal insisted that there were no predator priests in active ministry.) Per the investigation’s recommendations, Rigali said in a statement, the 21 were placed on leave “to allay concerns in the community about the suitability of priests to minister.”
Catholic Church insider and Whispers in the Loggia blogger Rocco Palmo said the move was the “largest single suspension of priests in the history of the Stateside church.”
Palmo also ran a damning response to the dismissals from another Catholic bishop which read, in part, “. . . The scandal is amplified ten-fold because it looks like it is the same old church and the same old leadership doing what it has always done in the past.”
Over at Spiritual Politics, Mark Silk mulls the news and speculates on the sex abuse ‘scandal’ –both in its secular meaning and connotations within Catholicism.
There is widespread agreement that the fear of spiritual scandal, that is, the desire to protect the church and its congregants from the bad news of the sex abuse crisis, compounded the abuse problem. The church considers the avoidance of public scandal a spiritual good. That, Silk says, has got to go.
If anything has become clear over the past quarter century, it is that the doctrine of scandal has been the occasion of greater scandal in the Catholic Church than the sexual abuse itself. Nothing has done more to drag the Church into disrepute–and to alienate the laity–than the revelations of cover-up. It’s time for the doctrine to go.
Lent, which begins today, Ash Wednesday, is a season of penance for the church. The traditional gospel reading for Wednesday’s observance is a passage from Matthew, in which Jesus gives one his most direct calls against the hypocrisy of the holy, and calls for private piety over flashy shows of one’s holiness. Here’s hoping.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.