Recent events have revealed a broken culture

At the start of this week, the eyes of the world were on the Vatican, where Pope Francis was preparing to receive the bishops of Chile in an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis of clerical sexual abuse, the details of which he learned through a special investigation that he ordered after the protracted saga had reached the papers and become a scandal. The three days set aside for those meetings will have come and gone by the time this edition of the Catholic Herald is published, so this is an opportunity to step back and take a broader view of the crisis facing the Church at present – a crisis that reaches the highest levels of governance.

Whatever else one may think or say about the present condition of the Church, one thing is certain: the specific culture her clerical and hierarchical leadership inhabits is broken. The brokenness of clerical culture is such that the Church risks mission failure: the Church cannot be a credible witness to the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ if the men who are her leaders care more about protecting their position than they do about protecting children; more about keeping up appearances than they do about keeping child abusers out of the ranks of her clerical leadership.

It has been 16 years since the global scope of the crisis began to be apparent. The damage it has wrought has not been fully surveyed. In his letter to the bishops of Chile summoning them to Rome for the emergency meetings, Pope Francis wrote of “many crucified lives” ­– lives that certainly number many thousands worldwide. Predator clerics high and low continue to abuse children and get away with it. Half measures will not avail as remedy.

“Justice must be seen to be done,” explained abuse survivor and victims’ advocate Marie Collins, who was a founding member of Pope Francis’s Commission for the Protection of Minors and served three years before resigning in frustration at the commission’s ineffectiveness, which she attributed to a lack of support (and even active resistance) within the Vatican.

By that standard, one episode in another protracted abuse scandal sets in relief the inadequacy of the prevailing attitude towards the administration of justice in the Vatican: that of the disgraced former Archbishop of Guam, Anthony Apuron OFM Cap.

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