19 April 2018


Mgr Scicluna is to be complimented on having produced so lengthy a report (on sexual abuse in Chile) in such a comparatively short period of time, and, apparently, with so little secretarial assistance. And after himself needing surgery early in his mission.

In the Anglo-Saxon world of corporate accountability, at least a redacted summary of his Report would be available to the Public. As I write, I am unaware that anything has been made public other than PF's Letter to the Chilean Episcopal Conference. (Unfortunately, the 'story' by chance 'broke' just when our own Media were a trifle preoccupied with the possibility of a World War.)

A 'Survivor' who, until she resigned, was a member of PF's Papal Commission on Abuse, commented:
"Now the focus has to be on the survivors who have been badly hurt by his words; then there has to be accountability."

Regretfully, I have to say that her brutal words express an uncomfortable but simply unavoidable truth. We have not been told what Mgr Scicluna discovered about the transmission of the five-page Letter which one survivor gave to Cardinal O'Malley and which his Eminence is said to have guaranteed that he handed personally to PF. But as the uncorrected public record currently stands, it looks as though PF either never bothered to open and read the Letter; or that he read it and then forgot about its contents so comprehensively that he subsequently lost his temper and started shouting at questioners (he said he required, and had not yet been offered, 'proof'' ... a word subsequently emended to 'evidence').

This is where the demand for accountability becomes irresistible.

We have a Roman Pontiff who has made himself a figure of mockery by his endless logorrhoea. It seems that he is unable to live without constant utterance; utterance which (unlike the words of his intellectually abler predecessors) is commonly riddled with vivid but obscure attacks, apparently often on those fellow-clergy who do not accept his own self-estimation. His 'magisterial' documents substitute inscrutable interminability for clarity. But in some contexts, a more than Trappist taciturnity magically and suddenly takes over from the compulsive loquacity. Cardinals formally offer him dubia or intellectuals send him a Filial Correction; he does not trouble even to acknowledge that he has received their communications. He refuses ... lovely Renaissance Court usage coming up here ... to "grant them an Audience". Abuse survivors transmit to him, via hand of Cardinal, long and detailed accounts of their abuse; the silence is total as they wait ... and wait ... and wait ... and the years pass by, with no comfort for their anguish.

It is an established pattern.

Of course, a Roman Pontiff cannot read everything that anybody presses into his hand. But in previous pontificates, the Pontiff retained a certain formal distance and there were mechanisms, one imagines, by which his correspondence was handled appropriately at appropriate levels. And if there were mistakes, as in any human enterprise there undoubtedly will have been, presumably those responsible were held accountable. But PF seems to have eschewed such workaday mechanisms. He, apparently, prefers above all things to receive plaudits for his faux populism. So, by his own choice, it is he who is accountable for the mistakes. If the buck stops somewhere else, then he should have explained that earlier.

Our Most Holy Redeemer spoke sometimes with an almost Bergoglian frankness (Matthew 23?). But there is not much evidence that He habitually handled critics or questioners by "doing a Bergoglio": i.e. by saying not a syllable to them; turning his back on them; and walking away from them, wordless amid the clamour.

In the Anglo-Saxon corporate world, a CEO who behaved like this would be tactfully removed. Or perhaps just removed without time wasted on tact. A Bergoglio would not survive as head master of an English Public School. You're laughing at me? Think about it.

Indeed. That lady was right. First the focus does have to be upon those who have suffered.

Then, accountability.

Is there nobody left in the Vatican with the nous and the parrhesia  to explain to PF in simple Spanish what, in the real and practical world, accountability means?

Footnote: I commend to you the soon-to-be-published The Dictator Pope by Henry Sire. I find it convincing and compelling. If the facts about this pontificate were more widely known ...


Nicolas Bellord said...

The letter to the Chilean Bishops is only available in Italian and Spanish. It is wonderfully verbose and one can only laugh when one gets to the end where it says:

Ahora más que nunca no podemos volver a caer en la tentación de la verborrea o de quedarnos en los “universales”.

which Google translates as:

Now more than ever we can not fall back into the temptation of verbiage or stay in the "universals".

One wonders how many more pages we have been spared!

But basically all it says is that he the Pope has made mistakes as a result of misinformation. There is no mention of Bishop Barros. If Scicluna has produced a prima facie case against Barros then surely he would have been suspended whilst further inquiries are made - but no he is still there. I suspect there will be nothing but fudge and the Vatican will hope that everyone forgets about this as it disappears into the sunset - much like what we have had in our diocese over Bishop Kieran Conry.

GOR said...

The treatment of the Chilean abuse victims is eerily reminiscent of another case of victims being ignored and vilified: the victims of Fr. Maciel of the Legionaries of Christ. There, too, documentation was presented but St. John Paul II refused to hear about it. As the allegations went back decades, it’s likely earlier Popes either never saw the documentation or doubted its veracity.

Of course the Internet was in its infancy then and blogging would not take off until the 2000s, so there was little publicity and victims’ claims could easily be dismissed. Not so today. But before there can be accountability there has to be admission of guilt – something that this pontificate seems unwilling to acknowledge.

Woody said...

They come to Casablanca and they wait...and wait...and wait.

Vultures, vultures everywhere: https://youtu.be/JW5bcI0ADCY

As an aside, I had no idea that Englishmen were taking holidays to North Africa during the ongoing hostilities. Or is that a cinematic inaccuracy?

Keep up the good work, Father.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

ABS hopes Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke is a reader. He could profit from reading your bold and bracing rhetoric.

Kudos, Father

E sapelion said...

This accountability of which you write, Father, must be a fairly new phenomenon. In 1956 the UK engaged in a conspiracy with Israel and France to seize the Suez Canal by military force. Selwyn Lloyd was the British representative at the negotiaions. He denied the whole thing to the House of Commons. Now you may say that of course that was neccessary, as later on a much smaller matter Jim Callaghan lied to the Commons about devaluation. But Callaghan admitted it at the first opportunity, apologised to the House, and resigned. Selwyn Lloyd never admitted it, never apologised, and did not resign. He subsequently became Speaker of the House of Commons, whose function it is to uphold the honour of the House. Whatever you may think of this story, it does not show accountabilty.
More recently we have the intervention in Iraq in 2003, and the 'sexing up' of the analysis which 'justified' it. Although there have been admissions,vaguely, of mistakes, no one has accepted responsibility for them. (I think there was some blame placed on on an Iraqi oppostion politician, 'he lied to us'.) And no one has resigned. No accountability there either.

Elizabeth said...

Actually, “verborrea” means “verbal diarrhea” and is always used in an insulting or belittling manner in Spanish.

Aside from that, however, I’m not sure the “Anglo-Saxon” world would have been any better. The British have certainly produced their fair share of corrupt, arrogant clergy (and government officials) who are never accountable to their “shareholders” - until state criminal charges arise.

The problem is actually with the Church. Church authorities, in the English speaking world as in Latin America, protect these criminals and believe they are protecting the Church. Pope JPII protected Maciel, for example, for years; as soon as BXVI got in, Maciel was gone. JPII was a Pole and probably thought he was protecting the reputation of the Church by protecting Maciel. So the thing that has got to stop is the total lack of accountability (whether for immorality and crime or for heresy) within the Church. But the foxes are in charge of the henhouse now...

Karl J said...




Grant Milburn said...

Well, it seems that not every place follows the Anglo-Saxon model of accountability. I remember thinking on August 13th, last year (the 100th anniversary of what should have been the 4th apparition at Fatima): “If the Mayor of my town had kidnapped three children aged 7, 9 and 10, had thrown them into a prison with adults and threatened them with torture, he would not have remained Mayor for much longer, and would probably have ended up in prison himself. But autres pays, autres moeurs.”

Arthur Gallagher said...

In relation to a previous comment-

JPII developed a personal following that was a sad departure from the past. It was not entirely negative, but, coupled with the VII reforms, it has worked a lot of mischief in the person of PF, who acts without reference to the past. Silence and reticence of speech are great virtues, and true humility precludes constant sartorial, ceremonial, or even substantive change.

With regard to Maciel, there is some truth there, and an explanation. Maciel, who was a sociopath, knew how to manipulate others, and present himself as being something that he was not. JPII was taken in, largely, I think, because of his Parkinson's Disease, which manifested itself, as it often does, by rigid inflexible thinking. It would have been better had JP just delegated the responsibility, and let the chips fall where they might. Francis, who loves to meddle in legal and administrative decisions, and has his own favorites, would do well to ponder on this.

Familiarity, constant change, and scandal are three things that destroy prestige more effectively than anything else.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

Dear Father

I fear that you, not having worked in a modern anglophone multinational corporation, or not being a lawyer, or not having worked in the civil service of a liberal democracy, your ideas of accountability are more idealistic than real.

John Patrick said...

It puzzles me to understand how otherwise intelligent people think that these kinds of things can be covered up in this age of the Internet. Old habits die hard I guess. If they are trying to protect the reputation of the Church, knowing that it will get out, don't they realize the Church's reputation is hurt much more by the cover-up than by the abuse itself?

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

Father John

Upon reflection, my post of yesterday may have exhibited a condescending tone, although that NOT my intention. In which case, you were right to not publish it. Sincere apologies!

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear Albrecht

That is very gracious of you. But you owe me no apologies. I will explain.

My delay in enabling your comment had this reason: my wish was to focus attention on PF's accountability for the Pedophile mess. I did not want people crowding in to express opinions on the morals of international corporations. Threads on blogs sometimes end up discussing something quite different from the initial topic!

In fact, I woke up yesterday morning to the news that the CEO of Save The Children had just had to take responsibility and resign. That was the sort of thing I had in mind.