Lent (Day 36) — Jimmy Breslin, “The Church that Forgot Christ”

In the next few chapters, Breslin tells the story of how he learned the story of some of the worst of the serial abusers, John Geoghan and Paul Shanley.  In the case of Shanley, he indicates that failure to act on removing Shanley by Archbishop Medeiros may have had something to do with “dirt” that Shanley had on the archbishop.  That’s something I’m going to have to look into.  Even assuming that is the case, what is the excuse for the rest of the church hierarchy who knew something about Shanley not coming forth.  Did they all have some dirt on them?  Were they just following orders?  Any explanation seems pretty weak.  After all, they had a responsibility to the children of the Archdiocese of Boston, and to other areas to which these priests may have been sent.  And they failed that responsibility.  To what extent is the system corrupt, with priests looking out for one another no matter how bad?  To what extent is a system that puts so much authority in the head of a diocese bound to fail, as the archbishop, if compromised, will result in all sorts of bad decisions in the levels beneath him?  For what would keep the church (or the church hierarchy) keeping such a guy in any position of authority?  After all, this is the same church that puts the kibosh on anyone who challenges church teaching in written form.  Hans Kung, a reputable Catholic theologian, lost his “Catholic” theologian label, though he continued to teach theology at the University of Tubingen, because of writings of his challenging church authority.  But he was not a monster in human form.  And how significantly do the misdeeds of people like Geoghan and Shanley put the lie to everything the Church teaches, and how significantly do the misdeeds of the Church leaders who fail to take corrective actions undercut the authority of the Church and its teachings? 

I think that, when you hear of all this, you certainly think that Shanley and Geoghan are monsters, but they are clearly sick individuals.  What is the excuse for those who saw but did nothing?  The church martyrs bore “witness” (what martyr means) to the truth of the Christian message against persecution.  But what happens when the church leaders, all of whom should be martyrs in some way or other, fail to live up to that role, and become accomplices of those acting criminally and using the church as cover?  And what happens when those leaders flee to Rome (as did Cardinal Law of Boston) to remove themselves from criminal prosecution and even from answering questions?  It is enough to make one quite angry. 

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