Response to John Allen, NCR 29 May 2010
"Weeding out abusers, Scicluna implied, is a form of 'divine surgery' intended to save the body by amputating a diseased part."
Msgr. Scicluna's surgical metaphor is apt, but not far reaching enough: the surgery this time--to follow his metaphor--would have to reach into the very trunk of the "body" and not confine itself to the "fingers and toes" in order to "save the body". The sex abuse scandal has become a symptom of the corruption that now leads back to the central authority of the Roman Catholic Church touching even the Pope's own career as archbishop of Munich and Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The cardinals and other prelates of the Papal Curia, the very Magisterium itself, have been revealed as sources of the neglect, greed and self-seeking that have affected priests and bishops at the local level. Msgr. Scicluna's "abusers" turn out to be--perhaps unintended by him--not just the pedophiles and the bishops who protected them but the cardinals and other prelates at the very center of the Church who fostered the poisonous atmosphere that now appears at every level. The "system" itself breeds corruption: removal of individuals will only make room for successors who will in their turn be corrupted by the same system.
What, then, might replace this outdated, medieval, ‘divine rule by prelates’ system? What then might the ideal "cure" look like? There are models that have worked well in other institutional churches. One such model, adapted for the Roman Catholic Church, might look something like this:
1. Election of parish priests by parish representatives from a list of qualified priest candidates, men and women, married and unmarried, in consultation with the bishop;
2. Election of diocesan bishop by lay and clerical representatives from each parish to be ratified by a majority of bishops ordinary in the archdiocese and in consultation with representatives of the Holy See;
3. Election of archbishops by bishops and lay and clerical representatives of the dioceses in consultation with the Holy See;
4. Election of the Pope by archbishops and lay and clerical representatives from national churches;
5. Establishment at every level of appropriate elected legislative, executive and administrative bodies;
6. Establishment of regular [triennial? quadrennial?] ecumenical councils of bishops ordinary and elected lay and clerical representatives, under the presidency of the Pope, to deal with international ecclesiastical issues; and
6. Establishment of appropriate ecclesiastical courts at each level--diocesan, archdiocesan, national, and international to ensure transparent administration of justice and arbitration of conflicts.
Such a reform would, of course, be a radical change from the present authoritarian, masculine, and hierarchical system. It would create transparency and accountability through a governance of the Church that includes all of the faithful. (Even if one grants the special role of the Pope as ‘primus inter pares’, the absolutist rule of the papacy over the whole church flies in the face of history: the church that lies at the center of present day Roman Catholic ecclesiology has never existed. When the attempt was made in the eleventh century to force this view on Eastern Christendom, the eastern half of the ‘orthodox’ church separated itself
from the western half. Papal authority and governance over the entire ‘catholic’ church never came into existence.) Authority would be from the base up instead of from the top down: the whole church would be involved and the local church at its appropriate level, creating transparency and accountability.