Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Give to Caesar what is Caeser's

by Kathryn Casey

Easter weekend, I wrote a letter to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese after the Houston Chronicle ran excerpts from the Cardinal's letter supporting Pope Benedict XVI, basically dismissing as untrue allegations about the pope's actions regarding priests and the sexual abuse of children. I've decided to make this an open letter.

Dear Cardinal DiNardo:

This is a difficult time in the history of the Catholic Church, and a disturbing time for those of us who are Catholics. Current events have many of us questioning our dedication to a church that ignores its own ethics and edicts. As of late, the church appears less committed to justice, accountability, and protecting the innocent than to hiding its own sins.

While I love my faith, it is difficult to overemphasize the magnitude of my disgust at the actions of some of those who have ruled the Catholic Church. My anger has been building for quite some time, dating back to the first revelations of sexual abuse by priests, and examples of church leaders covering up rather than weeding out the offenders. We now know that this cancer which began in Rome metastasized, through not just the U.S., but Ireland, across Europe and perhaps the world.

My husband and I grew up Catholic, and we raised our children as Catholics. We sent our son to a Jesuit high school. We donate to our local parish. We attend mass. We look to church leaders to be strong and wise, fair and just.

There are many questions, however, about what happened while Pope Benedict XVI was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The allegations include that he turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children, and that he protected offending priests instead of their innocent victims. And now we have what appears to be evidence that this is not merely speculation but may be true: documents that allegedly implicate the pope in the case of Rev. Michael Teta of Tucson, AZ., a priest a church tribunal found repeatedly molested children, even abusing two boys, a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old, in the confessional, as they prepared for their first communions. It’s charged that although the cardinal/future pope had the authority to act, the man now known as Pope Benedict XVI did nothing to stop Teta for a dozen years.

There are also documents raising questions in a Wisconsin case, where 200 boys were allegedly abused at a school for the deaf. There it's been charged that the cardinal/future pope halted an investigation into an accused priest.

This is wrong on so many levels, but perhaps the most basic one is that it was never the then-cardinal/now-pope’s decision to make. These priests were accused of criminal acts, illegal activities that fell under the authority of civil law enforcement. In Luke 20:25, Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Although the quote refers to money, it works here as well. These acts didn't take place on Vatican soil, but in Tucson, Boston, Dublin, Rome and cities across the globe. Despite what it may tell itself, the church has never had the right to deprive civil law enforcement of fulfilling its duty to investigate and prosecute dangerous sexual predators.

The church would not be in the crisis it’s in today if it simply acknowledged its obligation to immediately turn criminal allegations over to civil authorities. In all such cases, the church hierarchy needs to refer criminal complaints to local law enforcement, instead of continuing the course church leaders have adhered to in the past: systematically aiding and abetting dangerous criminals, hiding their crimes and moving them to new locations where they claimed more victims.

Cardinal DiNardo (photo right), you are the spiritual leader of Catholics in my part of the world. Today in the Houston Chronicle, I read excerpts from your letter supporting the pope. You wrote: “recent headlines insinuating inaction or culpability by Pope Benedict XVI regarding the crisis are unfair or inaccurate. Any innuendo that he has not tried to tackle cases of sexual abuse by clergy is misleading and harmful to the church.”

Catholics disgusted with this situation are less concerned with preserving the status quo at the church than with holding those responsible accountable and preventing future abuses. Instead of asking Catholics to blindly accept that the pope is innocent of the allegations, why not call for an open investigation into what the pope knew when, and what actions he did and didn't take?

As Catholics, we deserve a church we can be proud of, one that does the right things, even in the most difficult situations. We deserve a church that lives what it preaches, including justice and compassion for the most vulnerable, our children.

Update: I'd recommend taking a look at this op/ed piece from the NYTimes: Maureen Dowd.


Anonymous said...

Bravo. Excellent letter.

Sadly, I don't expect anything to change. The Church is too powerful and too invested in keeping it's dirty little secrets and protecting sexual predators thus making it a magnet for perverts looking for a career and safe haven.

Cherry said...

I think it was very good of you to write this letter. The more people who condemn this injustice the better.
To aide and abet someone in their sin is wrong.
It's not loving to say you are forgiven without the offender admitting the sin, accepting the punishment and consequences and making attonement for it.
I think God wants us to put the sin in the Son-light no matter where it occurs.

DW said...

I haven't been a practicing Catholic for a long time. I was disgusted by the hypocrisy of it all, and this pretty much cements it for me.

bev martin said...

Three cheers for standing up for what is right even when the powers that be would prefer quiet. I am a cradle Catholic and will die a Catholic, but that does not mean I accept with blind faith all that come from the pulpit or from Rome. We have to make our voices heard in solidarity. I applaud you, Kathryn, and thank you for using your stature to defend the powerless. God bless you.

Kathryn Casey said...

Thanks, All. I hated writing this, but I couldn't not write this post. I've been steaming about this for so long. So far, no response from the Cardinal. Guess I shouldn't hold my breath. Really sad. I read this afternoon that they're trying to subpoena the pope to testify in a case in Kentucky. That would be interesting.

Thanks for the God Bless, Bev. It's just flat-out time they understand that good Catholics are royally pissed. (Excuse the language. I came of age in the sixties, and cursing just seems to fit the bill better than anything else at times. LOL)

Beverly Fournier said...

Kudos to you for writing this letter.

Beverly Fournier said...

Kudos to you for writing the letter.

Kathryn Casey said...

Thanks, Beverly. As I mentioned above, this isn't something I wanted to write. This is a horrible situation. Let's hope they do something quickly to turn it around, and I mean really turn it around, not just pay lip service to making changes.

Kellie said...

Kathryn, I thank you and completely support you for writing this letter. Frankly, I don't think anything worthwhile will come of it. Although I am not Catholic, I applaud you for literally being the first one I know of to publicly speak out on this issue. This terrible secret has been kept quiet for far too long. God Bless You!

Kathryn Casey said...

Thanks, Kellie. I appreciate it.

I did receive an e-mail response today from the director of communications for the archdiocese, essentially the cardinal's public relations person. She basically said that they were committed to stopping the abuse and removing from the ministry any priest a credible accusation is made against. She then referred me to the Cardinal's letter. What she didn't say was that alleged offenders would be turned over to civil authorities. I responded and pointed that out to her.

So, you're right, Kellie: nothing worthwhile has come of it.

Soobs said...

As a Catholic, nothing upsets me more about my faith, than the men who have abused children while they should have been dedicating their lives to Christ.

We do need to remember that the Church is run by men. Men are fallible. God is not.

Anonymous said...

I think soobs is right. There's nothing worse than men who are supposed to be shepherds of the faith abusing the children they're charged with protecting. Men are fallible, like she says. the problem is that these men think they're infallible. they have an attitude that no one can touch them, that they're not accountable. i'm going to stop donating. i think everyone should.

Kellie said...

What the Catholic Church is not acknowledging is the fact that a terrible serious crime is being committed here, this is hardcore wrong, and these priests, AND THE ONES SUCH AS BENEDICT THAT KNEW ABOUT AND QUIETLY RELOCATED THESE PEDOPHILES AND DID NOTHING ARE JUST AS GUILTY AS THE MOLESTORS. THEY WILL HAVE TO ANSWER TO GOD, AND HAVE THAT SAME BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS!!!!! I have no respect for them.

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