Sexual abuse – the double standards of the state

About a year ago, as the extent of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church over the past sixty years or so became clear, there were many voices calling for the Church, in the persons of the bishops, to publicly apologise for the crimes committed. For even though many of the abuse cases happened in the past, the current bishops continue in the responsible role of their predecessors. On multiple occasions, the bishops did so, publicly and in private meetings with victims. It was also hoped that the Catholic response to the crisis would be an example to other parts of society, because it was already clear that sexual abuse is not an exclusively Catholic problem. On the contrary.

At the same time that the Deetman Commission was investigating the Church, another commission, headed by former attorney general Rieke Samson, was doing the same for children who were entrusted to the care of the state. This commission recently published its conclusions, and the numbers were even more staggering than the ones revealed by the Deetman Commission.

In the case of the Catholic cases, there were debates in parliament, and calls from politicians that the Church needed to take responsibility. Rightly so.

But now the ball is in the state’s court. And today we find that that state has no intention of apologising. They have sympathy for the victims, Secretary of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten said today, but that, it seems, is as far as it goes.

Taking responsibility and taking care of the victims, not to mention punishing the perpetrators, is apparently not something that the state, represented by parliament, considers applicable to itself. When it happened in the Church, calls for resignations and criminal trials were called for. Now that the state carries the same level of responsibility for what happened in state-owned shelters and orphanages as the bishops did for the sexual abuse in the Church, none of that applies. Even public apologies are too much to ask for.

The unseen archbishop

A fairly unseen person, Belgian prelate Frans Daneels (no relation to the similarly named Cardinal Godfried Danneels) has been noticed in Rome nonetheless. The secretary of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Curial body overseeing the administration of justice in the Church, has been a bishop since his appointment in 2008. Today, he was elevated to the dignity of archbishop. This makes him one of Belgium’s two active archbishops, the other of course being Archbishop Léonard.

71-year-old Archbishop Daneels belongs to the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré, better know as the Premonstratensians, where he made his profession at Averbode Abbey in 1961. He has been a priest since 1966. From 1971 to 1982 he was active in several parishes in the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels. In 1982 he returned to Rome for his order. He has been active in the Apostolic Signatura since 1987.

Archbishop Daneels retains his titular see, being now the titular Archbishop of Bita in Algeria.

Photo credit: An Daneels/KerkNet

Synod of Bishops – Day Two

Yesterday saw the third and fourth general congregation of the Synod, presided over by Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega. The morning session was devoted to interventions from the Synod fathers, and 25 prelates made use of the option to make a five-minute presentation  on some point the wanted to highlight. And that time limit is rather strict, as Bishop Kicanas points out: “[I]t must be five minutes, since one’s mic is turned off exactly when five minutes have passed. Those getting close to being turned off rush to get in as much of their text as possible.”

There were several general trends in the interventions: penance, education and a focus on the personal relation with Jesus Christ. As Archbishop Rogelio Cabrera López, appointed to  Monterrey in Mexico one week ago, pointed out: “We cannot evangelise properly if we do not educate properly. And we do not educate properly if we do not evangelise.” Several prelates emphasised the need for humility, most notably  the Philippine Archbishops Luis Tagle of Manila and Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan. The latter said:

“The new evangelization calls for new humility. The Gospel cannot thrive in pride. When pride seeps into the heart of the Church, the Gospel proclamation is harmed […] The hierarchy must shun arrogance, hypocrisy and bigotry. We must punish the errant among us instead of covering up our own mistakes. We are humans among our human flock. All our beauty and holiness we owe to God. This humility will make us more credible new evangelizers. Our mission is to propose humbly not to impose proudly.”

There were also an intervention from one of the fraternal delegates, non-Catholics invited to attend and share their thoughts and experience. The Lutheran Bishop of Lapua in Finland, Simo Peura (pictured), summarised some of the points in the Instrumentum laboris and wished to all attendants and the “Synod of Bishops the Blessing of the Triune God.”

Special guest Dr. Lamar Vest of the American Bible Society, in the morning’s final intervention, emphasised the role of the Bible and harkened back to the previous Synod of Bishops, which was devoted to the Bible.

The fourth general congregation began in the late afternoon with prayer, followed by voting for the members of the Commission for the Message. This commission will compose a nuntius or pastoral Message to the People of God, especially those involved with the Synod. The message will be presented at the end of the Synod. Cardinal Giuseppe Betori and Archbishop Luis Tagle presided over the election, which will select eight members in addition to the aforementioned clerics and two members appointed directly by the pope.

After this election, the interventions continued. Nine Synod fathers intervened, among them Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, who spoke first about the reality of evil and then about the important role of women in the Church. He said:

“It is time to clarify that, if the Church does not ordain female priests, this is not because they are less capable or less worthy! On the contrary! It is solely because the priest is not only a “minister of the rite”, but a representative of Christ the Groom Who came to wed humanity. Let us give thanks for the quality and the specificity of the massive contribution of women to evangelization. Some strong gestures should underline this clearly. Without joyous women, recognized in their own being and proud of belonging to the Church, there would be no new evangelization.”

Especially some of the South-American Synod fathers, but also Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris, emphasised the importance of countering secularism in the parishes and society.

Following the interventions, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, presented a report on the implementation of the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, published after the previous Synod of Bishop which, as mentioned before, was devoted to the Word of God.

The second full day of the Synod was closed with a viewing of an edited version of a documentary produced by the  Pontifical Council for Social Communications on the Second Vatican Council.

Summaries of the interventions and Cardinal Ouellet’s report may be found in the two bulletins devoted to yesterday’s proceedings.

 Photo credit: [1] Pope Benedict XVI speaking with Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, CNS Photot/Paul Haring, [2] KT/Markku Pihlaja