Holy Week and the suffering Church

By Sister Mary Ann WalshDirector of Media Relations, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Holy Week is time when Catholics worldwide … Continued

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
Director of Media Relations, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Holy Week is time when Catholics worldwide feel the pain of dying in Christ.

It comes this year as media reports bring up heartrending, often previously published, stories with a new twist – how the Vatican handled the cases. Efforts to link stories to culpable inaction by Pope Benedict XVI cause reasonable people anguish given all that the pope has tried to do to address this crisis.

Since 2002, the church in the United States has had a policy of zero tolerance, which means a priest or deacon who has admitted to or been found guilty of sexually abusing a minor can no longer engage in public ministry. Likewise, the church has developed screenings and processes to ensure that the children in its schools and religious formation programs today are not subject to abusive behavior, whether by a cleric or lay person. This has solved one problem by excising child abusers from parishes and dioceses.

Yet another problem has emerged. Society is finally seeing that sexual abuse of a child is a sin, a crime and often a sickness. Now we ask with hindsight why those in authority did not act more quickly in addressing the problem, more stringently in dealing with offenders, and more compassionately when hearing the victims. It is little comfort that many in charge acted with woefully inadequate knowledge, the same inadequate knowledge that has bedeviled psychology, law enforcement, even families for half a century or more. It is not an excuse – some things, such as not harming the weak, you should know instinctively. However, it is a fact that all of us now know more now than we did 50, 40, 30, 20, and even 10 years ago. We treat physical and mental illness today in ways different from how we did in the 1960s. The police who once for the sake of peace in the precinct took a “Get out of Dodge” approach to many crimes no longer practice such expeditious law enforcement. And while we still believe in the power of prayer, no one in the church thinks a 30-day retreat and a firm purpose of amendment can cure a sexual abuser.

New knowledge means new obligations for church leaders, of course. Not knowing is no longer acceptable. Inaction will no longer be tolerated by law enforcement, fellow clerics and the Catholic community. Signs of such realization have been shown, for example, by Pope John Paul II who declared “there is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young” and Pope Benedict who said bluntly: “I am ashamed and will do everything possible to ensure that this doesn’t happen in the future.”

For many, the emphasis of Holy Week is on Good Friday, a day that’s good not because Jesus died a terrible death that day, but because the death led to His subsequent resurrection. It holds deep meaning for Catholics now who seek meaning from the tragedy of pedophilia.

Pedophilia has had terrible effect on many and reminds us of sinful humanity than is around us and within us. It has made a long Good Friday for many, especially those victimized by this sin and crime. But as the church has learned while dealing with these wounds, as it did with the crucifixion of Jesus, the pain can lead to a church purified of sin.

With the current spate of news stories about inaction in the face of pedophilia, Catholics rightly feel numbness like that of Holy Saturday when the Apostles and followers of Jesus were stunned by the events around them. The message, however, is that Jesus’ death led to new life. The Church is still learning through its pain. The comfort of Christ awaits, which is something victims/survivors need and deserve and something the entire Church, from Pope Benedict to the newest baptized child, can take hope in.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh is Director of Media Relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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  • usapdx


  • Schaum

    Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.The word “vile” comes to mind.The wonderful pope-to-be did nothing to protect the boys being molested (it wasn’t a serious consideration). He did nothing to protect his wonderful cult from the ‘embarrassment’ of another pedophile in the ranks. He did nothing, after being bothered and badgered by people asking him to step in. No. The immoral son of a b!tch did nothing, over an over again.Same crime, different victims. These victims were deaf children. Who else did Pope Morality hurt by doing nothing?So much for the “pain” papists feel during holy week. Imagine the insanity of allowing self-made eunuchs and spinster nuns, who can no nothing about children or family life, to assume responsibility for children, in any capacity.

  • onofrio

    Sister Mary,There was a time – not so very long ago – when pious Catholic womanhood could count it a blessing to help wash the maps of Ireland out of the priestly bed linen. Your little PR piece reminds me of those efforts, what with its hand-wringing, sweetly pained denial; its coy avoidance; its gaze rolled skyward. However some stains will not be so easily laundered, sister. Your casuistry is repellent. You dignify pedophilia directly as “tragedy” – like it was Shakespeare – yet keep a two sentence distance between “pedophilia” and the more accurate descriptor “this sin and crime”. You try to minimise your hierarchy’s complicity in this crime by pleading “inadequate knowledge”, and sharing around this lack with “psychology, law enforcement, even families”. So we’re meant to understand that the clergy of the One True Church are and were – like everyone else – simply *of their time*, poor dears. Cleaning up and covering up and hushing up after outbreaks of priestly lust was just the way of *those days*, just as in other days killing in the name of Christ was de rigueur. A la mode. Blame the times. Bury culpability in pious whining about the pain of Christ.Semper eadem, indeed. All your carefully crafted platitudes do not alter the fact that your church is still protecting that swathe of Christ’s proxies who won’t save their seed for dream succubi.

  • gabe3

    Sister,Interesting article, but I’m not sure exactly what you were trying to say. That the church is doing more than it did in the past? Well, one would hope so. That we all know more than we did in the past? Again, one would hope so. Has the Catholic church come far enough? Certainly not. When Father Thomas Doyle and others told the Vatican decades ago what the sexual abuse scandal would mean to the Catholic church, he was persecuted, and they refused to listen. That was over 30 years ago. The Vatican had people within its own ranks who were willing, able and educated enough to truly DO something about this horror. Yet, they refused. Now, it is turning around and biting them in the behind, and they are running scared. Instead of hiding behind the excuses – “we really didn’t know better,” “we really didn’t understand,” and so on, the hierarchy of the Catholic church needs to stand up and accept responsibility for what they DID know, and still did nothing about. The pope’s empty words will not bring about a resurrection. Jesus didn’t TALK about dying and rising, He DID it. And, until the Catholic church is willing to finally, honestly, reach out to victims and offer a sincere apology with a plan of action, the Catholic church will never be purified.

  • JohnShuster

    Sister Walsh:

  • reiszce

    How many bishops, archbishops and cardinals has the pope punished for covering up the abuse of children and youth? How many who committed coverups has he promoted? There is your answer as to why the rank and file is not happy with the heirarchy.

  • areyousaying

    Are you saying the Catholic Church will rid itself of this time honored tradition by itself?For the rest of us who aren’t convinced, it’s time to change statute of limitations laws that allows justice to be ignored as in the case of 200 deaf boys in Milwaukee.Catholics apparently accept all this as just another part of their boys growing up in their church. There Cannon Law says it doesn’t have to be reported to civil authorities. We need to lobby do undo some pro-Catholic legislation regarding the statute of limitations that let these perverts and accomplices escape justice and vote for some non-catholic DAs who aren’t intimidated by the local Bishop. Only civil action will cure what their “Love of Christ” apparently hasn’t been able to.Catholics, all of them, are a lost cause against their tradition of these atrocities.

  • Arminius0208

    Onofrio,I stand in awe of your post. You should write like that much more often.The more I have to endure the bleating garbage like the crap that Walsh spews, the angrier I get. All this benighted nun did was be an echo chamber for the horrific howling of the RCC pederast squad that their street cred is much more important than a bunch of raped children. Pardon me while I violently vomit.

  • onofrio

    Sister Mary(piously opining)”The comfort of Christ awaits, which is something victims/survivors need and deserve and something the entire Church, from Pope Benedict to the newest baptized child, can take hope in.” Where is the Holy Spirit when God’s apostolically accredited deputy is buggering his young charges? And where is the Holy Spirit when the buggeriser’s informed superiors quietly move him on to another parish, there to ply his lust again? And where is the Holy Spirit when Christ’s vicar on earth describes such events and allegations as “petty gossip”?Answer: the behaviour of Benedict XVI and his cronies implies that the Holy Spirit is always with the buggeriser, his protectors, and his pontifical CO. The Holy Spirit instrumentalises the One True Church to violate the vulnerable, cover the violation, and then deny that it happened. SOME COMFORTER!

  • coloradodog

    Cry us a river, sister, for the poor, “suffering” Catholic Church who still hides pedophile priests including Nicholas Aguilar, the pervert ping pong ball, passed to the US and then back to Mexico again by Cardinals Rivera and Mahony without ever being defrocked. Your PR BS is disingenuous at best as Ratzinger and his brother, Sergeant Schultz, wail “We knoooooow noooothing!When you cough up a thousand or more of your pedophile clergy around the world for civil prosecution you might begin to have some credibility. Until then, you’re living a lie in the role you’re in as a pathetic, sniveling apologist for perverts and their racketeering accomplices. Maybe you can live with yourself by continuing your charade and saying……oh, say……uh….

  • Xavier3

    I am truly gratified to see Sr. Walsh’s apologia filled with pious language as distraction called out here by Onofrio, John Shuster and others:Onofrio:And John Shuster:I read through whole thing and thought, what in hell is she saying? A flood of words signifying nothing. Clue: it doesn’t work anymore.

  • spidermean2

    “Holy Week and the suffering Church”.The question is why are they suffering? Is it like a suffering thief because it was caught?

  • coloradodog

    Following a business setback in Colorado Springs many years ago as a young man, I have always remembered the words of Sister Bonaventure of the Sisters of Mount Saint Francis. She was a kindly nun with the same angelic appearance as Sister Mary Ann here. Sister Bonaventure was one of my customers and, upon hearing of my cocaine snorting business partners cheating me out of four years of hard work for them, told me, “Don’t worry, every Good Friday has an Easter.”With lame apologies for cover-ups, victim demonizing and sniveling that the Church is the real victim from the likes of Sister Mary Ann, however, this is one Good Friday that won’t have an Easter for the torment in my heart over other victims who will never see justice either. There never will be one either as long as the denying Ratzinger and his cronies are in power and continue hiding these perverts.

  • onofrio

    Arminius,”You should write like that much more often.”It’s not the first time I’ve tilted at the big basilica, Arminius ;^) though I’m more used to windmills.Rest ye, reiver.

  • Schaum

    This post of Walsh mirrors the sentiments of Ratzinger. It is devoid of any sense of culpability, of compassion. It is the sort of self-serving arrogant denial one reads in the speeches of medieval emperors.The irony in all this is that the nineteenth century accusations of the Church as a den of iniquity seem quiet observations before the raging truth we now hear.This Vatican Cosa Nostra is soulless, depraved, evil to the core. There is no other way to put it. It needs to be investigated, indicted, tried in courts of law.WRITTEN BY: FARNAZMANSOURI | MARCH 29, 2010 10:04 PM

  • onofrio

    From today’s Sydney Morning Herald, quoting the Telegraph, London:”Speaking on Vatican Radio, the Pope’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the pontiff’s response to the abuse crisis had been “effective” and that he had always followed a policy of “zero tolerance”.”Yes, Padre Lombardi, your master has indeed demonstrated “zero tolerance” – he continues to “tolerate” the “zeros” for whom the dog-collar is a license to mangle the trusting, frightened young. No doubt the pontiff’s “response” has reassured his “zeros” about having effected their lust. “Last week L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper, said the allegations were part of an “ignoble attempt to strike at Pope Benedict XVI and his closest collaborators”. “As far as the Vatican is concerned – and Sister Mary Walsh would seem to concur – the whole abuse thing is just a big conspiracy. The regrettable moral lapses of a wee thimbleful of priestly rogues (and let’s face it, all of us are sinners, are we not?) are being deployed by Satan’s minions to begrime the unsullied goodness of the Holy See and its venerable, humble leader, who has done his utmost – his UTMOST – to offer the succour of the church to those poor benighted souls who think they’ve been buggered, fondled, and threatened by priests. The Holy Spirit is a busy launderer.

  • Arminius0208

    Zero tolerance? Yeah, right. Zero tolerance to anyone who dares say that the ‘infallible’ Bishop of Rome and his cronies can make silly mistakes like protecting criminals.Just a few centuries ago, people who had to courage to try to bring the evil scum in the priesthood to justice would find themselves delivered to the tender graces of the Inquisition, to be burned at the stake.Zero tolerance my arse. Their words drip the pus of hypocrisy.

  • samscram

    THE MARTYRS MUST WEEP!Sister Walsh’s statement is a patent attempt diminish the moral culpability of the institution which claims to be the repository of an “absolute morality”.These words: ‘is little comfort that many in charge acted with woefully inadequate knowledge, the same inadequate knowledge that has bedeviled psychology, law enforcement, even families for half a century or more. It is not an excuse – some things, such as not harming the weak, you should know instinctively. However, it is a fact that all of us now know more now than we did 50, 40, 30, 20, and even 10 years ago. We treat physical and mental illness today in ways different from how we did in the 1960s.”…are the usual kind of rationalizations the church has employed whenever its criminal activities have been uncovered.Apparently the church needed the assistance of psychologists and psychiatrists to acquire that fundamental knowledge.Indeed when the Council of Bishops was presented with the “Sipe” report in the mid 1980s which outlined the scope of the problem, chapter and verse, it buried it and continued its “business as usual” process of hiding predators in unsuspecting parishes and failing to report the criminal offenders to the authorities. Perhaps were they required to marry the members would treat and learn to love children as people instead of viewing them as objects to be exploited to their own use.But, upon reflection, I doubt it.

  • outragex

    Yes the Catholic church is suffering because of the abuse epidemic. It seems to me though the Cath. Church is in this situation because it’s leaders CHOSE to minimize the suffering of their priests, themselves, and the organization at the great expense of the abuse victims. Powerful adults were protected by further harming the weak.The church chose the so-called “zero tolerance” policy only after it was forced to do so by lawsuits and criminal cases. In my experience, priests are still autonomous at the parish level. and can not be effectively held accountable by parishoners with concerns about their activities with minors or vulnerable parishoners. Bishops can’t monitor or supervise priests even if they wanted to when parish members are silenced and the bishops are far removed from the priest’s daily activities….and Jesus wept.

  • coloradodog

    Holy Father,Until you cough up a thousand or more pedophile priests around the world for civil prosecution, all you, your church, and all of your followers will be known for is your collective racketeering in aiding and abetting these perverts.You will never silence the victims of this abuse, including me, anymore. Catholicism will remain synonymous with pervert priests notwithstanding more PR lies of so called “zero tolerance”.

  • Louise10

    The Roman Catholic Church is the epitome of hypocrisy. Brain-washed people like Sister Mary Ann Walsh are too scared of hell to see that the corruption of the Catholic Church for centuries has made it the last place a person should seek moral guidance. Trust yourself, Sister Mary Ann, to be good without god, and throw away that disgusting crutch. There is no need for redemption, no need to call yourself a sinner, no need to fear hell or purgatory. It’s all religious myth, starting with Adam and Eve. Have a nice life and do your best to help others–that’s all there is to know. No one (and I mean no real person) has ever come back to say otherwise.

  • onofrio

    According to a storied Galilean Jew:”…whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who trust in me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks!” (Matthew 18:5-7)Lots of such “stumbling blocks” – and their casters – wear dog-collars these days. How apt that these buggers-and-fondlers of the trusting young sport crucifixes, which depict the Jewish thaumaturge nailed up; that revered scapegoat who warned of their deep sea drowning. Clearly, they prefer to devour and drink him down than follow his salty counsel.Rome’s soldiers are still piercing and maiming the innocent and then blubbering that the pain is all their own. They configure atrocity, then bathe in it, feed on it, worship it. They still think that patronising the Jew they forever murder as “Son of God” will let them off all hooks. They make a douche of his blood and fancy his ghost launders away their predation.Ah, Name they know not! Wring them from the world!

  • onofrio

    Sister Mary,Thee:Jesus was executed for sedition by the Romans. According to your logic, it follows that if those sexually violated by the Catholic priesthood are to identify with the crucified Jesus, then said violators are cast in the role of the Roman crucifiers. How remarkable! The flaying, parading, and piercing of the innocent is still being implemented by Rome! The Vatican is a society for historical re-enactments. It makes such sense… And all of you who have been priest-pierced: take heart! The Holy Spirit has allowed its anointed reps do this to you so that you could get even closer to Jesus and help purify the tormentors of their sin. Don’t you feel blessed? You’re lambs for the slaughter – what higher caling could there be? Ah, where would the church be without its denialist apostles, pulling shekels from the fishes’ mouths?

  • onofrio

    Oops, I’m amiss. It’s not the victims of priestly lust that share the pain of the crucified Christ. No sir! It’s the pope and his priesthood who hang on the cross with Jesus this Easter. And it’s the victims and their “ignoble” advocates – those satanic conspirators – who are hammering home the nails, casting dice for the robe, and aiming their spears at the sacred heart.How silly of me (%^}Ah, the poor, poor pope…and those poor, tragically misunderstood priestly rapists…Why are people so unkind? Why don’t they just take their rape for the holy mystery that it is, paving the way to purity for all?Mea culpa, mea culpa…

  • YEAL9

    As noted previously, ordination in any religion is not assurance of good behavior !!!!!

  • YEAL9

    As noted previously, ordination in any religion is not assurance of good behavior !!!!!One assumes the leaders of atheism are ordained by their words, actions and/or books. One assumes also there are pedophiles in the ranks and leaders of atheism since no walk in life is immune to temptations and misbehavior.

  • jnardo

    “Since 2002, the church in the United States has had a policy of zero tolerance, which means a priest or deacon who has admitted to or been found guilty of sexually abusing a minor can no longer engage in public ministry. “Let’s see (2010-2002)/2010=0.4%. So that makes up for 99.6% of the church’s tenure?

  • ironman6

    Sister Mary’s comments don’t do anything for me. As I have said before, there needs to be a full & complete public admission and confession of all of the past sins and omissions of the clergy, including bishops, cardinal, the pope, and Vatican officials.

  • apsychologist

    Dear, dear “Sister” Walsh: As a psychologist, I note how frequently words like “vomit” and “pus” appear in many of these comments. These represent the depth of the rage and visceral disgust rightly engendered by your pathetic, cynical, grotesquely obscene effort to smear the Church’s vile pus over the rest of us, and to cloak the unimaginable, utterly intolerable, unbearable horror of a thousand years of murder, torture, rape, and brutality – done in the name of Christ, you sickening pustule! – in more of the treacly pap the Church and its apologists have spewed forever. Forget about the rape of children, which apparently no-one “realized” was wrong – not even the self-appointed keepers of morality. Did no-one know 50 years ago that beating and enslaving orphans entrusted to a ‘Christian” orphanage (cf: Ireland) might be wrong? To think that people like you even dare to blaspheme the name of Christ by usurping His name. The Church, the Pope, you…none of you are Christians.You are psychologically primitive, emotionally stunted, spiritually dead criminals. “The Church’s pain”: spare me.

  • apsychologist

    Dear yeal9: Yes, atheists can be pedophiles too. One major difference between atheist pedophiles and Catholic Church pedophiles, though, is that atheist pedophiles are not simultaneously telling other people what is or is not moral, and claiming to represent “The Truth,” while they are busy raping children. Big difference, yeal9. Do you get that?

  • YEAL9

    One assumes also there are pedophiles in the ranks bloggers and leaders of atheism since no walk in life is immune to temptations and misbehavior where said walkers tell other people what is or is not moral, and claiming to represent “The Truth,” while they are busy raping children.

  • usapdx

    Sister, if you where a mother and it was your child, what whould you say when you found out? What did the RCC administraters know,when did they know, and what did they do about it?

  • YEAL9

    ref: wikipedia”The onset of pedophilia usually occurs during adolescence. Occasional pedophiles begin their activities during middle age but this late onset is uncommon. In the United States, about 50% of men arrested for pedophilia are married. “Apparently allowing RCC priests to marry won’t help the situation.And apparently opening the priesthood to women also will not solve the problem.And this also from Wikipedia:“Due to the stereotype that pedophiles are always male, it has been difficult to determine the prevalence of female pedophiles; however, studies in the UK and USA suggest that a range of 5% to 20% of child sexual abuse offenses are perpetrated by women.[20]”