What I want to comment on today is a part of his most recent post; specifically, this part:
Now, I read the whole post, and you can too, but even if you don't read it I can assure you that it's missing one very important phrase. See if you can find it...I knew you could! That's right, ladies and gentlemen, the phrase this post is missing is:
Speaking more generally, now, I often explain and defend in my blog legitimate exercises of ecclesiastical authority. I do this because we live in an age that distrusts exercises of authority in general and ecclesiastical authority in particular. Even within the Church, exercises of ecclesiastical authority are often suspect, nay guilty, till proven otherwise. Part of me understands that suspicion, at least when it arises from ‘the right’: I grew up with happy-clappy catechesis, suffered through clown Masses, watched the devastation wrought on religious life, mourned the closing of one Catholic school after another, etc, etc, etc. In short, I grew up waiting for somebody to do something besides, as Fr. Z so wonderfully put it, blowing more happy gas. And I was often disappointed.
But, by the grace of God, I never let my disappointment ossify into distrust. As a result, I do not cling to my opinions about how things should be done in the Church (however sound my views might be) in the face of legitimate ecclesiastical determinations otherwise. I know all about Canon 212 § 3. It’s Canon 223 I’m concerned with now.
Widespread, knee-jerk distrust of ecclesiastical authority is perhaps the most crippling legacy left to the John Paul II generation of Church leaders by the past. This distrust is, of course, unfair to that new generation—who have done nothing to deserve it—but it is also increasingly incongruous to them. They didn’t grow up with the wackiness that many of us remember, and so they don’t understand the animus that is often directed by some otherwise orthodox Catholics against Church leaders just because they happen to be, well, leaders in the Church. Occasionally, when I see a solid young priest or seminarian suffer such prejudice, I call him aside and explain what things were like back in the day, and why patience is called for in this case or that. He listens, nods his head, and says, “Yes, I see what you mean, it must have been terrible. Well, time to get over it.” These guys are great.
We can't--we just can't--talk about the widespread distrust Catholics have for ecclesial authorities in 2012, ten years after The Scandal first broke here in America, and just gloss over the fact that the reason for the pervasive distrust of bishops and chanceries stems not just from happy-clappy Masses, not just from systematic liturgical wreckovation, not just from the closing of parishes or schools, not just from poor catechesis, terrible music, and dodgy homilies. The reason many Catholics find it almost impossibly hard to trust their bishops or their diocesan chancery offices is because for a lengthy amount of time the main response of many noted Catholic bishops and chancery officials to serious and credible allegations of child sexual abuse was to move the offending priest somewhere else in the hopes that, no longer exposed to those particular bad children, the priest would live as a model of holiness, or something. Oh, and to chastise the victim, the parents, the concerned observers whether clergy or lay, etc. for bringing the matter up in the first place.
Carol at The Tenth Crusade (HT: Joe H. in the comments under the previous post), from the Boston epicenter of the Scandal earthquake, puts it this way:
This is what it was like before:She then goes on to make some rather good points about the recent revelations regarding the Bishop Zavala matter, points along the lines of how the heck does a Catholic bishop carry on the sort of affair with a woman that results in two children without anybody noticing? Sure, there are some married men who manage to do the same sort of thing, but within the Church this is supposed to be the age of accountability and transparency, right?
Catholics who called the Chancery to report corruption, crimes, were 'listened to'.
When the listening was over, that was the end of their actions on the matter. Naive people who are 'listened to' inside of the Catholic Church feel a tremendous sense of relief. They did the right thing. It is implied in the listening that the people they told will then 'do something' about it.
But, they don't. They only veil it or shuffle it.
Some whistleblowers returned to a Chancery to insist something be done about it.
That's when they did something.
They used money, 'obedience', a sob story, to get people of good will to be silent.
If the whisteblower wasn't satisfied with those offers, they would circle the wagons to slander him or her as a whackadoo. They were bullied, threatened, shunned.
The priest being reported was protected. Some of them honored with public statements from the Archdiocese saying what a swell guy he was. Sometimes, they roasted them with honors.
You know what has changed from the above?
Not a thing.
In my opinion, the whole dynamic is worse than it ever was.
Now, within the offices of various dioceses, within the chanceries, among the bishops I think it's fair to say that there's a certain feeling of frustration with people like Carol. The Scandal--well, that was ten years ago! And it's been adequately addressed! By making lay Catholics attend endless classes proving they're not criminals and can be trusted around children! And priests have to take similar classes! So what more does the laity, who can never seem to be satisfied anymore, want???
The problem with this attitude, as any parent knows, is that just because someone apologizes for his or her egregious offenses, reforms, and promises to live a blameless life forevermore, it takes a good bit of time to restore the broken trust that is the first casualty of betrayal. Ten years is a blink of the eye in Church years, and I would say that until the "Circle the wagons!" first response of Church officials and employees stops being the knee-jerk reaction to any sort of criticism, we've still got a very long way to go.
It's like the teenager who, caught violating his curfew in order to drink stolen beer at a friend's house before driving home under the influence, complains bitterly to his friends that his parents still don't trust him. "Come on!" he rants. "That was a whole month ago!" (since a month in teenager years is not unlike ten years in Church years). The parents still love their son, despite the disappointment, and they really do wish the best for him as time goes on. But the time to hand him the car keys, let alone leave him in charge of the house while they go away for a weekend, is very, very far off.