We (the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker Community) have begun praying a novena of novenas, which is 81 days of prayer and action on behalf of justice, peace, and Creation, that ends on the Nativity of Mary in September. Besides the other prayers, each day includes the Novena to St. John Chrysostom for the conversion of the US Catholic bishops. It has been fairly asked of me, why am I so harsh on the US Catholic bishops?
Those who wield authority for less than honorable motives are great fans of historical amnesia. They always think that if they can just hang on long enough, people will forget what they have done. Which is why “remembering” and “telling” are so important to the Catholic Worker charism.
The criminal conspiracy between US Catholic bishops and the Vatican bishops to cover up and thus enable the sexual abuse of children is an example of this process at work. The US bishops pretty much got a pass from the Vatican. Most of the bishops kept their jobs, and have only paid monetary costs for their Most Egregious Sins in conspiring with the Vatican bishops to cover up and enable this problem. As far as anyone knows outside of the Vatican, none of the bishops there who were criminally responsible for this tragedy have suffered any consequences whatsoever.
Consider Cardinal Law of Boston, who instead of being in jail, where he most certainly belongs, has a cushy job as prelate of one of the four primary pilgrimage basilicas of Rome (St Mary Maggiori) and he remains to this day on the Vatican congregation that is responsible for selecting and forming bishops.
If there was actual justice in the church, and if the preferential option of the Vatican and the episcopal hierarchy was for the people of God, then all of the bishops responsible for this criminal conspiracy would have at minimum been retired from their jobs and if that meant that most of the US bishops needed replacing, well, then in fact most of the US bishops did need to be replaced.
Further proof of this may be found in our bishops Most Cowardly Response to the unjust wars on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, which rises to the level of material cooperation with the objective evil of unjust war, about which I have written at great length.
We were failed by the hierarchy of the Vatican, which is supposed to discipline bishops and ensure that they remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ. Surely any bishops who conspired to enable sexual abuse are guilty of being unfaithful to the gospel of Christ and should be removed. But that did not happen.
We were further failed by our own law enforcement officials, who have consistently refused to even attempt to bring criminal charges against the bishops.
We were further failed by the presidential administrations of both George Bush II and Barak Obama, both of whom have consistently refused to make the exceptionally poor record of the Vatican in selecting and forming bishops in the United States — as evidenced by the criminal conspiracy that existed without any doubt between the bishops of the Vatican and the US bishops — a matter of diplomatic protest. That conspiracy enabled this issue to go on for so long and at such grave harm to so many innocent children and young people. The very real and grave harm to children and young people that resulted from this high level episcopal conspiracy appears to be a matter of zero concern to the federal authorities inside the Beltway.
We should never forget that these people have so egregiously failed us, because having failed us so egregiously on such major issues, we must alas expect them to fail us again. It’s part of the reason we are headed for the ash heap of history. Our religious, economic, and political aristocracies are becoming dysfunctional to the extreme.
So as we pray, we remember. And as we remember, we speak truth to power, to the people, and to the Church.