Tuesday, February 21, 2006


The "victim advocacy group," SNAP, just sent an open letter to Cardinal George demanding some changes. The changes they demand are explicitly not in the Archdiocesan child abuse policies but rather demands for changes in Church governance; more on this later. In the letter they claim to identify seven priests as credible child abusers who were not previously identified as such. They spin the scant information that they provide in a way to make is appear to support their claim that "It's the Cardinal's flawed actions, not his flawed policies," that are the problem.

As I stated in an earlier post, the public information is currently insufficient to draw any other conclusion but that Cardinal George made sound decisions based upon the information he had available at the time...that is unless you are predisposed to doubt his credibility in which case suspicion can lead one to any sort of speculations. Pathological suspicion appears to be SNAP's most obvious motivation. Therefore, I think it appropriate to focus on SNAP's letter because it appears to me that their agenda comes through quite clearly in it.

As I stated, SNAP is not interested in a new or improved policy. Rather, they seem to be driven by ideology. In their view, the Church and Her structure are the fundamental problems, apparently because it is not built on the American democratic model (obviously, there needs to be checks and balances in any purely human system of governance). This is how they describe the Church hierarchy and the authority of the bishop in explaining why they think Fr. MacCormack could have been removed in August 2005, even though the police found no evidence to substantiate any charges:
The Catholic church is a monarchy. In Chicago, you are the king. Priests have no union. You can suspend a priest anytime for anything. To claim otherwise is ludicrous. (Does anyone really think these priests would have remained in active ministry for years while your staff allegedly investigated allegations that they stole money or advocated abortion?)
The only thing ludicrous here is their assertion about the structure of the Church and a bishop's authority. It reveals that they let their biases get in the way of even doing the most basic research. Their view that the Church structure is an absolute monarchy reflects an ignorance of basic ecclesiology (they might try reading Lumen gentium) and their claims that a bishop's authority over his diocese is arbitrary and absolute shows an ignorance of Canon Law (perhaps they might consult CIC 1740-1753).

This is why they are not interested in any new policies. They do not trust the Church. They demand that non-Catholic authorities be brought in to advise the Church on changes to be made. Why must they be non-Catholic except for pathological suspicion? They claim that they cannot trust that any useful changes that have been made since 2002 because it is the same bishops who caused the problem who have implemented the changes to fix it. The John Jay study shows that the problems occured before most current bishops were installed, but even so, to paint all bishops as guilty for the sins of a few reflects pathological suspicion. Thus, they already knows the answer and so they demand:

Cardinal George, after years and years of scandal, we have sadly become convinced it's not the church's procedures that are flawed, it's the church's leadership that is flawed. (And it will remain flawed until lay people insist on real change, not cosmetic, paper "reforms.")

So this is what SNAP is about. They are doing the bidding of dissenters using Saul Alinsky types of tactics because they have an issue in which the press revels. I understand that abuse manifests an inability to trust and if SNAP's leadership is comprised primarily of abused victims themselves, it is understandable (though not justifiable) why they have adopted a Protestant ecclesiology. Their alliance with Voice of the (un)Faithful does not help any either. Reforming the Church into a democracy is not possible, nor would it help any way. By and large, that is what we had in the dioceses that experienced the most serious problems anyway. In addition, the government school systems in the U.S. have a much greater problem with child abuse than the Churdh ever has, but this is the type of structure that SNAP mistakenly thinks will help.

Tragic cases like that of Fr. MacCormack unfortunately will continue to occur. However, if as Cardinal George is doing, we learn what went wrong, fix them and share them with other dioceses we can make these cases less and less common. However, SNAP thinks differently and this is what distrust risen to the level of pathology does to logic. With the case of Fr. MacCormack, SNAP trotted out names of 6 other priests, in cases that happened well before Cardinal George was installed, and argues in non-sequitur fashion that since the new policies did not prevent abuse decades ago then the only solution is that Church must be governed by the laity. A lay governed Church is in fact their ultimate goal.

If SNAP is really interested in helping to make children safer then they will first come to understand what the Church is, that Her hierarchy is divinely instituted and so it cannot be changed. Then instead of working like social activists who use public pressure to attempt to force changes in Church structure that just will not happen, they will start to work from within the Church, in a cooperative manner, especially with faithful and caring Shepherds like Cardinal George. They must also do something about their inability to trust. Severing their relationship with dissenting groups like Voice of the (un)Faithful is a necessary first step. They should also bring people into SNAP leadership positions who are also committed to helping those who have suffered from abuse but who do not suffer from the same issues of an inability to trust Catholics and the Church.

However, I do not expect to see this. I fear that if they will attack a gentle and faithful Shepherd like Cardinal George based upon little more than suspicion, then there is no bishop with whom they will work cooperatively...unless he shares their same ecclesial ideology.