The Bernardin reforms have worked quite well for the last decade and a half and have been imitated in many other dioceses. The problem is not with the reforms but with the clerical culture that permeates the archdiocese’s Pastoral Center and its affiliates. The Defenbaugh and Childers reports reveal almost unimaginable blindness in such agencies as the seminary system, the Office of Catholic Schools, the Office of Vicars for Priests and the monitoring systems that supervise men who have been removed from active ministry but not yet excluded from the clerical status.
One wonders in what world the people responsible for the behavior described in the reports live. Are they deaf, dumb and blind? Do they not know what harm abusing priests have done to the church? Haven’t they read the letters and manuals from the cardinal? Do they not know about the circling vultures from the victims’ groups and the torts bar? Do they not comprehend that enemies would bankrupt and destroy the church because people like them have caved in to the clerical culture norm of always protecting the priest?
Evidence that clerical culture is alive and well can be found in two resolutions submitted by groups of priests, both concerned about the rights and privacy of priests and neither concerned about foul-ups in the Pastoral Center bureaucracy. Priests (many of them anyway) are like the Bourbon kings — they never learn anything and they never forget anything.
In adopting the recommendations of the two reports, the cardinal has clearly committed himself to the needed reforms. However, he will have to push many of his staff, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. Presumably he has learned by now that no executive can take for granted that his subordinates have learned the folly of self-defeating behavior. The struggle against the narrow self-pity, the passive-aggressive narcissism and the blind folly of clerical culture can be won only by vigilance and persistence and men around you who understand, as the French writer put it, "Clericalism, THAT is the enemy!"