Jody Bottum of First Things and I have not been on the same page in responding to the Catholic sex abuse scandal, to put it very mildly, so I have to strongly commend to you today his ringing unambiguous call for the apparently corrupt Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, to move off the scene. Excerpt:
Cardinal Sodano has to go. The dean of the College of Cardinals, he has been found too often on the edges of scandal. Never quite charged, never quite blamed, he has had his name in too long a series of depositions and court records and news accounts–an ongoing embarrassment to the Church he serves. The Vatican has been responding in a disorganized way to the frenzy of recent press stories about often thirty-year-old abuse cases. What it should do is put its own house in order, moving out the unhelpful remnants of the bureaucracy that allowed those scandals to fester for so long.The latest revelations concern the financial benefits Cardinal Sodano received from Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the corrupt conman who founded the Legion of Christ and its associated lay group, Regnum Christi. And those revelations follow hard on the 2008 convictions of Raffaello Follieri for wire fraud and money laundering. (Follieri’s company, you’ll remember, was trading in decommissioned church property, and it relied for its crimes on the prestige of having Cardinal Sodano’s nephew as its vice president.) That news, in turn, followed the cardinal’s reported role in thwarting a 1995 investigation into the subsequently proved accusations against the episcopal molester in Vienna, Hans Hermann Groër.
In one sense, of course, it’s very sad. A long career in the Church is not ending well, and it would be kinder to protect the man and let him slip away unnoticed. But Cardinal Sodano himself seems unwilling to let it be so. Speaking of the stories that were on the front page of nearly every newspaper in the world, he told the pope publicly at Easter this year, “The people of God are with you and do not allow themselves to be impressed by the petty gossip of the moment.”
Petty gossip? There’s room for complaint about the way the scandals have been used to advance every agenda under the sun, but when the subject is abused and sodomized children, petty is not the adjective of choice. Even in a season of mismanaged Vatican responses to the frenzy of the press, Sodano’s line was stunningly tone-deaf, and it served mostly to give the media yet another day of headlines. As things stand, if (God forbid) Pope Benedict were to die, the obsequies would be led by Cardinal Sodano–and the newscasts, hour after hour, would feature rehashes of all that is now associated with his name.
But that’s not the real problem. The deeper point is the lack of consequences–visible consequences–for failures and missteps and wrong associations in the Vatican. The real problem is that heads haven’t rolled, penalties haven’t been exacted, for Fr. Maciel’s deceptions.
Read the whole thing, which turns out to be a strong general statement about the necessity for the Vatican bureaucracy to do a thorough house-cleaning. It matters that a journal with the influence and reputation of First Things is now taking this stand. Good on ’em. You will also want to read this extraordinary account of how Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn has publicly accused Cardinal Sodano of blocking an investigation into the activities of the molester Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer.
We talk about narcissism in religious leaders. There is Ted Haggard’s version, and there is Cardinal Sodano’s version. There comes a time when the good of the Church requires one to stand down and to step aside. Sodano’s time has passed. He should go find a monastery to retreat to, and let Pope Benedict get on with the work of restoring the Church.
(Via Ross Douthat, who agrees).