Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Some have asked me where I stand in the great Shea-Dreher What's the Pope Up To debate.

Didn't we do this before? A couple of times?

Briefly, because I have columns to write and a daughter to haul to the orthodontist.

First, I don't know. I could theorize all day, but the fact is, I don't know what the Pope is up to,and neither does anyone else.

But this brings another thought to mind. Isn't it too bad that we can't just ask him? I don't mean me or you, but isn't it too bad, in this age of communication, accessibility and ..uh...transparency, that an intrepid reporter or wily young seminarian from the North American College can't find access to the Holy Father and...just...ask? To me, that is a question that holds as much importance as the former. Why must the highest levels of Church governance still be swathed in such medieval, monarchist mystery? This is a pressing question that is driving some people quietly mad and others not so quietly to the edges of faith. We're not looking for Question Time here, nor an American-style press conference. But, if you think about this rationally, it sort of boggles the mind that we have to sit around and tease apart the mystery of this basic aspect of the governance of our Church in this way in this day and age.

And although I don't know what the Pope is up to, I don't find any of the explanations inconceivable. It could be that Mark's right - that he's letting the sinners suffer.

But other people could be right, too. The Pope could be being told that everything's being taken care of, and he trusts that information. It could be that the extent of the problem is being kept from him. It could be that other matters have a priority to him in these last days of his papacy. Who knows?

The next natural question then, is what should he do? Another fun, but irrelevant question, because we're not the Pope. Yes, it impacts our sense of what Church is all about, and specifically the immediate and long-term goals of church governance, and that's good to discuss. But these are not decisions we're making.

What are those decisions? It depends on where you live. Some of us have to decide whether or not to support our predator-protecting diocese financially. I don't think I live in a diocese like that, but if I did, there's no doubt I would direct my contributions elsewhere. We have to decide how to live in our parishes, most of which are desperately short of priests and in great need of laity to step up and embrace the works of mercy. If I lived in a parish staffed by a predator priest, I'd have to make a decision about that - and Nap-followers know what that would be. We have to make decisions about how we are going to approach the truth of the situation. Are we going to turn from the endless stories of protection of abusers, or are we going to read them, understand them, and let them inform our decisions about how to deal with our priests and bishops who might be implicated?

I'm not advocating quietism on this issue. Far from it - but I do wonder if this discussion about what the Pope has/should/will do hasn't run its course.

I mean, our bishops are meeting in a couple of weeks. What's on their agenda? Do we need to be making our feelings known about those matters with the hope, however faint, of bringing more light into the Church in our country?

Quick thoughts, gotta go.

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