By Martin Bürger
The last day of the Vatican's sex abuse summit saw Cdl. Reinhard Marx, one of the most powerful prelates in Europe, admitting serious administrative corruption in the German Church. A Nigerian sister and a Mexican journalist also delivered stinging rebukes to the bishops.
During his presentation, titled "Transparency as a Community of Believers," Marx conceded that files "that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed." In follow-up comments, he clarified that it was the German Church responsible for this criminal conduct.
Sometimes such files hadn't even been created in the first place, as they ought to have been. Marx said that "victims were regulated and silence imposed on them," while the perpetrators were not sufficiently punished. And the procedures in place for the prosecution of sexual abuse of minors "were deliberately not complied with, but instead canceled or overridden."
"The rights of victims were effectively trampled underfoot, and left to the whims of individuals," he said.
"It is not transparency which damages the Church but rather the acts of abuse committed, the lack of transparency or the ensuing cover-up," he added.
The archbishop of Munich and Freising suggested an end to pontifical secrecy in cases of abuse, and discussed the need for administrative transparency, not only in the area of sex abuse but also in other areas, including finances.
Prelates like Cdls. Walter Brandmüller and Raymond Burke recently have called for transparency of different kind — namely to end the conspiracy of silence regarding "the plague of the homosexual agenda" within the Church. Marx didn't engage in a discussion of that issue.
After quoting pertinent passages from Vatican II's Lumen Gentium, Marx went on to say that the sexual abuse of minors "is in no small measure due to the abuse of power in the area of administration. In this regard, administration has not contributed to fulfilling the mission of the Church, but on the contrary, has obscured, discredited and made it impossible."
Critics would argue, however, that the cover-up is owing to an abuse of administrative power, whereas the abuse is from a lack of temperance, often coupled with homosexuality in the clergy.
Just before Marx took to the podium, Sr. Veronica Openibo, a Nigerian religious and leader of The Society of the Holy Child Jesus, excoriated the bishops for failing in their duties toward minors.
Her presentation, titled "Openness to the World as a Consequence of the Ecclesial Mission," opened with the statement, "The whole of Christ's mission was to reveal who God is and who we can become. This implies a total acceptance of all that is human and all that the power of God’s grace does to transform us into being witnesses of the divine."
She went on to slam the "mediocrity" and "hypocrisy" of Church leaders for allowing the abuse crisis to get to this point.
"How could the clerical Church have kept silent, covering these atrocities?" Openibo asked. "We must acknowledge that our mediocrity, hypocrisy and complacency have brought us to this disgraceful and scandalous place we find ourselves as a Church."
While praising the hierarchical structure of the Church as a system that, with its clear mechanisms, "should be a blessing for us to reach the whole world," Sr. Veronica lamented that this hasn't happened enough. She added, without mentioning homosexuality, "Why have other issues around sexuality not been addressed sufficiently, e.g., misuse of power, money, clericalism, gender discrimination, the role of women and the laity in general?"
Using the key word "transparency," Sr. Veronica called on everybody no longer to hide the abuse of minors for "fear of making mistakes" since "our credibility is at stake."
"We journalists know that abuse is not limited to the Catholic Church," she said, "but you must understand that we have to be more rigorous with you than with others, by virtue of your moral role."
"Stealing, for example, is wrong, but if the one stealing is a police officer it seems more serious to us, because it is the opposite of what he or she should do, which is to protect the community from thieves," she explained.
I think you should be aware that the more you cover up, the more you play the ostrich, fail to inform the mass media and thus, the faithful and public opinion, the greater the scandal will be. If someone has a tumor, it is not cured by hiding it from one’s family or friends; silence will not make it heal; in the end it will be the most highly recommended treatments that will prevent metastasis and lead to healing.
"I would like you to leave this hall, with the conviction that we journalists are neither those who abuse nor those who cover up," Alazraki said. "Our mission is to assert and defend a right, which is a right to information based on truth in order to obtain justice."
She then closed with a warning:
If you are against those who commit or cover up abuse, then we are on the same side. We can be allies, not enemies. We will help you to find the rotten apples and to overcome resistance in order to separate them from the healthy ones. But if you do not decide in a radical way to be on the side of the children, mothers, families, civil society, you are right to be afraid of us, because we journalists, who seek the common good, will be your worst enemies.