Commentary

Emma Sowl | Church, State and Scandal

According to L.A. County 2010 statistics, there are more than twice as many Catholics in the Santa Clarita Valley as there are members of all other faiths combined. The only SCV group larger than Catholics are those who claim no religion.

But residents from any of these groups who have contact with minors in worship, education, athletics, or community programs might do well to study the newest Catholic scandal because this one is different.

First, it is worldwide and covers the better part of a century. In America, it involves (so far) 10 different law enforcement agencies, plus the Department of Justice is considering using the anti-racketeering law RICO against the Catholic Church.

Perhaps this law enforcement news is something to celebrate. Clearly, a different plan is needed to stop the cycle of scandals. Uncovering them is a start, which at least gives some mercy and justice to the victims. Stopping them would be pure heaven, but while the Catholic Church (at least in our diocese) has done much in the area of prevention, there is still much to be done concerning the scandals of cover-ups. Having law enforcement seize records would be a swifter path to justice and even better prevention than what the church has achieved in the last two decades.

But residents who get itchy at the thought of government agencies overseeing people’s multiple-decades-old private files in the name of the greater good, and residents with a sense of history who know that the well-intentioned inch usually leads to the tyrannical mile, might prefer a wiser way to distribute truth, justice, and mercy — a way that is actually productive but still unlikely to lead to the Salem witch trials.

Those who pray, after praying for the victims, might consider praying that the Catholic Church immediately finds that productive solution and leads by example. Those who participate in organizations dedicated to the vulnerable would be wise to learn from both the heroic and the despicable actions that will be unfolding from the leaders of the church between now and February when a synod on this subject is scheduled.

People who study how to be heroic and avoid being despicable are more likely to keep the government (which is also full of both heroic and despicable people) out of their lives.

That leads to the second reason why this church scandal is different. It is different because one member of the clergy, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, took an action that is either wildly heroic or savagely despicable. The sooner we know which it is, the sooner all involved can heal.

The action Vigano took was to release an 11-page testimony naming names, dates and the locations of supporting documents. There are many accusations, but the biggest is that Pope Francis knowingly covered up for and, in fact, elevated the now-disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick at least since June 23, 2013. That’s the date Vigano personally told the pope there was “a dossier this thick” about McCarrick, according to the 11-page testimony.

One would think this would be the talk of the Catholic town. Pope Francis has been accused of something vile by a prominent archbishop who has been in hiding since shortly before his testimony was published.

But an internet search of the last four bulletins from our SCV parishes reveals not one mention of Vigano. Not one “how despicable!” Not one “how heroic!” Not one “how important!” even though it would be difficult to find a more dramatic church event in the lifetime of any SCV Catholic.

Fortunately, this is the Information Age. Catholic laity and other interested citizens do not have to wait for local clergy to speak. They can Google “pdf vigano testimony” and read his actual words. They can search and find out who he is. They can read/watch commentary from the usual suspects on all sides (with some surprising crossovers).

And they can follow the ongoing statements and actions (or lack thereof) of both Pope Francis and Archbishop Vigano since the testimony was published.

Those who care about the role of government in their lives have a dramatic and ongoing case study to learn from. Those who believe that truth is not silent but is “the word” can attempt to imitate Mary and John, who kept their eyes on truth to the end, despite the pain it caused them.

Emma Sowl is an SCV Catholic. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among several local Republicans.

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