Wednesday, September 21, 2005

THE REPORT: The Cardinal's Role

Going through the grand jury report, a consistent thread is the perceived inaction toward and enabling of predator priests by the two previous archbishops of Philadelphia, John Cardinal Krol and Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua.

Cardinal Krol will be dead a decade in March, so there's not really much that I can say that conflicts with the report, aside from the fact that he should've known better. As for Cardinal Bevilacqua, without whose example and encouragement I would've never entered the life of the church and kept the faith, I don't know what to say other than the fact that I'm heartbroken and don't know what to think. And, more than anything else, that's what's had me crying through the day because it hits home hard, very hard.

That said, I can recall a moment from a discussion we once had. As a rule, I have never revealed anything from my conversations and correspondence with Cardinal Bevilacqua through the years. But in the light of what's been out there today, simple justice impels me to disclose this.

Two months before my high school graduation, I went up to the office to visit with His Eminence and let him know that I had chosen to attend Penn -- ever the teacher and scholar, he was extremely eager to hear of my plans and I had asked for some time together so that I could get his mind on them.

I remember it vidivly: We sat by the window, before which the northern skyline of the city sprawled out as the Vine Street Expressway ran underneath. It was an unusually cold mid-April day (I wore a topcoat to the office), and we spent about 40 minutes talking over various things of interest to us both.

But I can recall one point where, when speaking of the difficulties of ecclesial life, he looked intently at me and asked, with palpable concern -- for me -- "Rocco, has anyone ever hurt you? Has a priest ever hurt you?"

After nine years of his presence in my life, I could tell that he wanted to know this as a mentor and friend, and that alone; this was certainly not the institutional lawyer who others have portrayed, he was never that way with me, ever. He also might've wanted to know if a priest's possible actions had anything to do with my decision, after many years of discernment, to not enter the seminary -- a move which, I know, caused him much sadness.

But if the report's implications of concern solely for liability and scandal were true, I would not have been asked this question by the archbishop himself in a personal meeting, with just the two of us in the room. But that's exactly what happened. Say what you will, but I was there and I was the one being asked.

So there'll be a lot of words out there today from various people alleging various things. But, even more than that, I know my own experience before all others, and it counters much of the perceptions alleged in this morning's publication.

Take it for what it's worth, but that experience is worth a lot to me. It may anger or befuddle many, but from what I know, I have no qualms standing firmly and publicly today at Cardinal Bevilacqua's side. As ever, but especially today, he has a high place in my thoughts, my prayers and in my heart.

Again, say what you will -- but I was there.

-30-

5 Comments:

Blogger Jason Cardona said...

Thank you for sharing this.

21/9/05 17:01  
Blogger JT said...

Not to be crass about your story and feelings but isn't the archbishop's question just an acknowedgement of what he knew was occuring and possibly the reaction of a guilty conscious?

I don't deny that bishops can be caring but if the facts implicate and condemn them let justice be done.

21/9/05 17:34  
Blogger Jeff said...

I have a great deal of compassion for Cardinal Bevilacqua. As the Archdiocesan response notes, it became the common practice in the Seventies and Eighties to treat this stuff as sickness, which could then be treated.

But though the Church authorities were led astray by following that seemingly charitable garden path, what is STILL missing from all the apologies and almost everything I read is some mention of Sin. And Repentance. Why should the Catholic Church talk about abuse, crime, disease...etc., etc. Everything except Sin?

21/9/05 17:44  
Blogger michigancatholic said...

A tacit recognition of what goes on, I'd say. He knew how common this was, and he wondered.

It is scandalous when the Church chooses to scold others for silly things, frankly, and then ignore this travesty. That's what really gets a lot of people.

That and the incessant hobnobbing with the political liberals--ie Kerry et al.

21/9/05 23:34  
Blogger patrick said...

If you would read the report, Jeff, you will find that Cardinal Krol bellowed sin, Satan and shame and even "jailed" as a penance one of the perps in a loony hospital for six months. Apparently, shaming them for their sin did not work.

22/9/05 09:15  

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