National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Who's Cutting Slack for Whom?

 |  NCR Today

It's been a while since "permissiveness" was blamed for America's social ills. Wall Street thievery and wildcate ventures including Bernie Madoff's helped set aside the notion that the old nemesis could be invoked on liberals with impunity -- and permissiveness talk sort of went away.

Now the pope's letter to the Irish, and the premise behind Rome's investigation of nuns, signal a revival. In one case, Benedict says child abuse was in large measure egged on when the "renewal" called for by Vatican II "was sometimes misinterpreted," a situation made more confusing by "profound social change" in and around it.

Nothing Benedict says indicates he thinks anything is wrong with church laws and discipline. Things just got lax and the church sheriffs were distracted from enforcing those laws. The remedy is to do a better job. There's no need to reform the system itself.

Unmentioned is the permissivness angle. Bishops are told they "failed, at times, greviously, to apply the long established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse." But so far the bishops face no sanctions for this permissive behavior.

His sorrow for the victims and their families is poignant. Perhaps the families will accept this compassionate apology as the end of it.

rectangular-logo.jpgVisit our new website, Global Sisters Report!

But the assumption that the church's existing laws just needed to be applied more assiduously ignores the discussion of systemic reform and resorts to the "few bad apples" approach. And aside from a little scolding, the pope's gives a pass to those in charge while the sordid record of decades of child abuse.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Rode and other church officials let it be known that the investigation of American nuns would be pursued because too many nuns had abused the directives they'd received from the Council. They were,in effect, being punished before examination, without predisposition. Not even the harshest critics of progressive nuns accuse them with abuses anything like criminal charges such as those leveled against Irish clerics. Most nuns, by contrast, stand by the decisions they made in renewal as a fulfillment of the Council's intentions. At most there have been honest differences of perspective.

A double standard on permissiveness? Seems so.

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

September 12-25, 2014

09-12-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.