We have now — at the Vatican’s clergy sexual abuse meeting — reached a stage in the proceedings that will be familiar to reporters who frequent ecclesiastical meetings of this kind.
After a few headline-friendly opening remarks, there will usually be a long parade of semi-academic speakers who offer complex, nuanced and ultimately unquotable remarks about the topic of the day. As a rule, these papers are written in deep-church code that can only be understood — maybe — by insiders.
Long ago, I covered a U.S. Catholic bishops meeting that included pronouncements on the moral status of nuclear weapons. During one address, the speaker veered into Latin when stating his thesis. At a press conference, I asked the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin if that passage in Latin had been (in my words) a “preemptive strike on American headline writers.” The cardinal smiled and said one word — “yes.”
Try to quote that in a hard-news story.
At the end of things, reporters can expect a formal statement prepared by the powers that be that organized the event. We can also expect some kind of television-friendly rite of repentance.
At this point, it’s probably easier to focus on what is not being said, rather than what the Vatican’s chosen speakers are carefully saying. Also, we can look back into the history of this crisis, in order to anticipate what will end up happening. We did a little of both during this week’s “Crossroads” podcast (click here to tune that in).
Pope Francis stated that the goal of this event was to take concrete steps to stop the abuse of “children,” the “little ones.” The church has been rocked by a “pedophilia” crisis, he said.
That’s what was said. Journalist Sandro Magister offered this commentary on what was not said:
… The big no-show was the word “homosexuality.” And this in spite of the fact that the great bulk of the abuse tabulated so far has taken place with young or very young males, past the threshold of puberty.
The word “homosexuality” did not appear in the pope’s inaugural discourse, nor in the 21 “points of reflection” that he had distributed in the hall, nor in the introductory talks by Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle, Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, and, in the afternoon, Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez
Scicluna on the contrary, when questioned in this regard at the midday press conference, said that “generalizing on a category of persons is never legitimate,” because homosexuality “is not something that predisposes one to sin,” because if anything what causes this inclination is “concupiscence.”
This is consistent with one viewpoint that’s common in the Catholic establishment: This crisis is about pedophilia. Period.