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Cardinal Tagle On Sex Abuse

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbqB3dKZgHM]

The first speaker at this weekend’s big global Vatican conference on sex abuse is Cardinal Luis Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila. The official schedule reads:

1st PRESENTATION by Sig. Card. Luis Antonio Tagle:

Smell of the sheep. Knowing their pain and healing their wounds is at the heart of the shepherd’s task

Cardinal Tagle is relatively young (61), and though appointed by Benedict XVI, has been widely discussed as a progressive in the Francis mold. In the 2016 BBC interview above, he is asked at around the 17:00 mark about the abuse scandal. He tells the interviewer that some people in the Philippines would prefer to let the Church handle abuse cases internally through “the canonical process.”

The interviewer pushes back on this. At the 18:35 part, Cardinal Tagle talks of the role of shame in Asian culture. He has spoken before (see here) about how Asian people tend to keep abuse hidden because they place a cultural premium on avoiding shame. The gist of his commentary is that if abuse victims want to go to the police, they’re free to do that, but we’re not going to encourage that.

I hope you’ll watch at least the part of the interview I highlight here, and let me know what you think. My first instinct is to find it offensive that after everything the Catholic Church has discovered about abuse since 2002, a cardinal would defend a policy of keeping it all within the institution, and not letting police know. On the other hand, I don’t doubt that he’s telling the truth about the culture of shame. It has been only relatively recently that in North America and Europe, sexual abuse victims have felt able to come forward without a sense of shame. We know from their testimonies that the culture within the Church, and in some cases within their families, made them feel that they were responsible for their own abuse.

My point is that the Manila cardinal is talking about a real thing, something that makes it difficult for the global church to come up with a single set of standards. But acknowledging the cultural challenges to reform should not in any way deter reformers from pushing forward. One can acknowledge the truth that many Filipinos (and people from other countries) would prefer that these cases be handled quietly, within the Church, while at the same time acknowledging that the Church has proven itself incapable of doing this. 

The idea that the sexual abuse of minors could ever be satisfactorily handled through “the canonical process” is something that must be firmly rejected, it seems to me. But unless he has changed his mind since this 2016 interview, this is something Cardinal Tagle — who has been discussed as a future pope — believes in. I smell something here, and it’s not the sheep.

UPDATE: A reader forwarded me this blog post by Father Mark White, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, who was ordained by then-cardinal McCarrick. Father White is not serene; emphases below are his:

Considering the fact that many bishops and three popes have known for decades that McCarrick broke the Sixth Commandment with adults who were not really free to resist him, why didn’t anyone try and convict him of this crime long ago?

These immediate questions, and many more like them, will receive no answer anytime soon. Because: these days dangerous, dishonest mafiosi run the one, true Church of Jesus Christ. McCarrick’s sentence does not mean a new beginning. Quite the contrary. The mafiosi have simply passed private judgment on one of their own, because it suited their craven purposes at this particular moment.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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