US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The Pope and the Queen

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

As the world keeps wondering why Pope Benedict will not directly address the European sex abuse crisis, I find myself thinking back to the 1997 death of Diana, Princess of Wales and specifically to the response of Queen Elizabeth to it. It took days and a huge public outcry to get the queen to respond in some public way, but like any monarch, Her Majesty was just following protocol.

I think the same can be true of the pope, who is also more or less a monarch, and one who does not do public relations well. I've no doubt he is mystified as to why he should personally address a problem that is not of his making and is located in churches throughout the world. In B16's mind, those bishops should be dealing with their own messes.

Unfortunately that approach just not jive with the usual way the papacy styles itself as head of the universal church. Like it or not, people see the pope as the head of a large multinational corporation, not the spiritual leader of thousands of independent units (dioceses) that more or less function on their own.

What's really too bad is that the pope has a great deal to gain from speaking publicly about this matter and directly addresssing the situation of Peter Hullerman, a German priest transferred into to the Munich diocese when B16 was archbishop there. What did he know and when? What did he do and why?

I think the pope would be surprised if he took the advice of Catholic publications (Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today has a summary of their advice), including U.S. Catholic magazine, to deal with the media in the most honest, straightforward way possible, rather than as an adversary--a point I made this morning on the Chicago Public Radio program Eight Forty-Eight. It may be that some in the media are out to get the church, but I think the pope might find much sympathy if he would listen to those of us, though critical of his handling of this situation, do not want to see him fail. Jesus in John's gospel said the truth will make us free, and I think that may be doubly true here.