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PONTIFEX MINIMUS: PRESIDENTIAL REFLECTIONS ON THE CATHOLIC INTELLECTUAL TRADITION

BY DR. MICHAEL W. HIGGINS, PRESIDENT AND VICE-CHANCELLOR OF CORPUS CHRISTI-ST. MARK'S AT UBC

On November 10 the Secretariat of State of the Holy See issued its exhaustive Report on the Holy See’s Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick. Clocking in at a whopping 449 pages with some 1400 footnotes it does not make for light, quick or easy reading  Most will rely on the executive summary or will alight on sections that hold special interest for them.

What matters most is that we have it at all and that it is available to everyone—not a select few—for either  their facile perusal or detailed study. Originating at a time when Pope Francis was under attack by a former nuncio to Washington who accused him of failing to act on the sexual scandals associated with this prominent American ecclesiastic, it was two-years in the making, draws on dozens of extensive interviews, and publishes material from numerous sources.  It is not shy in identifying the decision-makers who contributed to a scandal of great consequence.

McCarrick, currently in retirement and no longer a priest, has been very publicly shamed, judged by a church tribunal, and severely sanctioned by the pope.  But the odour lingers still.  It won’t clear for a while yet.

The number of  senior churchman who have been found guilty of predatory sexual behaviour—for instance, Hermann Groer of Austria and Keith O’Brien of Scotland are but two who preceded McCarrick in their fall from grace—raises numerous issues that have yet to fully addressed.  Nuala Kenny, a Sister of Charity, bioethicist and physician, has been much occupied in the last two decades trying to “diagnose” not only the symptoms of ecclesial life and clerical character that signify the underlying disease but  of conceiving a plan of healthy structural repair and healing.  We need to listen to her.

The publication, dissemination and debate over the contents of the McCarrick report can provide additional incentive to address this malady that affects the church.

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