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PRESBYTERAL COLLEGIALITY: PRECEDENTS AND HORIZONS Eugene Duffy* Introduction The fall-out from the child sexual abuse scandals involving clergy has opened up a wide range of significant theological questions for the Roman Catholic Church. Among the many issues that have been raised are: the Church’s theology of sexuality, the mandatory celibacy of its clergy, the nature of the indelible character associated with ordination, the structures of governance and accountability, the relationship between Church and State, a culture of patriarchy and secrecy, operative images of God, as well as issues of justice and forgiveness.1 For almost two decades now bishops and church authorities have struggled to respond appropriately to this enormous crisis. Protocols and procedures have been put in place by various conferences of bishops, but these have not been always fully welcomed by either the clergy or a wider public concerned with the issue. Cardinal Walter Kasper has wisely observed that as the Church formulates various pragmatic solutions to pastoral exigencies these “are often like comets, trailing theological implications and consequences in their wake.”2 The handling of the child sexual abuse crisis by bishops worldwide is one of those “pragmatic solutions” that is already trailing several theological and canonical implications in its wake. Many feel that the traditional relationship of trust and confidence that existed between them has been broken down. Some priests feel the need to distance themselves from the bishop or bishops in general because of the incompetent way that the scandal has been handled; and many remain sceptical about the The Jurist 69 (2009) 116–154 116 * Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland. 1 See Marie Keenan, “The Institution and the Individual—Child Sexual Abuse by the Clergy,” The Furrow 57 (2006) 5–6; Bill Cosgrove, “Clerical SexAbuse”, ibid., 195–206; “The Diocesan Clerical System,” Doctrine and Life 8 (2005) 5–19 and 9 (2005) 13–26: Patrick Connolly et al. “Accused but Innocent,” The Furrow 57 (2006) 207–220; Patrick Connolly, “Priest and Bishop—Implications of theAbuse Crisis”, ibid., 131–141; Eugene Duffy, “Of Bishops and Priests”, ibid., 339–347; The Ferns Report (Dublin: Government Publications Office, 2005). 2 Leadership in the Church (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2005) 46–47. ability of the bishops to lead the Church out of the crisis. Trust was undermined when diocesan files were opened to civil authorities and priests began to fear for the confidentiality of their relationship with their bishops . Many felt vulnerable to false allegations, that they would be removed from ministry on the basis of a hint of suspicion and in the process suffer an irreparable loss of reputation. Occasionally bishops have been noted as saying that a priest has become “unemployable,” thus pointing to a new perception of the relationship between bishop and priest as one of employer and employee. When an offending priest is removed from the presbyterium of his diocese, he is almost inevitably cut off from any support system that might offer him, and more importantly potential victims , protection and safety. It must be said that priests were not, nor could they be, setting their needs in competition with those of children, who will always remain among the most vulnerable in any society. Bishops, too, have felt very vulnerable in the midst of this crisis.3 They have had to meet and hear the victims telling their harrowing stories of abuse and suffering; they have had to respond to the demands for immediate action in the light of shocking revelations without always having the level of expertise that the situation demanded; they have had to be mindful of the other pastoral needs of their dioceses and try to ensure that the resources were maintained for those as well as meeting the just demands for compensation to victims of clerical abuse; they have had to balance the demands for transparency in administration with those of confidentiality for all parties involved; they have had to remain within the constraints of civil and ecclesiastical law, especially if these were not always in accord. A common criticism, however, has been that bishops have probably spent far more time talking to one another about this crisis than they have with their priests; and...


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