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A calling to seek truth

| Thursday, August 30, 2018

“I plead with you — never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”

— St. Pope John Paul II

It is a dark time for the Church and its faithful.

This Thursday evening at 7 p.m., Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Newark, N.J., will deliver the Center for Social Concerns’ Annual Rev. Bernie Clark, C.S.C. Lecture on Catholic Social Tradition in the Hesburgh Library auditorium. Yet Cardinal Tobin has been implicated in recent allegations concerning the sex scandals and corruption in the Church.

How should we think about Cardinal Tobin’s visit to Notre Dame in light of the allegations of complicity against him?  Right now, we cannot make judgements about what is true or false. But we can and must make the necessary distinctions about the right and wrong approaches to begin the process of cleansing, atonement and healing within the Church — about what approaches will lead to the decisive action that justice here requires.

Earlier in the week, I looked deeper into the Church’s crisis. I read former Vatican official Archbishop Carlo Viganò’s letter alleging corruption of the highest order, the new reports about the abuses of seminarians and children perpetrated by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and various statements from Cardinal Tobin.

I wish to call attention to the deeply problematic elements of Cardinal Tobin’s statements. His response to the Viganò letter deserves our attention. We must know why he believes the letter has no credibility. The Notre Dame community should demand the opportunity to ask this question to him at the lecture Thursday.

The problem can be seen when we compare the Cardinal’s treatment of the Viganò letter to an excellent statement from Cardinal DiNardo, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Cardinal Tobin states that the letter “cannot be understood as contributing to the healing of survivors of sexual abuse,” and that it is defined solely by “factual errors, innuendo and fearful ideology.”  Cardinal DiNardo, on the other hand, writes, “The recent letter of [Archbishop Viganò] brings particular focus and urgency to this examination. The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusations and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.”

Cardinal Tobin’s approach is to dismiss the letter, while Cardinal DiNardo asserts that the letter is to be taken seriously. The difference between these approaches is that one seems to aim at preserving current institutional order above all else, and the other seeks the truth for its own sake. The sad reality is that the “two” approaches, pursuit of institutional integrity and pursuit of truth, should never be different. Institutional order and truth must be one for the Church. But sometimes, and certainly now, their harmony is fractured.

Their harmony can only be restored through truth. With the truth, we will be sustained and strengthened through Christ, whatever consequences may come.

Faithful parishioners watch. Our nation watches. Our world watches. Our hearts are filled with faith and heavy with suffering. We have been given a valuable opportunity with Cardinal Tobin visiting campus at this crucial time. The opportunity is to find out how and why Cardinal Tobin is confident that the Viganò letter is not credible. This issue is of incredible importance for the first steps on the road — the road of cleansing, atonement, and healing — which now confronts the Church.  

We face this road with deep and resolute faith in, unending love for and rightful fear of the Almighty Lord.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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