First shoot the messenger
There is a familiar pattern in these cases: the Cardinal initially claimed innocence and attacked their credibility, and many leapt to his defense; others attacked their motives, saying why raise their concerns now.
A couple of British blogs have now raised some pertinent questions around the whole affair, in particular, the timing, suggesting that the change in papal nuncio's there was likely a key factor.
It is a suggestion that applies more widely to other countries such as our own.
First, Mundabor raised the issue of just how many people knew of O'Brien's proclivities:
"It is obvious that the Cardinal did his best to defend Church teaching regardless of his perverted inclinations; but it is just as clear not only he did not manage to overcome his affliction, but yielded to it in some way – the extent will, no doubt, become clear in time – during a rather long period.
How can it then be, wonders yours truly, that the tendencies of the priest, then Bishop, then Cardinal were not noticed by a number of people? ...
Let us think this further: is it probable no one had noticed? No.
Is it possible no one ever sent notes and warnings to his superiors? Extremely unlikely.
Is it possible that such warnings were sent and given, and were ignored by the competent authorities without much thinking, or because of the wrong thinking? You can draw your own conclusions, but I think it probable almost to the point of certainty."
Complaining about your bishop gets you...
Fr Ray Blake takes the discussion a step further, pointing to some of the realities that have prevailed in the UK and elsewhere. He comments:
"...There is no mechanism for reporting suspicions to superiors, and certainly not if ones suspicion is about a bishop. Until the appointment of Archbishop Memini there was always the feeling that his predecessors were both unlikely to forward ones concerns to Rome and were more than likely to copy any letter to the Bishop concerned. The Church is an institution based on law, without concrete evidence very few would make a complaint based on rumour, opinion, or circumstantial evidence, and without concrete evidence no superior can legally act against an inferior.
...If complaints were made it is very likely complaints to previous Nuncii were ignored. Before Mennini the Nuncio was a remote figure, who was hardly spoken to by ordinary clergy, and really wasn't trusted by most priests..."
Could similar things have happened here? Oh dear yes.
Acting in the interests of the Church?
Amazingly, one poster over at Fr Blake's blog still defends the Cardinal (why couldn't a few lapses just be forgiven!) and argues for keep stum where one has knowledge of, or good reason to suspect something is wrong in such cases.
He or she argues that justice belongs to God alone, and argues that the consequences of disclosure for others outweighs the benefits.
Yep, let's continue to let seminarians be propositioned, because it might damage the Church's reputation. Don't worry about the effects on our potential priests!
Yep, let's let those with a vested interest in promoting the cover up vote in the Conclave.
Justice is a virtue we all have a duty to uphold. It is true that if justice is not rendered in this life, God will make it come right in the next. That doesn't mean we don't have a duty to act now - we have judges, courts and many other mechanisms whose job it is to weigh up all the costs and benefits, that isn't our job.
Yes there are prudential judgments to be made. We do need to consider whether those we complain to are likely to act or rather to turn on us; we need to weigh up the effect of disclosure on someone's reputation compared to the long-term good of keeping the Church holy.
But we really need to get past the kind of thinking that gave us the abuse crisis.