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JOHN PAUL II BIOGRAPHER SAYS “CULTURE OF DISSENT” MAJOR FACTOR IN SEX ABUSE CRISIS

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LIFESITE NEWS, September 5, 2002 (LSN.ca) - On August 29, Zenit news published an interview with George Weigel, Catholic theologian and author of the best-selling papal biography “Witness to Hope”. Weigel is also a senior fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center and was one of the main speakers for the World Youth Alliance at the recent World Youth Days in Toronto.  In response to questions on the US clergy sex abuse crisis Weigel implicates “the culture of dissent” that took root in the Church in the United States over the past three and a half decades.  He states, “Is it surprising that some men who learned to live lives of intellectual deception and deceit in the seminary—men who were told that they could take a pass on authoritative teaching—eventually led lives of behavioral deceit, becoming sexually abusive? It shouldn’t have been surprising, given our sex-saturated culture.” Weigel also asks “Is it a surprise that bishops who were unwilling to fix what was manifestly broken in seminaries and Catholic universities in the 1970s and 1980s—in part, because they were unwilling to confront the culture of dissent, often for fear of fracturing the unity of a local Church—also failed to come to grips with the scandal of clergy sexual abuse? It shouldn’t have been. ”  Weigel emphasizes that the bottom line is that there is a “crisis of discipleship” and that “Sexually abusive priests and timid or malfeasant bishops are, first and foremost, inadequately converted Christian disciples.” On bishops again, he states “Bishops who think of themselves primarily as managers—or worse, bishops who think of themselves as discussion-group moderators whose primary responsibility is to keep everyone “in play”—are going to be unlikely to act like apostles when the crunch comes.”  The distinguished author questions the role that the internal culture of the U.S. bishops’ conference has played in making it difficult for bishops to act as bishops. In Canada also, the Canadian Bishops’ Conference has usurped a fair amount of the authority and teaching role that bishops should be exercising in their local dioceses and has often undermined the central teaching authority of the Vatican and the Pope.  Ultimately, Weigel states, “the crisis is a call to everyone in the Church to live lives of more radical discipleship” and that “the primary answer to a crisis of infidelity is fidelity. Period.” He concludes that the solution is for “everyone in the Church… to live the call to holiness more radically.”  In a related story, Catholic World News today reported on the Pope’s strong criticism to a group of Brazilian bishops about the state of their seminaries. The Pope said that he was moved to “sorrow and concern” by the realization that some Brazilian seminaries are “living in dissent from the Church.” He insisted they should give careful attention to their methods of recruiting and selecting seminarians. “No bishop can excuse himself from this responsibility, for which he must give an account before God,” he stressed.  See the complete Zenit article at   http://www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=24519

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