The cardinal president of the “C6” Council of Cardinal Advisers, Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, recently gave an exclusive interview to the Spanish-language Catholic news portal Religión Digital. Published March 4th, the conversation touched on major issues from the crisis of clerical sexual abuse and coverup in the Church, to the reform of the Roman Curia.
Regarding the recent news of the conviction on sex abuse charges, in Australia, of Cardinal George Pell, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said, “It is very painful, it is very sad what happened.” Cardinal Pell was also a member of the C6 until October of last year. Late last month, it was officially announced he had been found guilty of abusing two altar servers in Melbourne in the mid-90s and is awaiting sentencing. Pell is appealing the verdict against him, about which voices from across the spectrum of opinion have expressed doubt and misgiving.
Rodriguez Maradiaga said, “The Holy Father did not accept [Pell’s] resignation because he supposed it would make it look like he thought those who accused him were right. (El Santo Padre no le aceptaba la renuncia porque suponía darle la razón a los que lo acusaban.)” Nevertheless, Cardinal Pell’s term as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy expired on February 24th, and was not renewed.
“[Cardinal Pell] did a very good job,” Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said. “We must remember that the first reform the Pope undertook was that of the economy, and it was not easy,” he went on to say. “Currently, the Vatican has entered the EU rules, in such a way that there is transparency: we are in compliance with EU regulations.”
Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said there is much left to do in the way of financial reform. He noted especially the expense of the Holy See’s diplomatic commitments, and cited the Vatican Museums as the principal source of funding for operations.
“There is a lot to do,” he said. “You must consider that the Vatican is a nation-state — and a state that has a very large budget.” His Eminence went on to say, “Where does that money come from? Well, thank God there are the Vatican Museums. The budget can be sustained, thanks to the Vatican Museums’ revenues.”
Discussing the recent “anti-pederasty summit” in Rome — as RD described it — the interviewer asked: “Victims continue to demand more concrete steps. What can be offered to them, what can they be told?” Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga responded:
What the victims, what we all should know, is that it is not a problem that comes from yesterday, but from 40 or 50 years ago, and that this path is irreversible. I would ask the victims to try to reconcile and live in peace, knowing that the Pope is doing what he has to do, and we will all try to ensure that these abuses are never repeated.
Survivor and victim-advocate groups are unlikely to be satisfied with any reconciliation, and unable to achieve any real measure of peace, absent a reckoning. “We clearly think something can be done,” said survivor Marek Lisinski to the New York Times on the sidelines of the February meeting, ahead of which he met the Pope and delivered a report on the state of the crisis in his native Poland, “and we are waiting for specific actions.” Mr. Lisinski’s abuser is a priest who reportedly remains in ministry.
Rodriguez Maradiaga’s own auxiliary in his home Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle, was forced to resign his post just last year in the wake of accusations he serially abused seminarians. Cases of abuse and episcopal coverup rather more recent than two decades or a half-century ago continue to emerge around the world.
“[I]f [bishops] don’t have cases now,” Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, who heads the Centre for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, told the New York Times, “[it is] because people haven’t started to speak about it.”
Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga’s interviewer then asked about the role of the pontifical secret, noting that several cardinals talked about ending the practice of trying cases under it. “To speak today of pontifical secret is almost like a paradox,” Rodriguez Maradiaga said, adding:
The sacramental secret will always be kept — it would be impossible to end it — but certain things that were previously recommended to be handled stealthily, now, with the new rules, must be taken to court. Victims of abuse have to know that any complaint will be brought to court.
That seems to be fairly in line with the remarks other senior Churchmen made during the four-day meeting. “The reporting of an offense [to law enforcement] should not be impeded by the official secret or confidentiality rules,” said Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, one of the meeting’s principal organizers. “Secrecy must go out the window,” said another participant, Archbishop and Primate of All Ireland, Eamon Martin of Armagh, told Crux in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the meeting. “Secrecy,” Martin said, “has been one of the root causes of the problem we are in today.”
Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga also spoke of the reform of the Roman Curia, which the “C6” Council of Cardinal Advisers he leads has overseen.
“Do not expect extraordinary things,” Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said. “There were many dicasteries that have been unified, but above all, it is the spirit of the [Apostolic] Constitution [Praedicate evangelium].”
If people formerly thought of the general structure of power in the Church as a pyramid, with the Pope at the top, the Curia in the middle, and the bishops’ conferences on the bottom, Rodriguez Maradiaga said, “At present, it is insisted that the Curia is not an agency of power, but of service, which also serves the episcopal conferences, and there will be a much greater role for the national episcopates.”
The reform of the Roman Curia is one thing. Reform of the Church’s whole power structure is quite another. In any case, when men in power say theirs is not power, but service, those they serve tend to be skeptical.
The next step: sending the draft of the Apostolic Constitution to the bishops’ conferences. “The Constitution is already done,” Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga told RD. “We are in the stage of translation to the different languages, then a consultation will come to the episcopal conferences, and later it will be the promulgation on the part of the Pope.”
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