This morning Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Philadelphia Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali. This news comes only five months after a grand jury condemned Cardinal Rigali, Monsignor Lynn, and other top officials in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for not only failing to address the child sex abuse crisis but for their roles in concealing predator priests.
While people have called for Rigali’s resignation since the issuance of the grand jury report, his departure is nevertheless abrupt and sooner than expected. Cardinal Rigali’s resignation gives us a glimpse into the internal turmoil the Archdiocese continues to face and highlights the intense pressure on the Archdiocese to change its course.
Acknowledgement of Failure to Protect Children is Necessary
I am cautious to admit that Rigali’s resignation is anything more than a symbolic move to give appearances that the Archdiocese is concerned and is willing to change. Rigali’s resignation means nothing unless it is accompanied by a public acknowledgement that this resignation is an admission of a failure in protecting children. Without this, his resignation is simply business as usual.
Church officials in Philadelphia and across the country have long clung to three principles: denial, minimization, and blame when discussing or addressing “the crisis.” When they should be protecting children, church leaders perpetuate a pattern of ignoring the wounded, diminishing survivors of sexual abuse, and discounting warnings of pedophile priests. Instead of adhering to their policies as usual, Rigali and his replacement must acknowledge the institutional failures and demonstrate their desire to protect kids.
Riagli’s Replacement: Conservative Denver Archbishop Chaput
The Pope will replace Rigali with Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. As the leader of the Archdiocese of Denver, Chaput has a history of public statements that convey concern and compassion but his actions do not match his sentiment. Rather, his actions consistently hold survivors back as he opposes a repeal of the statute of limitations and engages in “scorched earth” legal tactics that further harm the wounded. Rigali and Chaput unfortunately continue to demonstrate iron-fisted actions communicated with a velvet glove approach which perpetuates, instead of addresses, the problem.