During and after the grim martial law period in the early 1980s, many freedom-minded Poles would greet each other on Jan. 1 with a sardonic wish:
“May the new year be better than you know it’s going to be!”
As 2020 opens, that salutation might well be adopted by Catholics concerned about the future of the Church, for more hard news is coming. So let’s get some of that out of the way, preemptively, before considering some resolutions that might help us all deal with the year ahead in faith, hope, and charity.
Financial scandals in the Vatican will intensify. It’s been clear for some months now that the dam of secrecy, masking irresponsibility (and worse), is cracking. So expect more disturbing revelations about corrupt self-dealing, misuse of charitable funds, stupid investments, and general incompetence behind the Leonine Wall.
Vatican diplomacy will continue to disappoint. And the disappointed will include all who care about the human rights the Church proclaims in its social doctrine. Over the past six years, Holy See diplomacy has failed in Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Burma, Cuba, China, and Venezuela. 2020 seems unlikely to see a more robust Vatican defense of human rights. But it will likely witness more extreme Vatican positions on climate change and migrants; that absolutism will help shrink the space for devising a reasonable approach to these issues, as it’s done in the past.
A report on the career of Theodore McCarrick will likely be issued by the Holy See. The report will please no one. Amidst the cacophony that will follow its release, it will be important to remember three salient truths about this tawdry business: Psychopaths fool people, even wise and holy people; McCarrick was a psychopath; and McCarrick fooled lots of people for decades, including his many former friends on the port side of Catholicism in the U.S. and throughout the world.
Aggressive and politically motivated state attorneys general will continue to issue reports on historic sexual abuse cases. The response from cowed Church leaders will be tepid, at best. And what will get lost again — as it got lost after the now-paradigmatic Pennsylvania attorney general’s report — are two realities ignored by too many media outlets, too many institutions with responsibility for the safety of the young, and too many Catholics: that the Catholic Church today is arguably the safest environment for young people in the country; and that, from bitter experience, the Catholic Church has learned some things about creating safe environments from which the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, public schools, and public school teachers’ unions could all learn.
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