Context

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Sunday, March 30, 2014


US President Barrack Obama’s huge, bulletproof presidential limousine–nicknamed the “Beast”--was too big to squeak thru Vatican gates, a correspondent reported. So, Obama drove into the Vatican in a modest
black four-wheel drive.

Such details spark human interest. So does historical context. Obama, in 2009, called on Pope Benedict XVI, now retired.

The last time a pontiff quit was in 1415 when Pope Gregory stood down to avoid schism.

Media’s relentless deadlines can also blur context. The Obama call shoved into back burners an “upending” decision that Francis took a week earlier.

He set up a new commission to tackle simmering issues of clerical sexual abuse and greater role for women in the church.

“The group includes an equal number of women and men, more lay people than clergy-plus an Irish activist Marie Collins who was abused as a 13-year-old by a hospital chaplain, New York Times noted.

Yet, again “Francis had deliberately shaken up the usual way of doing things at the Vatican.”

The pope left the door ajar for future Asian and African members where the church “is growing most rapidly and the issue of child sexual abuse is still taboo.”

Aside from Collins, these include: (1) Hanna Suchocka, who served as Poland’s Prime Minister between 1992 and 1993, and who served five different Polish governments as the country’s ambassador to the Vatican;
(2) Catherine Bonnet, a well-regard child psychologist from France who has written extensively on the trauma inflicted on children by sexual
abuse and exploitation; and (3) Baroness Sheila Hollins, president of the British Medical Association and a widely consulted expert on child development issues.

“Clearly, these women aren’t window-dressing,” the Boston Globe adds. They’re accomplished experts, with deep experience of getting things done both in secular circles and in the church. “Francis can’t be blind to the fact that this also amounts to a down payment on his pledge to boost women’s roles.”

Also named was cardinal Sean O'Malley, one of eight Francis's key advisers and the archbishop of Boston, where the US scandal erupted in 2002.

The other is Humberto Miguel Yáñez, who heads the moral theology faculty at Rome’s Jesuit-run Gregorian University.

Add to that and one of Francis’s personal secretaries: Msgr. Alfred Xuereb of Malta.

“These choices signal Francis personal interest in getting the commission work.”

Forming a commission is not, in itself, reform. Can this group help the pope hold to account some bishops and other leaders still in denial?

“This is perhaps the first development of any real significance in this papacy when it comes to this issue,” writes Colm O’Gorman, who directs
the Irish advocacy group One in Four. “In the past, we’ve seen such commissions peter out.

“A quiet revolution is afoot in the Vatican,” reports AFP.

Francis’s new appointments are prying loose, slowly but surely, the Curia from the centuriesold grip of Italian apparatchiks.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI had little appetite for turf wars in Church's corridors of power. But the first Latin American pontiff has
had no such qualms in appointing fresh faces from diverse countries.

"The pope is putting himself on a collision course with the Curia's traditional power,"said Italy's leading daily Corriere della Sera.

“He is up against ferocious ambition, corruption and, sometimes, secret wantonness." But many also hope Francis will continue ignoring the gnashing of teeth from the ousted old guard.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 30, 2014.

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