NPR & # 39; s Scott Simon speaks with Sister Simone Campbell about the reaction of the Catholic Church to this latest scandal about sexual abuse. She leads NETWORK, a "progressive voice within the Catholic community."
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Pope Francis is in Ireland this weekend as part of the Meeting of Families, a Vatican-sponsored gathering of Catholics. Today in Dublin, the Pope tackled the crisis of sexual abuse among clergy around the world. In prepared remarks in his speech, the Pope said that the failure of ecclesiastical authorities – bishops, religious superiors, priests, and others – adequately tackles these repelling crimes, rightly led to indignation and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I share those feelings myself.
Nuns also speak out. We are now connected in our studio by Sister Simone Campbell, who was a member of the Ministry of Sisters of Social Service and executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice group. Sister Simone, thank you so much for being with us.
SIMONE CAMPBELL: Great to be with you.
SIMON: I have to ask – how do you feel about the church this week that you have dedicated your life to?
CAMPBELL: Well, I have to say that in recent weeks it was really shocking and horrific, and I sometimes felt like I was almost crying. This week I took a little comfort in the letter from Pope Francis to the world, in which he said – recognizing the extent of the horror that has been there and a commitment to change. And I take my heart in these remarks in Ireland as his very first statements that it was included because there was a concern that he would not include this in his very first statements. So what this says is that the Vatican is beginning to understand in all its departments that this is not just the people who are engaged in spirituality, but the whole church needs to be changed. And I think that's what we begin to see.
SIMON: I notice that you said close to crying but did not leave. What do you hold in the church and what changes do you think are mandated?
CAMPBELL: Well, the point is that the church is not about the institution for me. It is about the gospel and Jesus, and that is much more powerful – 2000 years of history of contemplative life. And we've had all sorts of scandals and all kinds of horrors in the structure, but it's the faith that's deeper than that. But it is the community that makes the difference. And this was the hard part in the letter of Pope Francis that he recognized clericalism and klerikalism as being the righteousness of the ordered clergy, that they were always right, who protected them as opposed to caring for children or for the others that abused by the clergy. And so Pope Francis attacked klerikalism and said that it had to change. I totally agree. It is part of the problem with – as men approached women in the church. It is the lack of access to everyone in power. That's true. But then he finally said: we must all pray and fast. Well, that part made me rather crazy, frankly, and – because I thought that the tone was deaf to the fact that I think our leadership has a special responsibility. But ultimately, for me, it is Jesus and the Gospel. It is the way in which I find the fullness of life in the community together, that we are not individualistic, we are not isolates. I can not do this without you, without the rest. And that's the place where I find people who feed me.
SIMON: Should there be a larger role for women, religious sisters, in the church? Should nuns become bishops and cardinals, for example?
CAMPBELL: (Laughter) Well, I'm actually a bit worried about that. I mean, unless we change the system – if you just made us cardinals or bishops in the same system, we would probably be as arrogant as they are. This is what we have to change – the culture of arrogance.
SIMON: And I'm sorry we only have half a minute left, but if you say you're talking about changing the arrogance culture, you mean renting – not to make clergymen the moral referees that they seem to be at the moment.
CAMPBELL: Well, I do not know that they seem to be that now. But yes, it changes who the decision makers are? Where do we share that insight into the depth and meaning of the gospel now? How do we make community together? It's up to us together.
SIMON: Sister Simone Campbell, thank you very much.
CAMPBELL: Thank you.
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