Will the revelation of Fr Roscica’s repeated, long term plagiarism result in any sort of restrictions or penalties? He has stepped down from one academic post, but the question remains whether he will “weather the storm”. After an initial mea culpa for the cameras he will shift the blame others, say it was down to being busy, and besides it was a minor matter–forgetting a reference here, neglecting to include a footnote there?

The most disturbing thing about these revelations are that they show yet again the parlous conditions in the corridors of power in the Catholic Church.

Fr Rosica’s lying and stealing (for that is what plagiarism is) cuts right to the heart of our relationship with the leadership of the Catholic Church. It further undermines a trust that was already pretty shaky.

The problem of Fr Rosica’s plagiarism is bad enough, but what it also reveals is the whole charade of “public relations” which seems to dominate the Catholic Church at every level.

When will the powers that be come to realize that nobody believes Public Relations experts? Straight talking social media has left them in the lurch. Private investigators of the sort who exposed Fr Roscia are everywhere. Trust in the hierarchy is broken and it’s broken badly, and because of this no one believes the PR people who draft bishops’ statements and who are wheeled out to face the cameras. Because trust is broken, their carefully crafted statements and cautious documents only look like more cover up, more whitewash, more blather, more spin and more obfuscation.

Put simply, it’s not working. Because trust has been broken the attempts at “transparency” and “clarity” are suspected of being yet more deflection, misdirection and deception.

The PR experts’ efforts at this juncture feel like someone putting sugar glaze on rat poison.

That Fr Rosica is one of those PR experts makes his plagiarism a much bigger deal than it might otherwise have been. Not only has he undermined any confidence that anyone might have had in Fr Rosica and his Salt + Light outfit, but it has been a torpedo below the waterline for the whole Vatican-Catholic PR machine.

There’s more. The reliance on PR experts is only one cog in a larger machine that increasingly runs our church. This machine is bureaucratic, clericalist and overbearing. It dismisses the idea of subsidiarity and blindly follows the worldly system of top down solutions for local problems. These “solutions” are invariably conceived along worldly lines–they are not what I call “faith projects”.

A faith project starts small. It is envisioned by local people for local communities. It begins with a few people rolling up their sleeves and doing what they can with what they have where they are. They walk by faith not by sight. They make do with low budgets and volunteers. Then the work is sometimes blessed with growth and if it is, then the money and buildings they need come in. The workers appear. God blesses is. This is ALWAYS the example of the saints. This is the way God works in the world. The whole story of salvation in Scripture hammers home this lesson. God starts small and builds with real people in real situations–in individual hearts, in families, in parishes, local businesses, schools and churches.

Instead of this our church relies on top down bureaucratic initiatives which are expensive, inefficient and usually incompetent. They rely on expensive lawyers, PR professionals, insurance men and financial advisors. There is no accountability. Waste is prodigious. Lassitude is predominant and any sense of local vision and local realities is absent.

Fr Rosica’s lazy plagiarism is just one example of this deeper problem which extends right to the top of the church.

And how can it be reformed? It cannot be reformed from the top down because the whole structure is, by its very nature, infallible and therefore irreformable. Do the members of the curia and hierarchy believe themselves to be infallible in the papal sense? No, but that ethos of infallibility washes like a wave through the Catholic Church.

They are accountable to no one.

This is the real clericalism–and it is the most insidious because we are blind to it.

What’s the answer? Part of the answer is increased systems of accountability that include lay people, but when that is suggested the idea is usually vetoed.