Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


OK, yes, the Times is piling on Benedict

posted by Rod Dreher

This morning’s NYTimes brings us the shocking news that as Archbishop of Munich, Joseph Ratzinger was preoccupied with theological matters. Clutch the pearls! Here’s the story. Excerpt:

When Pope Benedict XVI was archbishop of Munich and Freising, he was broadly described as a theologian more concerned with doctrinal debates than personnel matters. That, say his defenders, helps explain why he did not keep close tabs on a pedophile priest sent to his archdiocese in 1980 and allowed to work in a parish.
Yet in 1979, the year before Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, approved the Rev. Peter Hullermann’s move to Munich, the cardinal blocked the assignment to the local university of a prominent theology professor recommended by the university senate. And in 1981, he punished a priest for holding a Mass at a peace demonstration, leading the man to ultimately leave the priesthood.

The construal of these facts advances the line put forward by some liberal Catholics, namely that while Benedict focused on punishing theological deviants within the Church, he left the field open to sexual deviants. The conclusion one is meant to draw is that Ratzinger focused on the unimportant things to the exclusion of important things.
This is a specious argument. Should Ratzinger have paid more attention to personnel matters? In retrospect, absolutely, as I suspect he’d be the first to admit. But there are more than a few Catholics who would be thrilled to have an archbishop who cared as much about theology — versus being a CEO — as Joseph Ratzinger did, and does. It’s simply not true that one can either have dissident priests or pervert priests; you shouldn’t have either. I am certain that if he had spent that time going after Lefebvrites and various right-wing dissenters, there wouldn’t be the slightest peep out of the Times, or anybody else. The fact is, the reason many orthodox Catholics rejoiced when Cardinal Ratzinger was made Pope is precisely because he is, or at least is seen, as a man who takes Catholic teaching seriously, and who understands how badly the breakdown in doctrinal and liturgical discipline since the Council has damaged the Church. Those who have always hated him are no doubt using his administrative failures re: clerical sex abuse as payback for his exercise of theological discipline.
To its credit, the Times publishes a clear, concise op-ed by the well-informed journalist John Allen, explaining how Benedict woke up to the magnitude of the sex abuse problem, and why he’s being portrayed somewhat unfairly in the media. Allen concludes:

What we are left with are two distinct views of the scandal. The outside world is outraged, rightly, at the church’s decades of ignoring the problem. But those who understand the glacial pace at which change occurs in the Vatican understand that Benedict, admittedly late in the game but more than any other high-ranking official, saw the gravity of the situation and tried to steer a new course.
Be that as it may, Benedict now faces a difficult situation inside the church. From the beginning, the sexual abuse crisis has been composed of two interlocking but distinct scandals: the priests who abused, and the bishops who failed to clean it up. The impact of Benedict’s post-2001 conversion has been felt mostly at that first level, and he hasn’t done nearly as much to enforce new accountability measures for bishops.
That, in turn, is what makes revelations about his past so potentially explosive. Can Benedict credibly ride herd on other bishops if his own record, at least before 2001, is no better? The church’s legitimacy rests in large part on that question.
Yet to paint Benedict XVI as uniquely villainous doesn’t do justice to his record. The pope may still have much ground to cover, but he deserves credit for how far he’s come.

As so often in this scandal, different factions in the Church are using it to support their own view of the world, leaving aside facts that prove inconvenient to the narrative they prefer. There’s something about us that demands clear villains and clear heroes. So many orthodox/conservative Catholics raged against criticism of John Paul’s inaction in the scandal because they could not cope with the idea that JP2 was a flawed human, and indeed a tragic figure. Now that he’s been gone a few years, and Pope Benedict’s moves against the corrupt Father Maciel have made it very difficult to deny that John Paul protected the snake, you’ll hear orthodox Catholics admit that yes, as brilliant a pastor as John Paul was, he was deficient as the supreme governor of the church, at a time when the church desperately needed someone to take effective charge. This is his tragedy. The more I examine church leadership — not just Catholic Church leadership — the more I see that the skills that make a good pastor often exist in inverse proportion to the skills that make a good administrator.
Anyway, Allen’s take strikes me as balanced. This passage from the NYT piece also strikes me as key to understanding what this current round of stories means:

The case [of Abp Ratzinger reassigning a pederast priest] is alarming, wrote the German newspaper Die Zeit last week, not “because Ratzinger was guilty of an exceptional offense.”
“It is the other way around: It is significant because the archbishop acted as probably most other dignitaries in those years,” it wrote. “In 1980 Joseph Ratzinger was part of the problem that preoccupies him today.”

I spoke over the weekend to some Catholic friends who are deeply involved with the institutional church, and devoted to it. They’re troubled over all this, of course, and what it means for the future of their church, and indeed of our culture. I shared with A. my thought that the fate of the West hinges on the fate of the Roman church, and that no one who cares about our civilization can be anything but profoundly concerned about this mess. He agreed. I said to both my friends that I expected that Benedict would come out of this fine by doing what the American bishops did, and muddle through. They disagreed strongly.
“The scandal is not over here,” said B. “It’s no longer in the papers, but it’s still with us. It’s nowhere near over.”
I was surprised to hear that. I mentioned that few if any of the bishops had gone, and there was no sense of crisis left in this country. I left the Church, of course, and am now on the outside, but it was my sense that most Catholics had put the scandal behind them, for better or worse. My friends disagreed.
“I think we’re quietly losing a lot of people,” A. said. “They’re just fading away.”
He talked about Catholic schools closing, and the widespread loss of a sense of Catholic identity — all, if I’m reading him correctly, stemming from the more basic loss of a sense that the Roman Catholic church is supposed to be for something. That there is something uniquely important about being Catholic, and that being Catholic requires a certain irreducible set of commitments to the Sacraments, to Church authority, and to its institutions.
My friend — who is not, I hasten to say, a conservative, and who tells me he’s more of a social justice Catholic — said that you hear at his parish people saying things like, “Why do we need the Church to tell us how to live our lives?” He responded (to me), “But I do need the Church to tell me how to live my life. I know how weak I am, and how likely I am not to live up to the responsibilities I have.” He went on to say that without the basic institutions of Catholic life — daily mass, vigorous Catholic schools, and a regular sacramental life — the very meaning of what it is to be Catholic is at risk. Catholicism becomes just another form of Protestantism, which is itself being fast assimilated into the consumerist, secular bourgeois culture of the West. The salt is losing its savor. Roger Scruton’s arch line about his Anglican Church in Britain — that it’s ceased seeing its mission as converting people and the culture, and has settled instead for seeing its mission as forgiving those who don’t believe in the Gospel — becomes ever more true for us all. Evangelicals are the great exception, at least in terms of mission, but what kind of formation follows the “decision for Christ”? But don’t get me going on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which is wrecking both liberal and conservative iterations of American Christianity.
My friends don’t have an ideological axe to grind, and their gloomy words reminded me of many conversations I’ve had with a clear-eyed parish priest friend, who has said it’s impossible to look at the numbers and to be sanguine about the future of the Catholic Church in America. Of course the mission of the Church doesn’t have a lot to do with the mission of The New York Times, or any other secular institution. But the problem the Catholic Church faces — and that all committed Christians face regarding our institutions and their health — has little or nothing to do with The New York Times. And, if we’re honest, we should admit that even if Our Side (left or right) should triumph completely in our struggles within our churches or denominations, there would still be the fundamental problem: how does a religion/church maintain a strong sense of itself and its institutions in conditions of postmodernity and the radical atomism of our culture? Just as in the Catholic abuse scandal, you could not tell who the good guys and the bad guys were on the basis of their theological orientation within the Church, conventional left-right answers to the problems facing all Christian churches are wholly inadequate to the challenge.
This is why the liberal vs. conservative narrative applied to the drama playing out among Catholics right now is so frustrating. The idea that the problems of Pope Benedict and his institution are largely the fault of a hostile media is risibly wrong; Laurie Goodstein didn’t reassign pederast priests. The idea that if only the Catholic Church were rid of supposedly rigid conservatives like Benedict, the Church would usher in the New Jerusalem is pathetically untrue. Liberal Catholicism — which is the Catholicism prevalent at the parish level in the US — has proved that it can’t maintain what is distinctively Catholic over time. (“How did the Catholic Church get this reputation for being sex-obsessed?” said my friend, a lifelong massgoing Catholic. “I’ve never heard a homily about sex.” In my 13 years as a faithful Catholic, I never did either). As an outsider to Catholicism now, one who desperately wants Benedict to succeed, I find the predictable way the scandal is playing out in the hands of partisans of both sides depressing, because beside the point.
UPDATE: OK, here’s a fantastic example of my point, taken from the comboxes on another thread. Go below the jump for more:


A reader left this comment on the asceticism thread:

I’m teaching at a conservative, religiously-affiliated university. Most of the students are very conservative politically and in terms of their religious background. This semester, I’m teaching a class on media of religion. As one exercise, the students watched Chariots of Fire and I asked them to write about Eric Liddle’s approach to the Sabbath as depicted in the film. Most students found it “impractical” in today’s world. Everyone is just too busy, they said. Work wouldn’t get done, people wouldn’t have time to shop, stores would go out of business because they wouldn’t be open on Sunday. Modern people have too much important stuff today, they said. I presented some counter-examples (Chik-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, European countries where stores are often closed for most of Sunday). but I was unsuccessful in changing their opinion. One student wrote that the 10 Commandments were historic laws that only apply to the Jewish people and, I’m slightly paraphrasing here: are not applicable to Christians. A small sample of today’s modern conservative Christian college student believe that shopping and eating at restaurants on Sundays is now such a necessity that the American economy would collapse if Christians stayed home and rested on Sunday.

Is “conservative” religion in America countering that attitude? Manifestly not. Would “liberal” religion stand against it? Don’t make me laugh.
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is the religion of America. Old-time social justice liberal Catholics (and other Christians) ought to be as disgusted with it as right-wing social-conservative Catholics/Christians. Before the consumerist individualist juggernaut, we are all showing ourselves impotent. If young Christians cannot even grasp why the Sabbath should interfere with their shopping habits and preferences, how on earth will the Gospel and the Church have the power to shape anything else in their lives? Discredit the authority of the Church, and embrace individualism, and you disarm the collective. Fail to deal with the scandal, and displace the blame on others, and you effectively disarm yourselves by discrediting the authority of the Church.



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Ron

posted March 28, 2010 at 12:05 pm


One of the last remaining markers of Catholic identity has just recently been evacuated of any meaning whatsoever–the label “pro life.” The political events of the last two years (and the last few months) have made it clear that the label can be applied to anybody or anything. If being “pro life” means you can still stand with Planned Parenthood on every single major issue at the ballot box then….



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z

posted March 28, 2010 at 12:38 pm


Isn’t the real question “Why do we need this thoroughly discredited institution to tell us how to live our lives?” Or even “How can we responsibly allow such an institution to tell us how to live our lives?” That’s a very different question from needing a Church in the abstract. Were the parents of past decades right to obey church instructions to remain silent about the abuse of their children? You decry individualism, but if religious leaders can’t be counted on to have superior or even minimally adequate judgment, what remains?



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Mary

posted March 28, 2010 at 12:47 pm


So when the Pope consistently says the problem is a lack of faith and we mock him as “being out of touch” – perhaps he is “in touch”. If you are a believer you know that Christ can’t die twice – no one can. If we beleive that the Church is the body of Christ it won’t die. If you are beginning to believe that we are witnessing a modern version of the Way of the Cross, we should be afraid but still have hope. We are the followers standing at a distance as we watch the vicar of Christ reviled, spat at etc.. what will come next? Who are we in the crowd. The modern mob is taking hold. Let us imagine that if we were alive 2000 years ago and were a follower – we would feel this same hopeless-they don’t get it way – wouldn’t we. The Holy Father is a somewhat intriguing spiritual figure- he has always lived the liturgical year. He knows that if not already in front of Pilate – he’s getting there and his “friends” are the ones who have turned him over. Let us do what Christians do – pray us pray to the Almighty Lord that this cup to shall pass us by but if not, that His will be done. Old-fashioned thinking? I don’t think so.



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amm139

posted March 28, 2010 at 1:05 pm


Your reference to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism came to mind just now when I read this short piece by Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC:
http://www.redeemer.com/news_and_events/newsletter/?aid=38



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Carlo

posted March 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm


The Chruch is not about telling us how to live our lives. The purpose of the Church is to make us know Jesus Christ. If you think that the purpose of the Church is to tell us how to live our lives, you should be a Muslim.
Rod: that kind of all-pervasive moralism, separated from the experience of the faith, is the real problem here. If it did not carry within itself the living, experienceable reality of Christ the Church would indeed be useless.



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public_defender

posted March 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm


I once represented a client who had committed murder at a hearing about her potential release. My client’s parents complained to me about all the negative things the victim’s family was saying about their daughter. I looked and my client’s parents and said (I paraphrase), “Your daughter murdered their sister, their daughter, their friend. They are entitled to be mad at her. They are entitled to say bad things about her. You have to sit here and listen.”
Here, the Catholic Church, as an institution, allowed its high officials to rape children, and then worked to cover it up. I hope the Catholic Church acts to regain a position of trust. But for now, it cannot complain that people are saying really bad things about it. It has to listen.
It also has to get it all out. It needs to disclose every allegation any of its officials know of (except for information obtained only in the confessional, and except for information that identifies victims and alleged victims), and hold people publicly accountable. We should never again read of an old allegation for the first time in the press. We should hear about them first from church officials. Those are the first steps toward regaining trust.



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public_defender

posted March 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm


John Allen’s piece gives one way the Pope can start toward taking responsibility:
Ratzinger was forced to review all the files on every priest credibly accused of sexual abuse anywhere in the world, giving him a sense of the contours of the problem that virtually no one else in the Catholic church can claim.
Step One: Redact the names and other personal identifiers of the victims (and alleged victims), and then make every page of every one of these documents public, as well as anything Ratzinger or any other person wrote about those documents.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 28, 2010 at 1:48 pm


Carlo: The Chruch is not about telling us how to live our lives. The purpose of the Church is to make us know Jesus Christ. If you think that the purpose of the Church is to tell us how to live our lives, you should be a Muslim.
Carlo, you do my friend an injustice here, though I can see why, given the scant information I gave you, you would conclude that. My friend was trying to make the point that he needs — that we need — the Church as both magisterial teacher and sustainer of communal traditions necessary to live more fully the Christian life. Of course moralism is a poor substitute for a truly religious life — and I am sure my friend would agree. But that’s not what he was talking about.
Public_defender, what you say about the murderer’s family having no right to complain about being ill spoken of by the family of the victims strikes me as a true and important point. I read Sinead O’Connor’s Washington Post lament yesterday about the scandal, thinking, “Oh, it really has jumped the shark if they’re going to that nut for a comment.” But it turned out she had been sent to one of those infamous Magdalene laundries as a girl, and her argument was a pretty good one, I regretted to admit.



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Jon

posted March 28, 2010 at 2:25 pm


Re: The political events of the last two years (and the last few months) have made it clear that the label can be applied to anybody or anything.
Rephrase that as “the last nine years” to include the period when much of the pro-Life movement became a pep rally for unjust wars and even torture.



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Irenaeus

posted March 28, 2010 at 2:31 pm


Rod, thank you for this thoughtful post. I appreciate (as I’m sure do many).
I’ve been really in a funk over this most recent episode in The Scandal, lamenting sin, crime and stupidity within the Church and also being blinded by rage at the unfairness of those who would use the victims of abuse as a way to fight internal battles and settle scores (contrapasso’s gonna be a real bitch for Weakland, I hope) and to try and neuter the Church’s witness in the world — against the death penalty, war, consumerism, abortion, environmental degradation; and for life, marriage, peace, justice.
But as far as stupidity goes…I’ve often said that the Church, since it has God’s grace and understands Nature rightly (in my Catholic worldview, of course), cannot be ultimately stopped by forces external. But God In Heaven do we ever do a good job of stopping ourselves, shooting ourselves in the ass, compromising our witness. And the Church won’t get the pass other institutions generally do with regards to corruption — public schools, government, corporations, etc.
My only consolation right now is that the Church remains an institution worth hating. Indifference would mean we’d achieved irrelevance.



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Jon

posted March 28, 2010 at 2:31 pm


Re: small sample of today’s modern conservative Christian college student believe that shopping and eating at restaurants on Sundays is now such a necessity that the American economy would collapse if Christians stayed home and rested on Sunday.
Was it ever the case that *everything* was closed in Sundays? Maybe in the Middle Ages, possibly under the Puritans. But in laters eras I think not. After all, there was even Sunday mail delivery in the 1800s. My own more distant childhood memeories include recall of stores not opening until noon on Sunday and then closing at 5 or 6. And as far as restaurants go, Sunday dinner out has a been around a long time.



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Planet Earth

posted March 28, 2010 at 2:44 pm


“It’s simply not true that one can either have dissident priests or pervert priests; you shouldn’t have either.”
The future is undetermined. Its possible that the RCC could move towards “liberation theology” rather than focus on reproductive issues. “Dissident Priests” might want to move in the former direction, and may yet take the RCC there. So I don’t know why you would say that there shouldn’t be dissident priests. This attitude by Ratzinger might be thought by him to be consistent with what he thinks about the RCC, but if an institution shouts down dissidents within to the extent that the RCC under Ratzinger has done, then it will ossify, and people will move on. Churches come and go… and the RCC has an important choice to make. The dissident priests might yet save the RCC from becoming irrelevant.
Basically, I don’t know why you would be so sure that “you shouldn’t have either.”



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NY barrister

posted March 28, 2010 at 2:50 pm


I must admit that after a life in the law, here in the northeastern USA, I’ve grown somewhat cynical about human nature and institutions. It comes from watching litigants in civil disputes perjure themselves, or at least “massage” the facts with impunity and without the slightest worry concerning eternal verities of truth and accountability. Let us not even mention heaven and hell, even though many of these folks in this part of the nation’s demographic are at least nominal RC.
Mr. Dreher, as I’m a progressive soul who often finds himself in disagreement with you, I find your essay (as the Brits would say) “spot on”. The toxic quality of popular western culture, now exported by the net worldwide, needs a counter-cultural force. It sure as heck isn’t fundie evangelical Protestantism with its anti-science biases and proof-texting with modern English scriptural translations, and don’t even get me started on most televangelists. So where do we turn? We need a big worldwide church with teaching authority. Both Eastern Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, for different reasons are not up to the job. The RCC must redeem and reform itself, and a start would be optional celibacy. Welcome married Anglicans to the priesthood but shun cradle married RC in holy orders?? Makes no sense.



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Irenaeus

posted March 28, 2010 at 3:01 pm


“…but if an institution shouts down dissidents within to the extent that the RCC under Ratzinger has done, then it will ossify, and people will move on. Churches come and go… and the RCC has an important choice to make. The dissident priests might yet save the RCC from becoming irrelevant.”
Name how many dissidents have been removed or seriously disciplined by “Ratzinger”. You could count, maybe, on one hand, maybe two. If anything, he and the RCC haven’t been hard enough. For, as the saying goes, bad money drives out good. Dissident priests given over to cultural accomodation are what makes the Church irrelevant, for we end up echoing something someone within the World is saying, not being faithful to the Gospel which comes from outside the World. If we only say what someone else says, we make ourselves redundant. Let the Marxists preach Marxism; we’ll preach Christ and the advent of the City of God. No one else will.
Rod, thanks for this thoughtful post. I’m not so sure, however, Laurie Goodstein is trustworthy. I fisked the original NYT piece a little bit on your original post here, finding the opening graf undercut by the facts in the story. More disturbing was the constant quoting of Archb. Weakland, whose own dealings in the area of sexuality are rather shady and who has some sort of friendship with Goodstein. The whole thing smells like activist journalism. Quoting Fr. Ray de Souza at NRO:
• The New York Times story had two sources. First, lawyers who currently have a civil suit pending against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. One of the lawyers, Jeffrey Anderson, also has cases in the United States Supreme Court pending against the Holy See. He has a direct financial interest in the matter being reported.
• The second source was Archbishop Rembert Weakland, retired archbishop of Milwaukee. He is the most discredited and disgraced bishop in the United States, widely known for mishandling sexual-abuse cases during his tenure, and guilty of using $450,000 of archdiocesan funds to pay hush money to a former homosexual lover who was blackmailing him. Archbishop Weakland had responsibility for the Father Murphy case between 1977 and 1998, when Father Murphy died. He has long been embittered that his maladministration of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee earned him the disfavor of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, long before it was revealed that he had used parishioners’ money to pay off his clandestine lover. He is prima facie not a reliable source.
• Laurie Goodstein, the author of the New York Times story, has a recent history with Archbishop Weakland. Last year, upon the release of the disgraced archbishop’s autobiography, she wrote an unusually sympathetic story that buried all the most serious allegations against him (New York Times, May 14, 2009).
• A demonstration took place in Rome on Friday, coinciding with the publication of the New York Times story. One might ask how American activists would happen to be in Rome distributing the very documents referred to that day in the New York Times. The appearance here is one of a coordinated campaign, rather than disinterested reporting.
[end quote]
Certainly the Church needs to clean up her act, and has been doing so since Ratzinger started ridding the Church of what he called “filth”. We shoot ourselves in the ass routinely, and it does nothing but compromise our weakness. For that I suppose we should thank the Boston Globe’s reporting in the early 2000s. But this recent NYT push seems agenda-driven on the paper’s part and revenge-driven on Weakland’s part.
Thanks again, Rod, for a thoughtful post, and most commentators here for thoughtful comments.



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Paul Kendrick

posted March 28, 2010 at 3:09 pm


It never ceases to amaze me how many priest and bishop (and now pope) apologists rush to the scene of alleged child sex abuse cover ups.
It has always been part of John Allen’s DNA to find some bit of favor with the Church hierarchy. After all, it is in these hallowed halls that Allen hangs his hat and earns his living. Allen wants us to believe that Ratzinger had an awakening regarding clergy sex abuse (so says Allen) and has been the Vatican’s number one enforcer of the law against abuser priests (again, so says Allen). In Allen’s mind, we should go easy on Ratzinger for secreting a pedophile priest into his diocese’s unsuspecting parishes. Somehow (and I can’t understand how he does it), Allen fails to acknowledge the real lives of innocent children that have been wrecked as a result of being raped and sodomized.
The Church was intended to be the “medium” for the message, it was never intended to be the message. My baptism, just like Ratzinger’s baptism, calls each of us to ministry. Jesus made it simple for us to understand. He didn’t pull any punches when he told us what he expects of us: Feed the poor, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, care for the sick and the imprisoned.
Ratzinger must resign.



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kenneth

posted March 28, 2010 at 3:11 pm


If the fate of the West really does hinge on an organization of child sex traffickers, it’s probably time to shut off the lights and sign over the title to the consumerists or Muslims or whoever is supposed to be taking over. There are, of course things the church could do to redeem itself, over a period of decades, but we all know they won’t be doing any of them. Unless they prove me wrong, we are well rid of them.



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ciao

posted March 28, 2010 at 3:14 pm


The New York Times is hostile and slanderous to anything Christian, especially Catholic and more so the Pope who represents catholics. Accusations are not evidence. All those who have been after the pope, like rabid dogs, aren’t looking for the truth. They openly say they want to get rid of him and that’s their real intent. A person is innocent until proven guilty. To insinuate that close proximity to a crime is evidence, is not proof of commiting a crime. Does the president know every thing that goes on in this country? No, that’s why we have local law enforcement and courts. A pope, does not have direct knowledge of every thing that goes on, or even an archbishop. Those who had the direct knowledge of the offenders in the local area of the crimes, they have that responsibility, they should come forward and not let their pope take the blame. It would be a fine feather in the accusers cap if they could topple a pope. What is sad is, that people read headline lies and easily believe it. Who said it? Vladimir Lenin, “if you tell a lie often enough people will believe it”.



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LIam

posted March 28, 2010 at 3:26 pm


Rod
This is one of your best efforts on this topic. A great way to start Great Week.
I am what many would consider a progressively inclined Catholic (especially regarding the juridical and administrative structures of the Roman church). My parish is somewhat similar, though we are fairly “high” in liturgical and theological tastes compared to the typical RC parish in the US. But our parish (in the Boston archdiocese) is suffering a crisis due to multiple (and opposing) changes in pastors in 3 years’ time (we went from a pastor with strong pastoral (a top-drawer preacher, I might add) and good administrative skills, to a pastor with good pastoral (though he tended too much to therapeutic homiletics for my taste) and weak administrative skills but who had a personal meltdown, to a pastor with what appear to be underdeveloped pastoral skills (his preaching style is piously catechetical but rather devoid of a discernible encounter with Christ) and a strong administrative drive (but not with the right touch, personally alienating many in the process); the efflorescence of the abuse crisis in western Europe is blowing firmly on the flickering light of trust those of us who have remained steadfast in these bleak years since 2002 (earning the ridicule and enmity of colleagues and even friends who’ve felt betrayed personally), and I am not yet sure the local hierarchy is aware of how this might play out, sadly and badly.
As I mentioned in an earlier thread, one challenge for all of us is to take inventory of the ways we may use the abuse crisis to nurture and deepen resentments festering in our hearts. Resentments not only at Rome/bishops/pastors/Them but also the MSM/dissidents/bad Catholics/Them; our job as disciples is to see how They Are Us, and resentment is a tool of delusion to create a good Us that is different from the Bad Them. (This is not to deny the objective evil that is both manifest and lurking, nor to try to silence pained voices; rather, it is merely to highlight that even so there are ever-present spiritual risks we must never ignore.)



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hlvanburen

posted March 28, 2010 at 3:40 pm


Is it unreasonable to expect someone elevated to a position of authority to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time? Is it reasonable to expect a leader of an organization to realize that the mission of the organization is threatened by both those who teach against that mission and those who act in a horrific manner towards young people the organization is teaching?
The either-or scenario overlooks a crucial fact: the Gospel message is damaged equally by those who teach falsely and those who abuse young people. False teaching, according to the Church, puts people’s souls at risk. Are not those same souls at risk if they are repelled from the Church by the clear inattention to abuse?



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Mac S.

posted March 28, 2010 at 3:53 pm


Rod – your clarification is helpful (to my understanding of that point) and your essay is an excellent assessment. I naively hope that eventually people stop blaming the ‘cons’ or the ‘libs’ and look at the array of larger cultural issues at work that both “teams” fail to address substantively. Neither side has the answers.
On a more personal level, I have been lurking on a discussion board for Catholics for weeks to try to deal with (or escape from?) my emotional fallout around this new scandal and some heavy family issues around the faith. Unfortunately, many threads turn into squabbles over who/what is a better or truer Catholic and at times into “shut up & defend, obey or leave”. And this is among people who pretty much AGREE on any 8-9 out of 10 things. The ugly is everywhere.
The idea that all those who want accountability from the Church are gleeful at this travesty and are secular beasts who clamor for the fall of the Pope is simplistic and wrong. Mass today brought me no peace, rather a heavy sadness as I try to figure out how these things happened and why I am feeling very out of place and sorts in, no, maybe with, the Church that I so loved growing up within.
The idea of walking away from the ‘net for a while to feed the spirit through prayer (mentioned in another thread), especially at such a painful time for a Catholic, and during this week, is actually a wise suggestion.



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BobSF

posted March 28, 2010 at 4:24 pm


The idea that if only the Catholic Church were rid of supposedly rigid conservatives like Benedict
Don’t project the desire for ideological purity from one side to the other. I recall no purge of conservative theologians, bishops, and cardinals even remotely comparable to the purge of “deviants” and “dissidents” of the last 30 years.
Just how “deviant” can a theology professor at a Catholic university be if he is endorsed by the faculty senate? JPII and Benedict have worked to make a church with only ONE side. Is it really much of a surprise you’ll be left with half a church?



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ciao

posted March 28, 2010 at 4:26 pm


“It is certain that the love of God does not consist in this sweetness and tenderness which we for the most part desire; but rather in serving Him in justice, fortitude and humility. His majesty seeks and loves courageous souls”. St. Teresa of Avila.



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Julia

posted March 28, 2010 at 4:31 pm


Wow, a lot here to consider but I’ll limit my post to the two things that jumped out at me.
First, I disagree with the notion that a bishop should be more occupied with studying theology and producing works that few in the pews have the background and ability to read over ensuring that the priests are serving appropriately. That’s not to say that I believe the laity should be ill-informed about their faith. Quite the contrary! But the academics have a niche that doesn’t serve all needs. Proper administration and priestly service DOES. A bishop is chosen to protect and minister to the flock — from heresy, yes, but more pertinently from mistreatment and abuse.
I also left the RCC and when I first visited the church of which I am now a member, I asked the minister directly, “What does your church believe?” He smiled and said, “Come and worship with us. Spend some time with us. Then, you will see.” I went and saw — reverent and heart-felt worship, a friendly and diverse congregation that reached out to others, wonderful opportunities for adult education, a commitment to fostering discipleship and guiding the young in the faith. Later, I met the bishop, whom everyone knew well and called by his first name. He was approachable, committed to and involved with his flock. He wasn’t shut away writing theological treatises.
The second thing that struck me in this column was the comment about needing the church to help one live correctly. I think this exemplifies the greatest difference between Catholics and Protestants because the Catholic view of “the church” seems to be the institution. It’s easy to lose sight of who’s serving whom in that mindset.
Make no mistake, I appreciate the church as a vehicle through which I can encounter God. But it’s GOD who provides grace through the sacraments. Obvious? Not always, it seems, to the Catholic institution. They believe and teach that theirs are the only sacraments that are valid. The rest of us are deficient and don’t receive the Holy Communion we pray for because our ministers aren’t under Roman authority. Isn’t this a case of God serving and being limited in His grace by that institution? It certainly seems so.
And it’s this sort of power that provides fertile soil for abuses. When you believe and teach that God works best and most reliably through your organization alone and you present yourself as in persona Christi, then you may begin to dwell on the power of those statements, rather than espouse the humility and deep responsibility such a position requires.
Is the media on a feeding frenzy? Probably. But it’s mostly because the church refused to see the original “American” problem as an international and systemic problem. When the sex scandals hit America, the Vatican attributed it to a media frenzy and didn’t take full responsibility. Now, they’re taking on the media again while scrambling for cover. The Catholic institution has serious problems and it needs to spend more time on that than media rebuttal.



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Francis Beckwith

posted March 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm


“Before the consumerist individualist juggernaut, we are all showing ourselves impotent.”
That’s a great title for a book, “Consumerist Individualist Juggernaut.” With good marketing, everyone will want a copy. :-)



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Boz

posted March 28, 2010 at 4:34 pm


I agree. Rod’s friend puts it well–people are simply slipping away due to anger over abuse, poor catechesis, etc. I maintain loose contact with a decent number of the folks from the suburban parish grade school I attended and I am the only one I know of from my graduating class of 50 or so who still attends Mass on a weekly basis. Mercifully, in our case, there wasn’t even any priestly abuse, though the pastor was notoriously unpleasant. That doesn’t bode well for the future.
I would not, however, judge the quality of peoples’ faith (which is risky and tough) but simply stress that the institutional Church will become increasingly hollow. Both the left and the right have helped undermine and hollow out the institutional Church. The left wants to “reform” the institutional Church out of existence. A great deal of the right, however, has established its own para-Church organizations (different causes, magazines, and other networks) that allow people to drop out of parish life. Why go to the rather blase local parish and go to its lame Bible study when you could hear the latest denunciation of the world at a place 20 minutes away, peruse First Things for the latest political opinions, and log on to the internet to read about the latest liturgical abuses taking place half way across the country? I actually do all three of those things (though I think FT has gone downhill under Bottum and may not renew my subscription) and think I have good reason to do so (is it spiritually healthy to walk out angry after every heretical sermon?!), but I won’t delude myself that what I’m doing doesn’t have some unintended consequences.
All this is to say that the seemingly solid ground of liberal v. conservative is shifting under our feet, and faster than we think.



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Kent

posted March 28, 2010 at 5:02 pm


I guess the pope is protecting his own…child molesters, physical abuse and child rapist. This type of action has been the call sign of the priest and nuns for years. I dont know his mind but when you allow this kind of scum to go unchecked not for a decade but for decades. You have lost your humanity. I know that this kind of behavior has been around personally for over 50 years myself. But is this notthe same person who brought back the Priests who taught that the holocaust never happened. If you are not doing it, is not happening.



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Rod Dreher

posted March 28, 2010 at 5:42 pm


Don’t project the desire for ideological purity from one side to the other. I recall no purge of conservative theologians, bishops, and cardinals even remotely comparable to the purge of “deviants” and “dissidents” of the last 30 years.
Really? Like who? Any left-liberal purgees equivalent to the heave-ho given the right-wing followers of Archbishop Lefebvre?
Wait, don’t answer, I don’t want to go down this path. If there’s one surprising lesson the Scandal taught me, it’s that you can’t determine the good guys from the bad guys by virtue of their professed Catholic orthodoxy. Then again, a priest’s personal virtue, however heroic, doesn’t make him right if he dissents from the Church’s dogmatic teaching, nor does it make that dissent a matter of no concern. The main problem with this scandal is not that the bishops who oversaw it were liberal or conservative. It’s that the were all Yes Men who saw protecting the institution as their paramount concern.



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sigaliris

posted March 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm


I hope everyone will read this article in the New York Times–“For Years, Deaf Boys Tried To Tell of Priest’s Abuse”:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/27/us/27wisconsin.html
It recounts in appalling detail how victims of “Father” Murphy tried again and again to get someone to listen to their stories, and were rebuffed.
They told other priests. They told three archbishops of Milwaukee. They told two police departments and the district attorney. They used sign language, written affidavits and graphic gestures to show what exactly Father Murphy had done to them. But their reports fell on the deaf ears of hearing people.
Mr. Geier said he first tried to tell the priest at his home parish in Madison, where he served as an altar boy, in 1966 when he was just 16. But the priest, he said, told him he did not want to hear about it, and to just forget about it. He told another priest while he was still a teenager, and yet a third priest years later, after he married.
It goes on and on. I don’t agree that the Pope is having his feet held to the fire unfairly. It’s his job to deal with this, and he’s not doing it. I await the full text of his Palm Sunday remarks, but so far, I’m disgusted. A veiled reference to current criticism as “petty gossip” and an attempt to cast the hierarchy as the Jesus-like victim yet again? That’s not a response that will satisfy anybody. Federico Lombardi says “acknowledging [the abuse] and making amends to the victims is the price for re-establishing justice. . . .” Oh–ya think?! And just how is that happening? The typical non-apologetic apology of “gosh how sad what happened to you . . . look at me, I’m really suffering from hearing about it, although of course it is NOT my responsibility in any way” is sadly insufficient.



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Pat

posted March 28, 2010 at 6:06 pm


You keep picking on moralistic therapeutic deism, but has MTD produced any mass child abuse and coverups? Seems weird to keep seeing criticisms of the religion that *hasn’t* been doing these things in articles about the religion that *has* been doing them.
BTW, my church followed a donkey with nobody on it down the street today. The implications are not lost on me … of course, I suppose it would have been even more vulnerable to criticism if we had put anybody in particular on the donkey.



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Peterk

posted March 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm


if not for Pope Benedict this silliness would be more widespread
http://www.creativeminorityreport.com/2010/03/liturgesy-closing-ceremonies-mass-in-la.html
his reintroduction of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is attracting more to return to the Church
What the NYTimes and others are doing is nothing more than serving as the hitman for the liberal wing of the Church who do not like what Benedict and many of the more conservative bishops and archbishops are doing in this country. Look at he cries of outrage when bishops told Catholic legislators that they shouldn’t receive Holy Communion as long as they support abortion.
and of course the issue is not really paedophilia but rather ephebophilia and the problem of homosexuality within the priesthood
http://www.tmatt.net/2002/03/06/fathers-mothers-catholic-sons-part-i/
I haven’t read the latest from the NYT, but i suspect they gloss over Archbishop Weakland’s homosexual relationship and the blackmail payments he made.



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Miguel de Servet

posted March 28, 2010 at 6:37 pm


Paul Kendrick [March 28, 2010 3:09 PM]: “The Church was intended to be the “medium” for the message, it was never intended to be the message. My baptism, just like Ratzinger’s baptism, calls each of us to ministry. Jesus made it simple for us to understand. He didn’t pull any punches when he told us what he expects of us: Feed the poor, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, care for the sick and the imprisoned.”
Rod Dreher [March 28, 2010 5:42 PM]: “The main problem with this scandal is not that the bishops who oversaw it were liberal or conservative. It’s that the[y] were all Yes Men who saw protecting the institution as their paramount concern.”
So, Rod, if they high ranks are exposed as mere Yes Men, for whom the Gospel is the least of concerns (which is exactly what many people suspected them to be all along), what should make the Catholic Church (that you have though it best to leave, anyway) so critical for the survival of no less that Western Civilization itself?
Inquisitive minds would like to know …



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Irish Catholic

posted March 28, 2010 at 6:47 pm


Some wise words from the Archbishop of Dublin, especially re: the question “Why should I remain in such a Church?”
http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2010/03/in-dublin-and-beyond-church-will-not-be.html



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MH

posted March 28, 2010 at 7:01 pm


I think Pat has a point about MTD. The UU’s were doing any of this, so why drag them into this mess?



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Jillian

posted March 28, 2010 at 7:13 pm


It seems to me that the RCC upper ranks made the choice to separate the RCC identity-wise from its adherents when it chose to turn against Modernity. It chose to go into opposition to the development of ‘its’ historical nations and people, forcing these into a situation of eventually making a choice on its particular merits and utility. It had a great deal of fealty, goodwill and obligation, benefit of the doubt, and lack of other options to work with initially. Not so much anymore. The result is, and will continue to be, a lot of walking away.
The more liberal and conforming route taken by e.g. the Church of England was a decision not to expend its social capital on political confrontation. It was a deliberate choice not to separate from the fate of ‘its’ people(s). And it was a choice to not force, yet to accept and adapt to, their adherents’ judgment on their merits and utility.
In short, both the liberal and the conservative routes arrive at pretty much the same place in practice in the lives of historically Christian societies. This realization must be sinking in and weigh heavily on the current Pope’s conscience.
The Sinead O’Connor letter and the post by ‘NY barrister’ remind me of Fintan O’Toole’s view that Ireland “outsourced its morality” to the Catholic Church. To add up the documented elements that led to the current misère there suggests, more clearly than in other countries, that the Church simply is not a sufficient source, or authority, for social morality in the current age. Which is an age of a level of real prosperity, sufficient to sustain peoples so that they set to the settling of historical scores and the incremental confronting and unwinding of many historically intractable social wrongs and ills, the paying off of ancient debts.
It’s a world in which the social basis of the theory of Original Sin- the social fact of the unatoned, unrestituted, misdeeds of your ancestors and tribe degrading your individual moral standing in the world- is eroding with the process of proper atonement and sufficient restitution. The young discover themselves socially burdened with responsibility for fewer historical wrongs and traumas than their parents or grandparents. Original Sin thus loses thus in social import as generations pass and historical scores become settled, and that in turn leads to a weakening and fading of Ancient World popular (aka traditionalist) Christology.
Original Sin loses its social interpretation and returns to being what it probably was originally, which was a concept of individual mystical religion designating some individual element of development within human consciousness. Rather than outside it, in the material and social world.
Like the liberal/Protestant churches before it, and along with the Orthodox set, I believe the Catholic Church really doesn’t have much choice in the long run but to retreat and purify into being one of many particular teachings of mysticism. Why it has chosen as an institution to fight this fate, since that is the rather obvious charge of the Gospels, can frankly only be attributed to an inadequate or corrupt relationship to its sources.



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Lubeltri

posted March 28, 2010 at 7:13 pm


Have you seen Maureen Dowd’s mendacious and idiotic take on it?
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/opinion/28dowd.html?src=me&ref=general



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Thomas Collins

posted March 28, 2010 at 7:28 pm


In no way do I wish to diminish the responsibility or the culpability of the Church in this matter. A great tragedy has occurred, deeply affecting all involved — the victims, clergy and other perpetrators, the entire Church, the body of Christ. I wish only to struglle to put it in perspective within the context of our contemporary age.
Among Pope Paul VI’s predictions regarding the wholesale rejection of his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, were that we would witness a great diminution of the moral structure of society. I am writing a book about how all his prophecies have come to pass in spades, at great cost to society. We are living in an age of pronounced obsession with sexuality and of libertine sex. The assumption is that sex is a fundamental necessity of life, and so the very idea that a group would voluntarily choose celibacy is seen as unnatural, suspect, and that divine graces may accompany such a lifestyle is treated with disbelief and utter disrespect. We also live in a world where the sexual abuse of children, and others, is pervasive and commonplace. Incest is common. Children are at risk virtually everywhere. Just look up the public registries to find how many convicted sex offenders live in your neighborhood, if you dare. This is not to whitewash the priest perpetrators, who by some authoritative figures amounted to 3-4% of those serving, only to make the point that many other callings and professions have been caught up in the same moral downfall. I’ve read recently of teachers, practitioners of other faiths, doctors, UN peacekeepers, many, many others involved in the same grievous offenses. Many of these incidents have been minimized, denied, overlooked, ignored, even in the past few years, with personnel transferred, protected by unions and contracts, even still on payroll. The natural tendency when such a thing strikes close to home is to respond with shock and disbelief, often to cover up. The scandal in the U.S Catholic Church led to a thoroughgoing search of records, complaints and incidents long past, even 50 and more years ago. A similar unearthing of records in any institution we could name is likely to turn up embarrassing offenses. The standard practice up to as little as 20 years ago, and even, as mentioned, the past few years, was to order therapy (as it was assumed such offenses could be effectively treated, and professional so counseled), and then to re-assign. So, such response, for which the Church is now roundly condemned, was not unusual for many institutions. Now, having added such context, let me also assert that the Church must be held to a higher standard, must set an example, must do the right thing. The American crisis, and that now brewing in Europe, offer just such an opportunity. Indications are the American Church has stepped up to the challenge. A recent report covering the past several years shows dramatic reduction in complaints against American priests, while at the same time, a comparative disproportion of complaints against foreign guest priests, who presumably have not be exposed to the transformed culture in the American Church. Also many prayers have been sent up, training has changed, zero tolerance policies enacted, and no protection from discipline and prosecution. Some say measures are even drachonian and mercilous. Ironically, children in the Church today are probably safer than anywhere else. We hear no credit accorded the Church for such success. Instead, we hear calls for further prosecution, and further financial restitution, which has already bankrupted at least seven dioceses. We will hear more or the same from the European mess. It must be recognized that the Church has already gone to great lengths to resolve this great tragedy, and will likely continue. To place this in perspective, if another institution — let’s say the public schools — were held to the same standard, there would be many more teachers and other personnel in prison, and school districts around the country in great numbers would be bankrupt. What we are dealing with is not a Catholic Church problem — the Church did not invent sex abuse — this is a deeply entrenched and pervasive social disease, which has infected the Church and so many other institutions, families, and individuals in society.



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z

posted March 28, 2010 at 7:30 pm


I actually do think purging theological dissidents and pedophiles can be conflicting goals. If you’re going to be exacerbating the existing priest shortage and loss of membership by getting rid of a bunch of priests and stirring up a bunch of very divisive stuff, do you really have room to lose even more people over theological issues? Wouldn’t it be better, at least for stability’s sake, to put up with those peace-loving, guitar-playing libruls for a couple more years? I get that it’s an important issue in theory and principle, but most of them aren’t actually causing an immediate problem. In contrast to the pedophiles.
Or you could see this as Benedict’s attempt at consolidating power behind himself in preparation for a very divisive pedophilia inquiry, feeling that he to fight on two fronts at once would mean defeat on both.



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BobSF

posted March 28, 2010 at 7:34 pm


Any left-liberal purgees equivalent to the heave-ho given the right-wing followers of Archbishop Lefebvre?
If you want to pretend that JPII and Benedict haven’t been dismissing, reassigning, and forcing into retirement dozens and dozens of “deviants” and “dissenters”, I’m not going to set about proving it for you. You’re well informed enough that your denial is puzzling. As for Lefebvre, I don’t remember any “deviants” consecrating bishops. Do you?
I can understand, because down that road is a root cause of the scandal: deference to authority on all issues. The Church is due deference regarding theology. Not politics. Not elections.
By setting itself so high, the church has guaranteed a big fall.



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public_defender

posted March 28, 2010 at 8:58 pm


Thomas Collins,
The rise of sex offender registries does not mean we now have more sex offenders than before. It just means we have more registries. I don’t know if there are any valid and consistent statistics measuring the level of actual sex offenses committed over the last 50 years. Sex offense arrests and convictions, yes. Media coverage of sex offenses, yes. But not actual sex offenses.
Irenaeus,
As someone who represents people charged with nasty crimes, I often have to make the decision that it’s time to stop denying and saying “prove it.” When the evidence is overwhelming, sometimes you just have to try full disclosure and hope the judge, prosecutor, and victims choose to show mercy. If you reach that point and play the “prove it” game, you just make things worse. A lot worse. A whole lot worse.
Sometimes you can ask for mitigation in sentencing, but that’s tricky, and you can’t do it with anger or self righteousness. You have to do it with a sense of humility and a general acceptance of responsibility. Before sentencing, if my clients don’t plan on apologizing, I generally tell them to shut up. If they do plan on apologizing, I ask them to tell me what they want to tell the court. If I detect the slightest bit of denial or victim-blame, I tell them to shut up and let me do the talking.
I also instruct my clients’ family members to treat the victim and victim’s family with the utmost respect at all times. No snide comments. No dirty looks. No sighs. If they can’t act respectfully, I ask them to stay out of the court house. It’s the decent thing to do for the victims, but, as a defense lawyer, I also know it’s never in my client’s interests to rub salt into the wounds of a victim. Never.
The Catholic Church is well beyond the point where it can play the “prove it” game with sex abuse allegations. First, most people who love the Catholic Church would hope that it would act more ethically and lest selfishly than a guilty criminal who has a shot at beating the system. Second, it’s nailed. It messed up. It had a serious problem of high-level people raping children and covering it up. It still has a problem with the cover up. Third, it has to stop blaming others. Not gay people. Not society as a whole. It has to start blaming itself. Fourth, it needs to tell its erstwhile defenders to call off the dogs. If Bill Donahue wants to spew his bile, let him do so under denunciation from the church, not praise.
Remember that story above about representing the murderer seeking release? She got her release order that day. That would not have happened if I had minimized her conduct, or tried to argue that the prosecutor was just being mean.
I’m just a dumb public defender. The Church has access to the best legal minds on the planet. It’s a shame they couldn’t find a few who could help them dig their way out of this crisis, instead of deeper.



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James Kabala

posted March 28, 2010 at 10:31 pm


“You keep picking on moralistic therapeutic deism, but has MTD produced any mass child abuse and coverups?”
I hate to get to get into these disputes, but I would say yes, MTD has been an incubator for all manner of perversions. The founder of est (a now-forgotten New Agey movement on the 1970s) was accused of incest by his daughter (although apparently she later recanted, so I don’t know the real truth). And don’t forget the “good rape” of The Vagina Monologues.



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john M.

posted March 28, 2010 at 11:26 pm


No one seems to see that the purge of dissidents removed many who advocated for a different model of authority in the church, one where the highest value would be accountability to the people of the church and not to the ecclesial hierarchy and the “image” of the church.
I know this is a complex issue, but the determination to “not harm the church” by covering up the crimes goes straight to the heart of what is wrong with the church.
And Rod, I truly respect your opinion. But the spiritual rot at the core of the church is what threatens Western civilization, not attacks on the church.
[Note from Rod: John M., you have badly misread me. I agree that the church's corruption, not the reporting of same, is the problem. -- RD]



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 29, 2010 at 1:24 am


Rod,
In all of your commentary on the Church, its problems and direction (or lack thereof), what is conspicuously absent is a discussion on the sacramental life of the Church, of the role of the Eucharist in the lives of the faithful (though I do remember that the Eucharist in the Orthodox Church was a constant and great solace for you).
That’s what is missing in Catholic identity on both the right and left. We’ve steadily lost sight of sin. We don’t hear about sin anymore. Without sin, there is little appreciation for confession and even less for the Eucharist. That’s the primary reason why Catholics are fading away. It isn’t about redemption anymore. Many look for protestant congregations with good community, great activities and services, and a theological orientation that is permissible in the area of their particular concupiscence.
Those who stay, for the most part, understand that the numbers of clergy involved over 50 years have been less that 4%. They also have no personal experience of having had one of the rogue priests in their parishes, so few have they been. But even more, they stay for the sacraments, for the devotions, for their faith. Most have a pocketful of stories about priests and religious who have touched their lives and the lives of their families over the course of generations.
They’re also not looking for reasons to leave, to disbelieve, as many are. They have been shaken, as have I, to the core. But we have evaluated the scandal in light of the overwhelming numbers of good and decent priests who have served us well, in light of the role of the sacraments in our lives, in light of our faith. Most have never seen a Bishop, save for Confirmations. They simply are not consequential figures to most people in the pews.
The honorable men who serve us are.
So we stay, along with the good and decent men who serve us. We stay because we’re not looking to go. This scandal will pass. Certainly in the centuries to come, other scandals, other heresies will arise. The Catholics in the crises to come will stay for many of the same reasons. We who stay today are giving the example for those future Catholics to follow. The Bishops are entitled to our obedience in areas of faith and morals, as they are teaching God’s revelation.
“Do as they tell you, but don’t do as they do,” Jesus told the the people of the Pharisees. The faithful Catholics of every age have taken those words to heart. That’s why the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church, because of the strength of her faithful.



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Kit Stolz

posted March 29, 2010 at 2:45 am


Interesting to see Ross Douthat speak of the shame of the Catholic Church, the blame that belongs to both the liberal and conservative wings of the institution, and call for the Pope to speak of contrition, to repent, and to clean house.
Is this piling on? Or just a good idea, if he wants his priests to regain the faith of the flock?
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/29/opinion/29douthat.html?hp



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Michael C

posted March 29, 2010 at 5:36 am


public_defender
You nailed it with your post at 8.58.
Every time a catholic, be it Bishop or congregate says, “but what about public school teachers” I hate the RCC a little bit more.
They just don’t get it.



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Michael C

posted March 29, 2010 at 5:40 am

Greg Bullough

posted March 29, 2010 at 10:53 am


“Should Ratzinger have paid more attention to personnel matters? In retrospect, absolutely, as I suspect he’d be the first to admit.”
Precisely the point. He has NOT been the first to admit it. He hasn’t admitted it at all. There is a clear, canonical, process for incardinating a priest in a new diocese, one that involves paperwork bearing the signatures of both primates (not underlings, the bishops themselves).
Instead of admitting that he blew it with Fr. H, the pope is having the Vatican spin-meisters deny, deny, and deny again that the Archbishop of Munich (Ratzinger) did something wrong.



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Norwegian Shooter

posted March 30, 2010 at 10:29 am


“But those who understand the glacial pace at which change occurs in the Vatican understand that Benedict, admittedly late in the game but more than any other high-ranking official, saw the gravity of the situation and tried to steer a new course.”
Talk about damning with faint praise. Benedict was the best of worst. Good for him. It’s not like he had an example of selfless standing up to the religious power structure, so what was he supposed to do?



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Norwegian Shooter

posted March 30, 2010 at 10:43 am


“different factions in the Church are using it to support their own view of the world, leaving aside facts that prove inconvenient to the narrative they prefer.”
This seems to happen over and over and over again. Maybe, just maybe, this means ALL the different factions are wrong?!?
“The more I examine church leadership — not just Catholic Church leadership — the more I see that the skills that make a good pastor often exist in inverse proportion to the skills that make a good administrator.”
So you are obviously supporting dividing the pastoral and administration roles in the Orthodox church, yes?



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Norwegian Shooter

posted March 30, 2010 at 10:49 am


” ‘But I do need the Church to tell me how to live my life. I know how weak I am, and how likely I am not to live up to the responsibilities I have.’ He went on to say that without the basic institutions of Catholic life — daily mass, vigorous Catholic schools, and a regular sacramental life — the very meaning of what it is to be Catholic is at risk.”
Wow. How does he get through life thinking that he NEEDS big brother looking over his shoulder every day? Those that know they need help coping with alcohol, drugs, committing sexual abuse, violence, etc. get therapy. Has your friend thought about this?



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Norwegian Shooter

posted March 30, 2010 at 11:01 am


“The idea that if only the Catholic Church were rid of supposedly rigid conservatives like Benedict, the Church would usher in the New Jerusalem is pathetically untrue.”
Who is saying this? No one I’ve read. Huge strawman. What some are saying instead is that the system of celibate priests and unchallenged, non-transparent church hierarchy is hopelessly broken. Conservatives such as Benedict are impeding fixing this. It might be too much to fix, as his replacement will be only marginally different than him, but it’s imperative to fixing the situation to push until radical change occurs. If Benedict’s not the solution, then he’s part of the problem.
As a conservative, you should know that New Jerusalem is not close at hand.



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john M.

posted March 31, 2010 at 9:27 am


Thanks for the clarification Rod.



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