Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


The Pope writes to the Irish church

posted by Rod Dreher

Here is the text of Pope Benedict’s letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland. There are plenty of very strong words in it, and a level of detail and directness that is incomparably better than the vague euphemisms Benedict’s predecessor used to talk about the scandal, when he bothered to talk about it at all. Remember too that on more than a few occasions, Benedict has met with victims of pederast priests; John Paul II, for all his personal sanctity, never did. I do wish Benedict would go further, and hold select bishops more directly to account for their sins and failings, including aiding and abetting serious crimes. Maybe this will satisfy Irish Catholics, I don’t know. He’s their pontiff, not mine. On the other hand, I wonder if anything he or any other pope might do can satisfy the anger over this. I wonder too if the Irish people are angry at their civil authorities, who, the official investigation found, collaborated with church authorities in suppressing knowledge of this evil, and the justice that ought to have been done for those children and families.
This is not just an Irish problem, or an American one, or one limited to any national church. You might have missed the lengthy Dallas Morning News investigation in 2004 uncovering an international “rat line” in which Catholic bishops as well as the Salesian religious order helped spirit accused child sex abusing priests across international borders to keep them out of the hands of the authorities. Who will be made to answer for that by the Vatican? Writing in the Boston Globe, Joan Vennochi puts her finger on what always was the key outrage in all this:

Allowing Law to escape accountability is the Vatican’s original sin.
Since the Boston scandal, a disturbing history of clergy sexual abuse, and an institution committed to covering it up, has been revealed across this country and abroad, in Ireland, Australia, and now Germany. The current pope has met with victims of clergy abuse and apologized for the sins of the past.
But deep apologies and strong, new anti-abuse policies avoid the root problem. Church higher-ups like Law shuffled predator priests from parish to parish and then escaped legal responsibility for their actions. The church provided sanctuary and with each revelation, it is clear why.
What happened here was part of a much larger pattern. What was happening in Boston was happening in Munich, with the blessing of the archbishop in charge. The practice of protecting predators rather than children was institutional. It spanned the globe and accountability extends to Rome.

I remember back in 2003, a parish priest, a good and kind man of impeccable Catholic orthodoxy, telling me with anguish in his voice that he was certain his bishop would sell him and every other innocent priest in the diocese out to protect himself and the hierarchy. That feeling was common among priests of the Archdiocese of New York in 2002; I attended an unofficial meeting called by them (I had been invited by a priest who has since died), and listened as they openly shared the same fears. Not every bishop is equally culpable, and not all bishops are culpable at all. But the root of the scandal never was pervert priests molesting children; sadly, there is no way to completely stop that in any church, or school, or organization like the Boy Scouts. The root is and always has been what the bishops did when knowledge of these grotesque crimes came to them.
That is what has been left unreformed. Vennochi perhaps touches on why: because if you start holding one bishop accountable, where do you stop?
Anyway, I know nothing about the legal situation in Europe, but at this point, I will be very surprised if anything comes of this. As in America, the dogs will bark, but the caravan will move on. If you had told me back in 2002 that Cardinal Law would have been the only bishop to have resigned in connection with his misgovernance of his diocese related to the scandal, I wouldn’t have believed it. But here we are eight years on, and it’s true. The story is over. The bishops gutted it out — and they won.
UPDATE: In the light of morning, I wish I hadn’t put this post up. I don’t need to go back into the thicket of this story, which still has the power to mess with my head. This past weekend, thinking over Phillip Blond’s message, and examining my doubts that his program can come to fruition absent a general religious renewal in the West, the broader cost of the scandal weighed on my mind in this particular way. The bishops may have “won” in that nearly all of them are still standing, still holding on to their positions, despite this moral catastrophe in which most of them were deeply complicit. But it is a Pyrrhic victory, because the cost of their maintaining the status quo is a further erosion of the church’s moral authority — this, at a time when Western civilization desperately needs the prophetic moral witness of Christianity, especially Catholic Christianity. It is certain, as a matter of dogma and logic, that the truths of the faith do not depend on the moral integrity of any or all bishops; but that is not how things work in the real world, in the hearts of ordinary human beings, which are the real battlegrounds on which souls are won and lost. Civilizations too.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(39)
post a comment
Molly Roach

posted March 21, 2010 at 10:41 pm


The bishops have not won. This will not be over until they acknowledge their part in it. There will always be one more case, that calls forth even more cases. Their dishonor will attract a continual stream of allegation. They have built a cancer into their leadership and until they come clean, it will eat them.
God will not be mocked



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted March 21, 2010 at 10:49 pm


I hope you’re right, Molly. But I don’t think you are. Where are the American Catholics clamoring for justice to be done? They never showed up in any numbers when the scandal here was at its peak. Granted, there’s virtually no way for Catholic laypeople to affect Church governance, so even a massive turnout of protest and demand for meaningful change and repentance by the bishops need not have amounted to much. But even that never came. I despaired so much over it my faith departed. I know many Catholics who despaired as much as I did, but they held on. I don’t think most Catholics, though, gave it much of a thought one way or another.



report abuse
 

hlvanburen

posted March 21, 2010 at 11:07 pm


“Granted, there’s virtually no way for Catholic laypeople to affect Church governance,…”
I am not, nor have I ever been Catholic, so I do not know anything about the internal operation of the Church other than what has been shared with me by friends who are Catholic or researched on my own.
However, I absolutely refuse to accept this. I absolutely refuse to accept the notion that the people in the pews, who support the Church with their presence, their work, and their money, could not have exercised the power of the purse and effectively forced action on this issue much earlier than now.
Your closing statements hit the nail on the head. Many Catholics were deeply torn over this matter, either because they or a loved one were victimized by a priest, or because their trust was betrayed by a trusted cleric(s). Many Catholics have taken their concerns first to their leadership and then, when those calls fell of deaf ears, to the public.
But I agree with you that most Catholics have not taken time to consider the ramifications of the evidence that has come to light. If they had, something would have happened as the enormity of this crisis became known.
Their inaction and apparent lack of concern is something I will never understand, even if I live a thousand lifetimes.



report abuse
 

Fr. J

posted March 21, 2010 at 11:23 pm


I suppose that the bishops won if their goal was to protect themselves. But the Church loses–not just the Roman Church but the Christian Church as a whole. Even as an Anglican priest, I get the ire of some people when they see me in my collar. I know Catholics who are demoralized, and they’re showing it in the fact that they no longer go to Mass because they no longer have the stomach for it. But beyond them, I see the disgust of my unchurched friends who see all of this as just more confirmation that Christianity is intrinsically evil. It’s a sad, sad state of affairs. I agree that the pope’s response is considerably better than that of his predecessor, but without action to fix the broken system it will be for naught. Make no mistake, this isn’t just something that hurts the Roman Church. In the eyes of the unchurched there’s not really a sense of division between one church and another. Whether it’s fair or not, we’re all going to pay the price for Rome’s folly.



report abuse
 

Siarlys Jenkins

posted March 22, 2010 at 12:06 am


I seem to recall a group called “Voice of the Faithful,” lay Roman Catholics who sought greater participation in parish governance and oversight, in large part because of the clergy sex abuse scandals, although not only for that reason. It may not have become a prominent voice in the church, but it seems to be the kind of response Rod calls for here.
As to exercising the power of the purse, yes, that can be done, but technically, that would in itself make them disobedient, and in some sense out of grace, because they are expected to tithe. Further, it would cut off all kinds of worthwhile church programs many parishioners undoubtedly support. That is one reason I am dubious about filing massive lawsuits against the church — either innocent parishioners are going to pay for those settlements, or legitimate charitable work will suffer. It would be much better to aggressively prosecute not only the priests who committed acts of molestation, but church officers who covered for them, not to second guess church decisions in matters of personnel, but simply where there is evidence of being an accomplice after the fact to a crime, and perhaps even before the fact to later crimes.



report abuse
 

Alan

posted March 22, 2010 at 12:22 am


There is a slightly different notion that I have been mulling over. Has anyone attempted to file a canonical suit against the more egregious bishops? I am not a canon lawyer (or any kind of lawyer, for that matter), but it seems that Canon 1389 should apply.
Can. 1389 §1. A person who abuses an ecclesiastical power or function is to be punished according to the gravity of the act or omission, not excluding privation of office, unless a law or precept has already established the penalty for this abuse.
§2. A person who through culpable negligence illegitimately places or omits an act of ecclesiastical power, ministry, or function with harm to another is to be punished with a just penalty.
The Irish reports and the pope’s letter both note that part of the problem was the failure to implement the proper canonical penalties. Perhaps it would be worth seeing if the Holy See is willing to apply them now?



report abuse
 

hlvanburen

posted March 22, 2010 at 12:26 am


“As to exercising the power of the purse, yes, that can be done, but technically, that would in itself make them disobedient, and in some sense out of grace, because they are expected to tithe.”
Following that to its logical conclusion, does that not then make the average Catholic who continued to tithe complicit in the coverup once the evidence began to mount? I mean, for goodness sake, we cut funding to ACORN for an offence less serious than what has been uncovered in the Church. I hear very few people talking about the good programs that ACORN ran that are now threatened, or the innocent people who were being helped by them.
At some point doesn’t the teaching of the Bible take precedence over the teaching of man? Or does that only apply when the target of the teaching happens to be a “liberal” in your midst?
Ephesians 5:1-22
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.a Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ



report abuse
 

kenneth

posted March 22, 2010 at 12:34 am


Exercising the power of the purse is about the only language that they understand. If you are Catholic and continue to just pipe them money without doing your utmost to reform this hideous institution, YOU are complicit in the crime of child rape, not legally, but morally certainly. You’re feeding the beast as much as if you had taken a sex tourism trip to Malaysia to visit young boys.
Yes, there will be collateral damage in choking off their money, but church-organized charities are not the only game in town, and you should be weighing this against the reality of enabling pure, aggressive evil. Is obedience in that situation putting you in “a state of grace?”
I met some folks from Voice of the Faithful some years back as a reporter. Decent folks with a great idea. Trouble was, few parishes would allow them to meet in their space and no bishop would receive their delegations or even letters.
Nothing will change until people, Catholics and society at large, demonstrates to Rome and bishops that their way of life, their power and privileges, WILL end if they don’t change. Those of you still in the church need to cut off the money from within. Those of you who decide you have to leave the church in disgust should not merely skulk away. Formally defect so they cannot count you and thus add to their political clout.
There need to be more lawsuits. Ruinous ones. There needs to be heavy RICO indictments and child trafficking charges against EVERY church official who plays a role in abetting these crimes. No statute of limitations. Officials in Rome who think they can hide behind sovereignty need to be put in the position of having massive charges hanging over them, so that they can never set foot on European or American soil without facing immediate arrest. The Vatican itself should face economic sanctions and seizure of assets as if they were a terror state.



report abuse
 

Charles Cosimano

posted March 22, 2010 at 12:46 am


What is to prevent doing an extraordinary rendition of Cardinal Law, kidnapping him and dragging him back to the US in chains?



report abuse
 

Cecelia

posted March 22, 2010 at 1:32 am


I may have mentioned this on a previous blog – in Ireland an Augustinian monk who was in his 70’s and who had never been connected to any cover ups (he was just a plain old monk) nor any allegations of sexual abuse decided that all Catholic clergy simply because they were clergy were complicit in the mess and should engage in public acts of penance. So he decided his public act of penance would be a pilgrimage – he would walk across Ireland. Which he did. Pilgrimages are still traditional and meaningful in Ireland – every year there is the annual event of the pilgrimage climbing of Croagh Patrick. So this monk hit the right button. He was joined by some younger Augustinian monks and in sections he was occasionally joined by the local parish priests. As news of his pilgrimage spread – the route was lined with locals urging him on – no hostility though. By the time he got to Dublin he was greeted by a big crowd. People I know who were there characterized his greeting as a warm, enthusiastic welcome, much cheering and clapping. Of course not a single bishop nor the majority of priests in Ireland joined him in this pilgrimage. Imagine if they had – if the bishops and all the priests had joined this monk and walked across Ireland – rain or shine – if they had all expressed their repentance by making a pilgrimage across Ireland – how would things in Ireland be now? These bishops govern a Church that has always realized the value of symbolic and physical manifestations of that which is not seen. These bishops govern a Church where confession, contrition, absolution and penance are a major feature. Yet they continue – in Ireland, in the US – to issue press releases and public statements. With few exceptions we have seen no bishop no priest use the ancient and still honored traditions of symbolically laden acts of public penance. One wonders if these bishops are really Catholic.
The letter of course is in Vatican speak and given the nature of Vatican speak it is a strong letter. Is it enough – I doubt it. Just as many American Catholic want Law’s head on a plate so do the Irish want Brady’s head on a plate. The scandal has a symbolic feature to it which new rules and procedures are insufficient to address. It will take a serious symbolic act to convince people that they can trust their bishops again.
To my mind the perfect symbolic act would be Law, Brady and whoever the Germans choose in a Carthusian monastery. You’d convince me with that. I say Carthusian cause they live in those single cells and have to use wood to warm them and live a pretty primitive lifestyle. Trappists monasteries are too cushy IMHO for these guys. Although there would be some value in neither of them ever being able to speak again. The entire corp of US bishops at their next meeting prostrating themselves in front of an altar as an act of humility and contrition would be a good one too. Then there is the medieval tradition of Kings being publically lashed as a sign of contrition.
As for voting with your money – donations from parishioners have declined by 50% in the last twenty years. It does not seem to have the desired effect. When non Catholics ask me what is wrong with the Church – I say – the same thing that is wrong with everyone else. This is both a “behavior of organizations” thing as well as a “humans do denial really well” thing. Consider that Henry XIII was chopping Abbott’s heads off and then having them cut into quarters and sending their body parts on a tour of England – yet individual monasteries still did not feel like they would be dissolved and still did not organize to resist. Our species doesn’t do facing the hard facts very well. How well are we facing things like AGW or Peak Oil? How many people are storming their congressperson’s office over Wall Street or the torture revelations? We are really really good at denial. We are also really good at the whole business as usual thing.
The practice of protecting predators rather than children was institutional. It spanned the globe and accountability extends to Rome.
This is the crux of the problem to me – and until some heads role and some serious signs that the Bishops get how wrong what happened was – the trust is not going to be there.
According to your old newspaper – 14 bishops did resign although it is not said why they resigned. 54 who were identified by DMNews as having been involved in cover ups are still working.



report abuse
 

Cecelia

posted March 22, 2010 at 1:37 am


Catholics do not tithe. Plus collections at Mass can be for very specific things – people in the third world, retired nuns, victims of some natural disaster, the school, etc.



report abuse
 

Joe

posted March 22, 2010 at 1:38 am


“Where are the American Catholics clamoring for justice”? Stop kvetching already! The vast majority of American Catholics, many of who are refugees of their school systems of the 1960′ and 70″s, have never experienced these situations so they become cynical when they see such reporting by MSM. The historical inherent bias in devout Catholic circles against this type of reporting coupled with lack of exposure to this perversion serves to temper the ire of the faithful.
Furthermore, after Vatican II many Catholics developed anti-clerical attitudes and this served to inoculate them from preying clerics.Thus, there was no widespread exposure of the masses to this type of behavior. Go to church and avoid the clergy is the mantra of Catholics.
In addition, the brightest of the Jesuit educational institutions of the past decades shunned the call to vocations opting for the top jobs in the secular sectors and so by default the second rate players became priests and bishops. Thus, these same individuals now hesitate to criticize the ones who took their places by default.
It is ironic that as the TAC are about to stream into the Church, the Vatican II types are leaving . Perhaps these soon to be former WASPS will lead the “Cluniac Reforms” as the apostate Catholic retires to a pagan state of existence..



report abuse
 

bill

posted March 22, 2010 at 2:17 am


Is Pope Benedict XVI apologizing to victims and their families for the following acts by his clerics, which may have included; rape oral copulation and sodomy, lewd and lascivious acts upon children, penetration of a genital and/or anal opening by a foreign object, and child molestation?



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted March 22, 2010 at 6:53 am


Kenneth: If you are Catholic and continue to just pipe them money without doing your utmost to reform this hideous institution, YOU are complicit in the crime of child rape, not legally, but morally certainly. You’re feeding the beast as much as if you had taken a sex tourism trip to Malaysia to visit young boys.
That’s far too harsh. If you pay your taxes to the US Government, are you “feeding the beast” as much as if you had waterboarded a suspect, bombed a village, or done any other morally problematic thing the US Government had done? Catholics aren’t compelled to support their church under force of law, as Americans are their government via taxes, but they are nonetheless commanded to support their church, as they should be. Catholics who tithe are also “complicit” in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and doing all the good things the institutional church does. Don’t forget that.
Lay Catholics really are boxed in here. Toward the end of my years as a Catholic, I was determined that my bishop wouldn’t get his hands on my tithe. I donated my weekly tithe to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. But that also took money away from my parish. That didn’t trouble me too much, for reasons particular to my situation there, but it was nonetheless true that parishes were and are in a bad situation. The local bishop is going to take his cut of the parish’s finances whether or not the parishioners are generous or ungenerous. Withhold your money to protest the scandal, and you end up costing your own parish real money, no matter good your own parish is. This was one of the things that really broke me: the almost complete lack of means of redress by the laity.
Anyway, it is as unjust to blame Catholics who support their church financially for being just as guilty as clerical child molesters. By your logic, you, as an American taxpayer (presuming you are), are no better than a CIA waterboarder. Do you really believe that?



report abuse
 

Peter

posted March 22, 2010 at 7:17 am


How could it be any other way? If something is done in your name and paid for with your money and you do not oppose it then you are responsible for it. The degree of responsibility may vary but it exists.



report abuse
 

Peter

posted March 22, 2010 at 7:27 am


I’m sure the Pope isn’t looking for my advice but if he was I’d tell him to mention canon law less. Very few Irish people (very few I know anyway,your sample may vary) look at the mention of canon law as anything but a way of implying the church can ignore the law of the land when it suits since it obeys a higher law.



report abuse
 

Jim

posted March 22, 2010 at 7:31 am


The bishops paid the price this weekend on the healthcare bill. Their voice has been rendered feeble by their loss of moral authority. Who looks to them for moral leadership?



report abuse
 

Athelstane

posted March 22, 2010 at 8:00 am


“It may not have become a prominent voice in the church, but it seems to be the kind of response Rod calls for here.”
Unfortunately VOTF quickly turned into a forum for the usual circle of Catholic dissidents, a kind of updated Call To Action.
It must be said that, even as I wish he would do more – sack more bishops, as Rod urges – Benedict has been a great improvement on this matter vis-a-vis his predecessor, who for all his virtues and personal holiness failed badly to come to grips with the sex abuse crisis or devote any real energies to selecting good bishops – the occasional personal intervention in selecting a high profile Lustiger or O’Connor notwithstanding. John Paul II saw the communists use false accusations of misconduct to damage the Church in Eastern Europe, and was too slow to realize the accusations in the West too often were true. Joseph Ratzinger ended up seeing too many of the horrific details of the cases which piled up on his desk at CDF to maintain any such illusions.
There are still a goodly number of bishops who could do the Church a great favor by resigning immediately and finding some remote monastery to work out their penance – or turning themselves over for criminal prosecution, where that may be appropriate.
But thee is one rich irony in all this – that so many of those faulting the Vatican/the Pope for not doing more to crack the whip over bad bishops are often the same people who cry out against “Roman centralization” in sundry matters from administration to liturgy. You can’t have it both ways.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted March 22, 2010 at 8:25 am


You’re right, Athelstane: as much as I sympathized with the impetus behind the creation of VOTF, when I was a Catholic I never joined it because it seemed to me that the changes they were pushing for went beyond accountability for church officials, and instead sought, as you say, to use the scandal to advocate for the usual progressive Catholic agenda.
You’re also right about the “Roman centralization” complaint, but it seems now that Catholics have the worst of both worlds: a framework of church governance that gives Rome extraordinary powers over local church practice, but a bureaucracy in Rome that is too unwilling to use the powers they have. In the conciliar, Orthodox model of church governance, it would be harder to reform from the center, because there is no real center outside of the local bishop. On the other hand, I have found in the Orthodox Church that the laity feels more empowered to effect positive change, and less in awe of the office of the bishop. With the recent financial scandal in the OCA, the laity and some priests were openly and boldly leading the charge against corruption in at the summit of the church’s leadership, and ultimately they prevailed, at least for the most part (there is still some cleaning up to do). I didn’t get involved in that because I concluded after my painful experience as a Catholic that I did not have the temperament to be a reformer. But as an observer on the sidelines, I saw a very different mindset at work among the disgusted Orthodox laity and presbyterate. I don’t know to what extent this had to do with a different form of church governance, or not. I do know that there was a fairly widespread belief that the bishops had to be held accountable for their actions, and held accountable in a real way. Ultimately the corrupt primate of the American church was deposed.



report abuse
 

Roland de Chanson

posted March 22, 2010 at 8:27 am


As Cecelia mentioned, Catholics do not tithe, i.e. contribute 10% of income). I doubt there is a parish where the pastor even knows the income of his parishioners. But there is a “sixth commandment” or precept of the Church which does require a believer to “contribute to the support of the Church.” The amount is a personal decision, heavily reinforced in many cases by exhortations from the pulpit. Catholic guilt does the rest.
Specific collections for missions, diocesan capital programs, retired priests, etc., are generally allocated to second and even third collections. The first is for the parish, of which a percentage is skimmed off for the diocese.
From what I have read, though revenues in the American church did decline in the years following the initial reports of the scandal, they are on the rise again, though not back to their former level.
It is noteworth that Benedict has not accepted the tendered resignations of three Irish bishops. Nor will he in all likelihood. He is running out of papal churches.



report abuse
 

Michael C

posted March 22, 2010 at 9:53 am


Thank you for the post Rod, and for the thoughtful replies.
Many a Catholic is like me, and has voted with his feet, but I am one of the liberal ones. The right wing is just in denial, and you can see and hear their voices in comments on every article regarding the scandal.
The great hope of Vatican 2 has been lost, and a caring church has gone for ever. Now there are only two subjects that mobilize the Church in N America, Abortion and homosexuality.
The Charge against me is that I hope it withers and dies, and the charge is true. I really do not see the Church as being a force for good in the world, now it just about repression. Oh sure, the Catholic Charities still exist, but I cannot in good conscience support them, and there are secular charities that do equally good work without the bad stuff that comes with 21st century Catholicism.



report abuse
 

CR

posted March 22, 2010 at 10:15 am


The priests, other officials accused of these henious crimes and those covering up these same crimes against children should be prosecuted like common criminals, because that is exactly what they are. The church must begin to take responsibility and press those charges from within, handing them over to the police. There should also be a serious screening process for priests before they become candidates. The Pope needs to stop talking, writing and ACT now! There will be empty Catholic churches globally if he does not start to right those wrongs.



report abuse
 

Oda

posted March 22, 2010 at 11:00 am


Very interesting comments, Siarlys.
The defection of Roman Catholics from that denomination, or even the collapse of the denomination itself, is of little ultimate concern unless you believe that you must be a Roman Catholic to be saved, which not even the Church itself teaches any longer.
Many Catholics have lost their faith in the Catholic Church as a result of the Scandal, and it is still happening. Some of them have lost faith in institutional Christianity as a whole, some of them in Christianity itself, some of them in God. All of this matters, ultimately, only if you believe that you must be (a)a member of some church or other, or (b) at least a Christians, or (c) a theist, to successfully complete this earthly journey and make your way back to God.
People who do believe these things should be, but some of them apparently are not, even more disturbed than I am about such spectacles as Roger Mahony. Cardinal Mahony has been, by his notorious behavior, the cause of many, many people “losing their faith” in some or all of the propositions listed above. That he has not been removed, and, according to Erin, cannot be removed, should be, I think, a cause of far more grief to her than to me. I am puzzled by the “oh well, we can’t get rid of such men so we should just live with it” attitude, when, according to those assumptions, immortal souls are being lost….



report abuse
 

Oda

posted March 22, 2010 at 11:03 am


(Sorry, the thing posted my last comment to the other thread, much to the same point. stupid software.)
Perhaps, ultimately, it does not matter so much as all that.
The Catholic Church was a force for good, on the whole, and in many ways an important underpinning of European civilization. (Not so much the United States.) But it has long ceased to be that, and the churches have already been all but empty for a generation. The people who are left are probably mostly truly hard-core, and they may not much care (or be aware of) most of this stuff.
If you believe that you must be a Roman Catholic to be saved, that so many have left and are leaving is all very disturbing, but even the Church itself no longer teaches that. Mr. Dreher himself does not believe that, since he too has left.
If you believe that to achieve eternal salvation you must be a member of some church at least, this is also disturbing, since many of the people who have left the Catholics have sworn off of institutional Christianity as a whole. If you believe that you must profess belief in Christ at least, you must also be disturbed, since many of these people have lost that too. Some of them don’t believe any more in any God at all, and if you think that you must have such a belief to be saved, you must also be very upset.
People who do believe these things should be, but some of them apparently are not, even more disturbed than I am about such spectacles as Roger Mahony. Cardinal Mahony has been, by his notorious behavior, the cause of many, many people “losing their faith” in some or all of the propositions listed above. That he has not been removed, and, according to some of the comments on the previous thread, cannot be removed, should be, I think, a cause of far more grief to those commenters than to me. I am puzzled by the “oh well, we can’t get rid of such men so we should just live with it” attitude, when, according to those assumptions, immortal souls are being lost.
Of course anyone who is a normal human being, let alone a parent, is disturbed (to put it mildly) that so many children have been violated and that the “authorities” stood by and did nothing, but now that the whole thing is being dragged into the light we may at least hope that this kind of corruption is under some kind of control, at least in this quarter. Of course if soon there aren’t any Catholics left at all, that sort of does solve the problem of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.
I spent the weekend with a Hindu friend, a very old friend from India; perhaps this has jangled my assumptions a bit. He says, we’re here, having come from God, to learn, and then to return to God. He also made the commonplace observation that without difficulties we do not learn (“no one can be My disciple unless he takes up his cross and follows Me”) so perhaps in some ultimate sense we are all to learn from these so sad events.
One of the things I’ve learned is put no trust in princes.



report abuse
 

Disgusted in DC

posted March 22, 2010 at 11:23 am


The other day, I thought of a counterfactual. Suppose the bishops all decided in the 70s and 80s to follow the secret Holy Office Instruction that required bishops to forward all cases of sex abuse of minors, homosexuality, and bestiality to the Holy Office for adjudication. (In fact, it turns out no bishop did between 1975-1985, including Cardinal Ratzinger while Archbishop of Munich, for reasons that remain murky.) The “enlightened” laity and clergy (and media) of the time, would have thrown a fit about witchhunts and inquisitions, said “what’s the big deal about consensual sex between teenagers and priests” not to mention adults and demanded leniency. (Remember, gay liberation and “intergenerational sex” were by and large not distinguished at that time, as they are now – they were considered to be part and parcel of the same thing by most people.) So, would the Holy See aka Paul VI and JPII agreed with the enlightened approach was the correct one, and refused to sack all of those clergy? One suspects that they might have (at least in part), in which case, the reputation of the papacy would be EVEN WORSE. On the other hand, if Paul VI or JPII rejected the enlightened approach , they would have been denounced even now as resurrecting the Spanish Inquisition in modern times, etc. etc.



report abuse
 

Siarlys Jenkins

posted March 22, 2010 at 11:29 am


It might make an impression to see the Bishop of Rome, the entire College of Cardinals, all the leading members of the Curia, and every bishop from Ireland, North America, and Germany (perhaps others as well) making the pilgrimage up Croagh Patrick on their knees — the entire way. I have read that many devout Irish women do exactly that. It can’t be too much to ask of men in high places who have been derelict in the duties of their office and complicit in such crimes.
As to whether one must be Roman Catholic to be saved, naturally I don’t believe that, I’m a life-long Protestant, although most of my childhood playmates were Catholic. I am trying to walk a fine line, respecting the right of anyone who chooses obedience to Rome to be consistent in the faith they have chosen, without in the least accepting that it is binding upon anyone else, or upon God. To a really militant Catholic, that can be an insult — “How dare you deny that Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter, who passed them in unbroken succession to all the subsequent Popes.” Well, I do deny it, but I have no need to ask a devout Catholic to agree with me. I respect them in the consistent practice of their faith. God will judge.
C.S. Lewis, through the mouth of Screwtape, wrote that God “is so unfair… He often makes prizes of humans who have given their lives for causes He thinks bad on the monstrously sophistical ground that the humans thought them good and were following the best they knew.” Lewis wrote those words at the beginning of WW II, talking about the spiritual implications of the war, obviously thinking of good Germans who might well go to heaven after dying in the service of the Reich — so those of us with lesser errors to our discredit can certainly hope. I have no doubt that a good German would find their arrival in paradise quite painful at first, recognizing the clash of their personal virtue vs. the cause they had served vs. the real imperatives of the divinity who saved them by grace… but saved they may be. I doubt if either being Catholic or being non-Catholic is decisive.



report abuse
 

MJS

posted March 22, 2010 at 12:30 pm


Who was it who said, “The good thing about the Catholic church is that it’s like a big family. The bad thing about the Catholic church is it’s like a big family?”
I’m sure someone else here has also had family experiences with sexual abuse of minors. “Close ranks and don’t let anyone know Grandpa/Uncle/our family has a problem” was once the common response – in fact, only 2 generations ago i’d say it was the only response. It wouldn’t be hard now to find families who react that way. Is it heinous? Absolutely. But it is sadly common to do anything to avoid shaming the family, even if it means not getting help for the young victims (assuming anyone believes them.) Lord have mercy.



report abuse
 

kenneth

posted March 22, 2010 at 12:36 pm


“Anyway, it is as unjust to blame Catholics who support their church financially for being just as guilty as clerical child molesters. By your logic, you, as an American taxpayer (presuming you are), are no better than a CIA waterboarder. Do you really believe that?”
Yes, I do believe that as a taxpayer, and more importantly, as a voter, I do own a share of the responsibility for the torture, and the senseless slaughter of 600,000 plus human beings that was carried out in my name. Now, like the low-level parishioners, I don’t bear the same degree of responsibility as those who engineered it, but I do own something like a 1/260-millionth share of that misery. If God or the aliens showed up tomorrow and managed to convene Nuremburg-style trials on all of us, I could not deny any culpability in what went on. My only defense would be one of mitigation. I did the best I knew how as one person acting within the bounds of the law.
So yes, from this point forward, knowing what they do about the scope and nature of the abuse, ordinary Catholics who maintain their regular contributions to diocese and Vatican-managed funds are giving tacit approval to an evil regime. People will weasel and deny that, as the new American ethos dodges personal responsibility at every level, but putting white gloves over stained hands doesn’t clean the stain, just hides it.
I don’t deny that cutting off their money will harm some innocents, but again, what’s the big picture here? When a person has a rapidly advancing infection or tumor, we know the treatment will do its own harm, but we don’t dither and do nothing. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a limb to save a life. In the case of the church, the stakes are the souls of the institution and its members, figuratively or literally depending on what you believe.



report abuse
 

BobSF

posted March 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm


Remember too that on more than a few occasions, Benedict has met with victims of pederast priests
It seems an impossible task to get Rod and others and, in fact, the Vatican itself, to understand that clerical abuse is not about homosexuality. However, here we have a concrete example of — probably unintentional — distortion that can be addressed.
The Pope has met with victims twice, once in Boston and once in Sydney. Of the five in Boston, two were women, of the four in Sydney, two were women. Of the remaining three in Boston, two were abused as 10- and 11yo boys. The last male Boston victim and the two male victims in Sydney chose to remain anonymous, so we don’t know their ages when they were abused.
A pederast is a man who engages in sexual activity with a pubescent male or post-pubescent male up to ages 18-20. Six of the nine victims with whom the Pope met were not abused by “pederasts”.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted March 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm


Fair enough, BobSF. While I strongly believe the scandal has more to do with the homosexual subculture within the Catholic clergy than the progressives are willing to admit, and while I agree that the right is too quick to blame homosexuality for the whole thing, here I meant “pederasty” as “people who have sex with underage partners.” I didn’t think of the etymology being male-specific, though of course you’re right, it is that. Is there a gender-neutral word referring to people who have sex with people who are younger than the age of consent? Because that is the word I wanted to use.



report abuse
 

Franklin Evans

posted March 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm


Is there a gender-neutral word referring to people who have sex with people who are younger than the age of consent? Emphasis added, Rod: Your phrasing offer the legal designation of statutory rape, which is based on age of consent.



report abuse
 

Roland de Chanson

posted March 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm


Rod, why not “pedophile”? Though BobSF is correct that the word in English (and classical Greek) connotes “boy lover”, the word “pais” itself is both masculine and feminine, meaning “child, boy, son, girl, daughter.”
Given that the vast majority of the abuse cases were homosexual paedophilia, the use of “perderasty” is only marginally incorrect.



report abuse
 

Cecelia

posted March 22, 2010 at 4:25 pm


Rod – update was excellent. I would say too that what seems like a focus on only abortion and homosexuality has the same effect. I think this is true too for the protestant denominations – if the only time you make the headlines is regarding schisms, internal conflict, child abuse, homosexuality (for and against) then the noise drowns out anything else. Both the RCC and the old mainstream Protestant denominations were also once effective voices for ethics in government and business, social justice and restraint of extremism. This is no longer true. But the work still goes on.
And of course at a time when the very existence of Christian faith is looking iffy – the churches themselves engage in actions which drive people away. Unbelievable.
There have been several comments here about empty RC Churches – sure they aren’t packed the way they once were but empty? In some urban areas where either demographics or decay have eliminated congregations this is true. But not so in other places. If I don’t get to Saturday night Mass ten minutes early – I will spend the Mass standing in the back of the Church cause there aren’t any seats left. This Church seats 1500 and has 6 Sat/Sun Masses. The Church ain’t dead yet. There are ecumenical monastic youth movements in Europe whose annual convocation routinely attract hundreds of thousands of young people – in Europe mind you.



report abuse
 

BobSF

posted March 22, 2010 at 4:44 pm


Is there a gender-neutral word referring to people who have sex with people who are younger than the age of consent?
I think you’d have to stick to generic terms like “molester” and “abuser”. The only woman who chose to go public with her case when meeting the Pope was Faith Johnston. Her abuse is described as beginning when she was “a young teen” and occurred over several years. The term “pedophilia” would not apply, as she was in all likelihood pubescent and post-pubescent during those years. A sometimes overlooked portion of the victims were adults when abused. Mostly women, though some men, as well, were taken advantage of.
I don’t believe that there is a specific term for sexual contact between an adult male and a minor, post-pubescent girl, at least I can’t find one after some pretty serious Googling. (Correction: I suspect there is a term, what with a language with so many words, but it certainly isn’t in common use.)
I strongly believe the scandal has more to do with the homosexual subculture within the Catholic clergy than the progressives are willing to admit
Well, this progressive is willing to admit that homosexuality is a factor in the scandal, but I seriously doubt we would agree as to how and why it was a factor.
Forgive me for speculating, but here is a scenario that I think many people “on your side” of the arguments focus on:
A group of priests or brothers come to know each other as men who like to abuse boys. They protect each other, they scheme with each other to procure boys. They pass boys around. It is, without question, something that has been documented to have happened in several instances. To you, that is evidence of “a homosexual subculture”. But if we take the same scenario and substitute girls for boys, would you call it evidence of “a heterosexual subculture”?
The conflation of a homosexual orientation with such horrific abuse and such depraved attitudes toward children, toward sex, and toward morality is deeply wrong. It presupposes that a heavily gay priesthood would somehow view that behavior as understandable to a degree greater than an exclusively heterosexual clergy would.



report abuse
 

kenneth

posted March 22, 2010 at 5:00 pm


To the extent it’s an issue of “homosexual subculture,” could that be because our society historically has made it virtually impossible for gay people to develop healthy sexuality or role models? Young gay people are often the victims of abuse themselves. Then there is celibacy, which does not cause well people to abuse, but guess what? 99.99 % of men, and people in general, of reproductive age, don’t want to be celibate. That’s a biological truth, not a spiritual one. Most of those who do think they can pull it off are not equipped emotionally or spiritually to do so successfully.
The church, and its apologists, and even those just broadly sympathetic to its cause, continue to blame everything but the leadership culture itself. It’s the gays, you say, or just the Irish/American bishops, or secular culture and media. So long as that’s the party line, this all WILL continue, and the church, and much of Christianity with it, will soon have all the moral standing of Scientology in the public eye. If the RCC shrivels from it’s own actions, I won’t miss it, but it sickens me that a whole new generation of victims is being produced as we speak.



report abuse
 

BobSF

posted March 22, 2010 at 5:10 pm


Roland, you really shouldn’t make claims like that without evidence or with such disregard for the meaning of words.
Pedophilia involved adults and prepubescent children. It does not describe the vast majority of the cases at all.
One of the problems with the scandal is the lack of data on the cases. It’s perhaps asking too much to have statistics about something like this, but no one seems interested in building a reliable data set.
One widely cited set is the John Jay Study commissioned by the USCCB.
http://www.usccb.org/nrb/johnjaystudy/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Jay_Report
And here, just for fun, is how some spin that into an it’s-all-about-the-gays argument:
http://www.zenit.org/article-17475?l=english



report abuse
 

Roland de Chanson

posted March 22, 2010 at 6:35 pm


BobSF, the term “pedophilia” has a range of definitions which encompass both pre- and post- pubescent sexual abuse. It contains the same root as “pederasty”; my point was to supply a word that fit Rod’s criterion for “gender neutrality”. In point of fact, neither word is incorrect; both have vernacular connotations which make them unsuitable. If you google up something, let us know.



report abuse
 

Oda

posted March 22, 2010 at 7:08 pm


guess what? 99.99 % of men, and people in general, of reproductive age, don’t want to be celibate. That’s a biological truth, not a spiritual one. Most of those who do think they can pull it off are not equipped emotionally or spiritually to do so successfully.
This is a little off topic, but maybe not too much so.
I was born a Roman Catholic, and was a Catholic through most of my adult life, and I knew many priests. For a variety of reasons, some of them professional, I knew a lot of them very well. And I learned that the Roman Catholic priesthood is not celibate, not as most people would mean that term. At any given time, some of them are not having sex, and some of them are. Very few, vanishingly few, of them never have sex with anyone. Heterosexual priests have sex with women; homosexual priests have sex with men; sick priests have sex with children of either gender.
Now that could be said of any random group of people: some of them, at any given time, are involved in a sexual relationship, and some of them are not, and the actual individuals in both categories shift around with time.
What we can safely say is that no RC priest in good standing is taking responsibility for the sex he is having, or for the other person involved, and he certainly isn’t taking any responsibility for any children who may result. (I could tell some very sad stories.) If that’s what you mean by celibate – and I’ve actually heard that argued – then, they’re celibate. Otherwise not.
No one can “end” celibacy in the RC priesthood, because it doesn’t exist. What they could put an end to is pretense.



report abuse
 

Joseph D'Hippolito

posted March 23, 2010 at 3:23 pm


The Church has two options, and only two. One, it can continue on its self-protective course, deny, blame, obfuscate and fail to confront the roots of these assorted problems. Or, it can obey Christ. Period. For starters, it can punish malfeasant bishops, revise Canon Law to take victims into consideration and engage in serious, accountable follow-up of priests who have received counseling for their problems.
Read Ezekiel 34 and Matthew 23. We are seeing those passages come alive during our very lifetimes.
Either the Church obeys Christ or it will be destroyed. God will not tolerate those to whom he gave authority to drag his reputation in the sewer. Only his mercy and grace are preventing the Church from being destroyed right now.
Remember the Old Testament Israelites. God forged a covenant with them yet they manifested such disobedience that God allowed the Assyrians and Babylonians to destroy their independence and take them captive. Has God’s anger at sin changed?
For those of you who cite Petrine succession and the idea that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail,” read Christ’s messages to the churches of Sardis and Laodicea in the Book of Revelation. Those churches also were founded by Christ and experienced similar problems — and he confronted them directly and forcefully.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

Another blog to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Rod Dreher. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy: Most Recent Scientology Story on Beliefnet! Happy Reading!!!

posted 3:25:02pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Mommy explains her plastic surgery
In Dallas (naturally), a parenting magazine discusses how easy it is for mommies who don't like their post-child bodies to get surgery -- and to have it financed! -- to reverse the effects of time and childbirth. Don't like what nursing has done to your na-nas? Doc has just the solution: Doctors say

posted 10:00:56pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Why I became Orthodox
Wrapping up my four Beliefnet years, I was thinking about the posts that attracted the most attention and comment in that time. Without a doubt the most popular (in terms of attracting attention, not all of it admiring, to be sure) was the October 12, 2006, entry in which I revealed and explained wh

posted 9:46:58pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Modern Calvinists
Wow, they don't make Presbyterians like they used to!

posted 8:47:01pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

'Rape by deception'? Huh?
The BBC this morning reported on a bizarre case in Israel of an Arab man convicted of "rape by deception," because he'd led the Jewish woman with whom he'd had consensual sex to believe he was Jewish. Ha'aretz has the story here. Plainly it's a racist verdict, and a bizarre one -- but there's more t

posted 7:51:28pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.