Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


What it means to be Catholic

posted by Rod Dreher

I know it’s a bit late, but here’s a terrific homily delivered at Easter Vigil by my Beliefnet co-blogger Deacon Greg Kandra, at his Catholic parish in Queens. The theme: “What does it mean to be a Catholic today?” Excerpt:

It is about the people who made that mission happen: sisters and brothers, priests and religious and lay people by the millions who did the unsung, heroic work of building up the church, often at enormous sacrifice, sometimes paying with their lives. It is immigrants who gave spare change to build churches, and nuns who cared for the sick when no one else would, and who taught our parents and grandparents and great grandparents. It is priests who celebrated mass in auditoriums and gymnasiums, and who walked arm in arm through the south with Martin Luther King. It is standing in solidarity with the smallest, the weakest, the defenseless: the unborn.

True. I was speaking on the phone today with a scholar of the secular left, who’d just returned from a European conference, gloomy about the continent’s future. He was especially down about the agonies in the Catholic Church, which he said is being badly battered in Europe by the abuse scandal. He said that though he isn’t a religious man himself, he doesn’t want to see a future without the Catholic Church, because there is so much good it does. Similarly, I read over the weekend a lament for the Catholic Church’s travails from a liberal Protestant woman, I forget who or where she blogged, who said we should remember that whatever the sins and failings of the Catholic Church, in many times and places, it was the only thing speaking up for the weak and the poor. People who are happy to see the Church flailing today amid scandal and weakness ought to recognize what we all stand to lose as the RCC’s authority and influence wane.
Yes, there are critics of the Church in the scandal who are seemingly delighted by this mess. But Catholics ought to recognize that not all criticism is malicious, and, as a Catholic friend put it this morning in another context, comes from people (both Catholic and non-Catholic) who want to see the Roman church being more Catholic, not less. I’ve said time and time again here that I desperately want the RCC to deal forthrightly and effectively with the scandal not only as a matter of basic justice and human decency, but also so it can effectively witness to this post-Christian culture. I believe all traditional Christians in the West, of whatever sort, are going to live — indeed, are now living — in a kind of permanent cultural exile. I think Pope Benedict gets this too, generally, but may not appreciate how hard it is for people to hear him and take him seriously given the revelations, and the inability or unwillingness of the hierarchy to reform itself. As my secular liberal interlocutor indicated today, there is both culturally and civilizationally a lot more riding on what happens to the Catholic Church than many people think.
But this crisis didn’t come about suddenly. I was stunned to read this story from a Catholic reader of Andrew Sullivan’s, who talked about the time an old monsignor stood up to prevent him (the reader, as a little boy) from being taken on an outing with a friendly younger priest. Excerpt:

The monsignor summoned my father for a whispered consultation. My father listened, nodded, and then turned to me and said, “No.” Nobody would tell me why, so I threw a tantrum.
Years later, when I was in college–Holy Cross College, as a matter of fact–I asked my father why the monsignor wouldn’t let me go to a Red Sox game with Fr. Callaghan. “Because Fr. Callaghan did bad things to little boys,” my father told me, “and we didn’t want that to happen to you.”
“But it was okay if it happened to other kids?” I said.
All my father could do was shrug.

The shrug — a gesture I find morally incomprehensible, and I bet you do too — is the key to this whole mystery of iniquity. How did this happen? How could this monsignor stand up to prevent a child whose family he knew from getting raped by this fellow priest he knew to be a pervert, but not take a stand for other Catholic boys? How could this boy’s father know that this pseudonymous Father Callaghan was preying on other boys, and choose not to do anything about it. Why the silence? Why the collaboration with evil? How is it that a Church — that is, priests and laity alike — conspired to allow this sort of thing? Catholic journalist Jason Berry brought down a lot of grief on his head from his own south Louisiana family when he wrote the seminal “Lead Us Not Into Temptation,” about the Louisiana priest who molested the children of Catholic families in his flock, and the bishop who protected him. His family didn’t want these things spoken of — even though Berry was doing what good Catholics ought always to do: standing up for the weak, the voiceless, and the defenseless.
The shrug is also, unfortunately, what it has meant to be Catholic.
A final thought: As a Southerner born in the post-civil rights era, I’m often chagrined by how quick non-Southerners are to stereotype the South, in particular Southern whites. But at the same time, I look back on the history of my region, the region that defined me and that I love fiercely, and I wonder how on earth white people who knew better, or who ought to have known better, stood by and accepted inhumanity against black people, even if they themselves didn’t directly participate in it. That is part of what it meant to be a (white) Southerner, once upon a time, and what it means to be a (white) Southerner today is not only loving what is good about our region and culture, but accepting that it’s impossible to separate the good from the dreadful historical legacy, except by an act of morally insupportable cognitive dissonance. About the time that I’ll be fed up with anti-Southern stereotypes, I’ll read or see something about what life was like for black folks in the South prior to 1964 or thereabouts, and I’ll be reminded why there isn’t a lot of sympathy in many quarters for my people. Doesn’t make it fair, but this is a legacy we have to carry for a time. We too shrugged like cowards.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted April 5, 2010 at 5:57 pm


…and I wonder how on earth white people who knew better, or who ought to have known better, stood by and accepted inhumanity against black people, even if they themselves didn’t directly participate in it.
Because of the perception that if they stood up for black folks, they would be economically ruined, burned out of their homes, or even killed by other white folks who didn’t appreciate that sort of thinking?



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Cecelia

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:01 pm


While at college I knew several outstanding priests – who gave great homilies and who were “spiritual fathers”. On the parish level – not so much – only two I would say were truly outstanding in all categories. But how many people do we meet who are truly outstanding?
I think a piece of it is the age of the priest as well as your own age – this relates to experience as well as how one might relate to say – a 20 something priest versus a 50 something priest. I think too that many priests have been encouraged to get graduate degrees in various sorts of counseling so they do tend to be persuaded that they must approach their relationships in “therapeutic mode”.
But I do think the main issue at least for Catholics – is that priests have too much to do – we expect too much from them especially given that there are less of them. My parish once had 4 priests who shared the workload – now we have two and one is quite advanced in age. They are responsible for running what amounts to a medium size business – the bills, the finances, the building maintenance, overseeing dozens of groups, teams, activities, sometimes even being coaches for kids teams. They have to say daily mass, novenas, etc.,administer sacraments, visit the hospitals and shut ins,attend diocesan meetings etc etc. I think that sometimes the more important aspects of their role – as spiritual adviser – gets overlooked in all the administrative work.



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JP in Kansas

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:01 pm


I post this reluctantly, and, as someone who finds 99% of blog comments not worth reading, I don’t expect that anyone is yearning to hear what I have to say.
Nonetheless, having read your blog daily for years, I feel like I should post a comment as I leave. I understand that as a journalist, you have every right to discuss the scandal in the Catholic Church, and I give you credit for acknowledging your lack of objectivity and emotional investment. However as a Catholic and someone who joined the Church as an adult knowing full well that it is an institution with its share of sinful, fallible people, I’m just tired of reading about it here over and over and over again. The fact that priest and bishops are sinners too does not surprise me, nor does it nullify the truths of the faith more than any other ad hominem argument. I read this blog for so long because it covered a range of interesting issues from a unique perspective, but, at least for me, the “crunchy con” theme has been cumulatively drowned out by endless commentary on the abuse scandal.
In the end, it just strikes me as unseemly for a Christian who has left the Catholic Church to spend so much time and energy discussing ad nauseum the well-known faults of his former communion. I joined the Catholic Church from an evangelical upbringing, and while I see many flaws in that tradition, it would feel wrong for me to devote a considerable percentage of my time and energy to discussing those faults given my history and the love and respect I have for so many of them. The fact that you apparently don’t have the same compunction is the primary reason that I am now deleting the “Crunchy Con” shortcut button on my browser. Just thought I should explain myself as I go despite the fact that you never knew I was reading. Thanks for those good years of insightful writing.
P.S. “The shrug is also, unfortunately, what it has meant to be Catholic.” Really? An unfortunate line to recall as a last impression.



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Rod Dreher

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:12 pm


Well, JP, I am always sorry to lose a reader, but the fact that you can read what I just posted, which contained genuine praise for the good that the Catholic Church does, as well as a comment at the end about how mystifying the “shrug” is — and how that’s part of the Catholic legacy too — combined with a remark about how difficult it is to carry with one the dark side of a culture/institution we love … anyway, if you can read that reflection, and conclude that I post nothing but beatdowns of the Catholic Church, then you are reading very, very selectively.
Anyway, I don’t think the only people who are at liberty to comment on what’s happening in a particular church are members of that church. Do you? Do you find it objectionable when I’ve written in praise of Pope Benedict, as I have many times? Do you find it objectionable when I’ve written critically of the Episcopal Church, or of Islam? I’m betting not. Again, I hate to lose a reader, and it’s certainly up to you to choose not to read my stuff if it offends you. But your complaint is unjust.



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SomeCallMeTim

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:12 pm


1964 or thereabouts
You’ve got to be kidding. Yeah, it’s hard to believe that people think badly about the South. Can’t imagine why.



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Rod Dreher

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:13 pm


Fair enough, John P. It’s an imperfect analogy. But who in the past was going to burn down the house of the Catholic father, uncle or priest who stood up to child molesters on behalf of little children?



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Cecelia

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:15 pm


classic – captcha posted my other post – completely irrelevant to this topic.
I was having a chat with some friends today about this very issue. I must be very clear – what has happened in the RCC is evil and must be rooted out. But – we just haven’t ignored this in the RCC -we ignore it all over. When families went to the police or prosecutors about their concerns that priests were abusing kids – why did in virtually every case – those police and prosecutors refuse to investigate? In Ireland in both the institutional abuse and the church abuse investigations – it was found that dating back to the British occupation – the state government, the police, even regular people – were all complicit in the abuse and cover up. Why?
In my state some 30 years ago there was a truly horrifying situation in a state institution that served violently mentally ill and incorrigible children. After 5 deaths of children -and years of the state ignoring complaints – the feds forced the state to take action. No one was prosecuted, no one resigned or was fired. 5 children beaten to death and hundreds of cases of physical and sexual abuse and there were NO consequences for those responsible. Amazingly – people who live near this same institution have been reporting concerns to the state again, the state has AGAIN ignored these complaint and the feds are AGAIN coming in to demand a clean up. How can this happen?
Then there are public schools. I once saw the woman responsible for authoring the Bush investigation of sexual abuse in public schools. She was so obviously frustrated because no one seemed to be responding to the truly disturbing results they found. I quote her – “the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.” Several researchers have concluded that sexual abuse in schools is epidemic – one kid in the NYC system alone gets sexually abused each year, and teachers are rarely prosecuted, rarely fired and often shuffled off to other schools (sounds familiar right?) Where is the NYT on this subject? How can this happen?
Children are sexually abused and beaten to death in state child protective services custody all the time. Where is the outrage? Where are the demands for reform? I am sure any number of reasons can be listed but ultimately – the status of children in our society as concerns sexual and physical abuse is pervasive to our society and we ignore it. It makes a lie of all our pious statements of how important children are.



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Rod Dreher

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:20 pm


SomeCallMeTim: You’ve got to be kidding. Yeah, it’s hard to believe that people think badly about the South. Can’t imagine why.
Can you read? If so, then re-read what I wrote. You completely misunderstand my point.
I just re-read the whole entry, and I find it amazing that JP in Kansas completely glossed over four or five long paragraphs defending all the good that the Catholic Church does, and criticizing those taking pleasure in the Church’s travails … and focuses instead on two or three shorter grafs pointing out something mysterious about this scandal. The selectivity in reading is just bizarre. If you want nothing but happy thoughts, there are blogs for that. I’m trying to provide analysis. Please feel free to disagree with me in my comboxes, and to disagree vigorously (but civilly). That’s the best thing I can do as a blogger — not confirm or conform to the prejudices of my readers, one way or another. I often learn more from you readers who disagree with me intelligently and charitably than I do from readers who share my views.



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Cecelia

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:20 pm


pardon – I wrote that one kid i9n the NYC schools gets sexually abused every year – it should have read every DAY.



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Gus

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:23 pm


As a lapsed Catholic, I feel like I don’t really have a dog in this hunt, but the Church’s handling of this issue has been appalling. I actually had a good experience as a Catholic. The priests I dealt with were sometimes strict, but there was never a hint of any sexual impropriety that I know of. I just kind of drifted away from the church. JP in Kansas, I’d say that it goes beyond a priests and bishops who are sinners. The fact that many in the Church’s hierarchy conspired to cover up abuse, even to allow it to continue shows that there is something rotten at the Church’s core. If they insist on blaming the press and paint themselves as the victims, it’s obvious that they really don’t get it. They’ll be in the wilderness until they at least accept responsibility for their transgressions, see forgiveness for them and purge the Church of child predators, rather than reassigning them so they can commit more monstrous acts.



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Athelstane

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:25 pm


“because there is so much good it does…”
The only thing this bothers me about this discussion – and I know you didn’t mean it this way, Rod – is how seems to reduce the Church’s worth – “the good it does” – to the material.
Yet we should remember that there was a reason those poor immigrants and priests and nuns gave of themselves to help build up the Church, and it wasn’t just to help the poor or end injustice. And that other reason is the real reason why we should all be, in the full sense of the word, Catholic.



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Athelstane

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm


Hello Cecilia,
They are responsible for running what amounts to a medium size business – the bills, the finances, the building maintenance, overseeing dozens of groups, teams, activities, sometimes even being coaches for kids teams.
I think the smart priest today gives over as much as he can of the administrative aspects to suitable laypeople – who possess the gifts for these tasks – and concentrate on their spiritual ministry, the sacraments, as much as possible.
We do have a vocations crisis. But that’s because we have a faith crisis. Where the faith is, vocations will follow. And vibrant, well led, orthodox dioceses and orders are not having problems attracting vocations.



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Geoff G.

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm


A very good article, which more than sums up my admiration for the very good work that the Roman Catholic Church does and continues to do around the world. Many Catholics will point out that the charitable works of the Church are not its principle occupation (most recently in the decision to abandon Washington DC), but I would point out that the entire point of the good works that the Church performs is to attract people and bring them into the religion.
So what does it mean to be Catholic? Well, considering that the Church has entirely given up on the entire idea of catholicity (i.e. the idea that it is a universal Church, as opposed to one which deliberately seeks to exclude people based on irrelevant accidents of birth), I’m not sure that the question as it might have been understood even a few hundred years ago really applies.
Looking at the sex abuse scandal is actually a bit misleading. It’s merely a symptom of a larger problem, namely that the Church had largely tied itself to forces of monarchism and aristocracy, and subsequently to forces of conservatism and authoritarianism (hence the refusal to admit of any right of the laity to question or criticize the clergy, which is the very heart of what is rotten about the current scandals).
Why? Because the Church never adequately responded to the challenges of the Enlightenment, and indeed did not respond well to the Reformation. Instead, it preferred to cling to its privileges (many of which stemmed from long-standing ties to temporal powers) and adopt a siege mentality that has been in place now for almost 500 years and that essentially refuses to admit even to the possibility that any form of criticism, either from within or without, might have some validity.
Viewed in this light, the “Benedict Option,” where the Church essentially walls itself off from the outside world and carries on in splendid isolation, is essentially a continuation of the very policies that enabled the sex abuse scandals in the first place.



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Cecelia

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:46 pm


Because the Church never adequately responded to the challenges of the Enlightenment, and indeed did not respond well to the Reformation. Instead, it preferred to cling to its privileges (many of which stemmed from long-standing ties to temporal powers) and adopt a siege mentality that has been in place now for almost 500 years and that essentially
Geoff – but that does not explain why the same things happening in the RCC are also happening in other secular and religious institutions – why does the state engage in exactly the same pattern we see in the RCC? Rather think it is not because of monarchical aspirations and a refusal to deal with the enlightenment.



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Rod Dreher

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm


I would add too that the reason I brought up the South’s legacy is to point out that this is a human problem. As Elizabeth Scalia wrote the other day in her NPR piece about why she’s still Catholic, to be an American is to bear the legacy of this nation’s sins as well as it’s virtues. I think we as Americans do our country proud when we look at the ways we have failed to do right, and feel shame over that — and resolve to repent.



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Hector

posted April 5, 2010 at 6:59 pm


At least two of my good friends (one from Poland and another from working-class Atlantic Canada) have abandoned the Catholic faith as adults because of the scandals (I think they both believe, at some level, but they were disgusted at the scandals). My Canadian friend came from the diocese whose bishop was charged last year with possessing child pornography on his laptop.
They’re also both two of the nicest and most good-hearted people that I know. That they no longer go to church is a loss for them, and it’s a loss for the church. And really, can you blame them? What would you say to them? Personally, I’d say ‘if you can’t stay Catholic, then be Orthodox, or be Anglican’, but why would they listen? After being betrayed by your own spiritual leadership, why would you trust any other set of leaders? This is a mere side issue of course, the main issue is all those children who were traumatized for life by the sex abuse, some of whom resorted to drugs, alcohol, or suicide.
There are serious, serious problems going on. I don’t agree with Geoff G.’s diagnosis, but undoubtedly there is a major problem. Circling the wagons and bleating about ‘petty gossip’ is not going to cut it. I say this as someone who agrees with a fair amount of Catholic theology, who is about as Catholic in my liturgical tastes as you get within the Anglican church, and who even where I disagree with the RCC, try to do so respectfully. I have no animosity towards the church, or to its doctrines. I’m just very, very sad and outraged.



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Don Altobello

posted April 5, 2010 at 7:03 pm


“They are responsible for running what amounts to a medium size business – the bills, the finances, the building maintenance, overseeing dozens of groups, teams, activities, sometimes even being coaches for kids teams. They have to say daily mass, novenas, etc.,administer sacraments, visit the hospitals and shut ins,attend diocesan meetings etc etc. I think that sometimes the more important aspects of their role – as spiritual adviser – gets overlooked in all the administrative work.”
I’ve got to say–this type of “happy talk,” ultimately irrelevant, is what I heard a lot of during the 2002 scandals. The real issue here that we need to deal with (and I think has been dealt with fairly well over the last decade or so) is the issue of cover-up.
So what if bishops are expected to be CEOs? That should not prevent them, especially in the more egregious cases of cover-up, to stop this crap. This kind of thing happened with Cardinal Law…I even had a guy from Opus Dei nearly screaming at me about how Law was a holy man, and that I should be concentrating on sanctifying the world! The lay left was no better, either. Anybody remember Commonweal fawning over Weakland after they learned about not only his cover-ups but also how he embezzled $500k from the archdiocese? I sure as hell do!
Look, I try to take a pretty measured stand on this stuff (especially the most recent revelations). One thought I have about what Rod was mentioning: I very highly doubt that the story of the Monsignor and the boy’s father was exclusively a Catholic thing, a priest thing, or a religious thing. To a great extent, I’d be willing to bet this is how institutions in society in general handled things like sexual abuse. Doesn’t make it right, but puts things in perspective. See one poster at Mirror of Justice (who, btw, in the same breath takes a more questioning view of celibacy):
http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2010/03/thoughts-on-the-clergy-abuse-scandal.html#trackback
The Catholic Church should have been out in front of issues like this. With that said, it’s a dark part not only of one particular culture, but of human psychology in general. For the cases of serial predators that were not only not isolated but even enabled, got no explanation or rationale for that.
When this type of stuff is hidden and not confronted as a reality, horrible things will happen. And, yes, it will make it easier for people in authority to abuse their power/take the easy and cowardly way out.



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Geoff G.

posted April 5, 2010 at 7:11 pm


Athelstane, I’d invite you to look at the data collected on vocations in the US.
Ordinations have remained flat for decades now, and still stand at less than half of what they were in 1965. This despite the shift towards more conservative (or orthodox, if you prefer) leadership over the past 30 years.
Still worse is the decline in religious: there number of nuns has declined to 1/3 of what it was in 1965, for example. More “orthodoxy” has done nothing whatsoever to reverse that trend.
In my last post, I suggested that there are very long-standing historical problems at the root of the current crisis. But I’ll also say that the crisis in vocations is precisely tied, not to liberalism or conservatism within the Church, but rather to two major upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s: the growth of feminism and the growing acceptance of homosexuality (at least among gay men themselves, if not the wider society).
Naturally, not all priests and religious were looking for options outside of the heterosexual nuclear family. No doubt many of them have very real callings based solely on faith. However, it is my opinion that very many people felt they had a vocation based solely on the limited work and social roles available to them in the early and middle part of the 20th century. Once more options became available, people started taking those instead.
So is the solution to limit those options again? It would appear to me that this isn’t in the interests of anyone. The Church should encourage vocations only among those who truly have them, not among those that take them as merely the least bad option. Likewise, from my point of view, it’s pretty horrendous to force “round pegs into square holes” merely to enforce your own particular view of how the world ought to be and how everyone in the world ought to behave.
Nevertheless, that would appear to be the position of the Church: turn back the clock, deny reality and force the world to conform to preconceptions. The more cynical side of me thinks that the Church is doing this deliberately precisely because it understands that a society where women are viewed as equals and gays aren’t viewed with contempt is the sort of society where the Catholic clerical status will appear more appealing.



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Geoff G.

posted April 5, 2010 at 7:16 pm


Meh…got that last sentence wrong. Stupid double negatives :) You know what I mean.
One other thing I’d point out (and that is generally overlooked in the discussion of vocations) is that the number of religious worldwide (both male and female) has been decreasing over the last 40 years.
This is not a problem that is limited to the secular West, nor is it one that the supposedly energetic dioceses in Africa seem to be addressing. It’s as if an entire mode of being religious (no pun intended) is slowly disappearing.
Could you have a real Benedict Option without monks and nuns?



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Mac S.

posted April 5, 2010 at 7:31 pm


the same things happening in the RCC are also happening in other secular and religious institutions
Cecelia- The reports of sexual abuse by priests have dropped considerably after having peaked in the 1990s. These were reports, some of the actual abuse took place pre-Vatican II.
You are very correct that abuse is happening in public schools. According to a federal study released in 2009 physical abuse by teachers or staff is widespread – including:seclusion, restraint, beating, slamming students into walls, floors, etc.
Scandals occur, absolutely. Still, I have not seen a systemic practice of the State attempting to protect and transfer employees accused of molestation/sexual abuse (although one’s union may help in the provision of a lawyer), requesting or requiring oaths of secrecy of victims upon penalty of punishment (excommunication) or drafting and adopting guidelines on secrecy of accusations and testimony or evidence connected to them (Crimen Sollicitationis).
And if I did, I would expect the One True Church to be better than the state. I can forgive them this scandal, over time and with much prayer, but the more I read (not the nattering critics who enjoy this or the unpalatable Maureens) the more I understand this as institutional preservation winning out over the truth. Ends justifying the means. It is certainly making me realize that Satan, the great deceiver, is powerful indeed.



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Jon

posted April 5, 2010 at 7:37 pm


Cecelia,
Unlike the Roiman Catholic Church, public schools are not heirarchial institutions. The chain of command pretty much stops at the local school board. If there’s a problem in a given school it’s an issue for the local community. Morever do you have any evidence that schools do not respond to problems with sexual abuse and harrassment? When I was in school (early 80s) we had two teacher sex scandals, and in both cases the teachers were promptly dismissed( though not prosecuted since in both cases the students they were involved with were above the age of consent). They were not simply reassigned to another school. And of course this was a purely local scandal as why would someone in, say, California let alone Europe care about an English teacher in Michigan sleeping with an 18 year old student, or even a gay drama teacher inviegling a 17 year old gay student into his bed by offering a lead part in the school play?
I’m sorry, but the “tu quoque” defense, never valid, smells especially rancid when dealing with these issues in Catholicism. And I say that as someone who for long thought the whole business was a malicious exaggeration concocted by the Church’s enemies and greedy schemers looking for deep pockets to sue.



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Rod Dreher

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:32 pm


I want to add as well that I’m fascinated, in a dark way, by what we choose to live with and not question or object to, because we either don’t see it as a problem or find it too strenuous to stand up against it. Fifty years from now, what shameful behavior will we, in our old age, look back on today and wonder how and why we put up with, and went along with, if only by our silence?
I’ve been thinking about the Southern comparison for the last hour or so. I didn’t realize that the South lost the civil war until I was seven or eight years old, and some family friends from the North told me. I was shocked. We almost never talked about the bad things that the Old South embraced and fought for. I didn’t know what the Civil Rights Movement was until I was a young teenager. It was just not something people talked about much, if at all; we comforted ourselves by “focusing on the positive” and by cultivating a sense of defensiveness against Yankees who criticized us without looking at their own problems first.
And there was absolutely an element of truth to this. The history and legacy of the South is not merely a story of cruelty and pain and injustice. And yes, Yankees who were so quick to look down on the South for its sins and failings ought to have examined their own collective conscience.
But. But. But.
We did what we did, and we can’t escape the guilt of that by resenting the critical gaze of others, or selecting out the things from our history that we’re rightly proud of, leaving the ugliness aside. It all happened.
The same is true of Christian history — Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. We begin to redeem the sins of ourselves and our fathers by allowing a painful reckoning with our own guilt to lead us to seek justice when it still can be achieved, and to make good-faith efforts at repentance.
Don Altobello: One thought I have about what Rod was mentioning: I very highly doubt that the story of the Monsignor and the boy’s father was exclusively a Catholic thing, a priest thing, or a religious thing. To a great extent, I’d be willing to bet this is how institutions in society in general handled things like sexual abuse. Doesn’t make it right, but puts things in perspective.
Yes, to a point. I expect so much more from a church than I do from other institutions of society. We should expect more of ourselves. I’m sure you agree, but I thought it was a point worth making.
Hector: Personally, I’d say ‘if you can’t stay Catholic, then be Orthodox, or be Anglican’, but why would they listen? After being betrayed by your own spiritual leadership, why would you trust any other set of leaders?
I wouldn’t say that you necessarily should. When I became Orthodox, I resolved never, ever to trust the leaders of my new church as unreservedly as I’d trusted the leaders of my old church. To be clear, I am as sure as I can possibly be that our church is now (at last) led by a good and holy man, and I don’t assume that the priests and bishops are bad until proven otherwise. That’s not what I mean. I simply mean that I have to keep myself in emotional reserve when it comes to the clergy and the hierarchy, out of simple self-protection. I suspect that’s what a lot of cradle Catholics have done as a strategy, which is one reason why they’ve been able to keep their faith despite it all. I cannot allow the fallibility, however egregious, of the clergy and the bishops to stand between me and the Church.



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TTT

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm


Child rape occurs throughout all religions and probably every social organization, in some amount.
Criminal conspiracies to protect and enable child rape, organized with full knowledge by the leaders of those organizations, who enjoy tax-exempt status and in at least one case went on to become a sovereign head of state able to claim diplomatic immunity….. that’s something rather different. Your local schoolboard, Boy Scout troupe, twisted babysitter, or dirty old man in a back alley cannot claim those longstanding institutional advantages and protections. THAT is why people are focusing on the RCC. Its pedophiles are protected from on high.



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AK in Houston

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:40 pm


As a Cradle Catholic, I agree wholeheartedly with JP in Kansas. There is tremendous sadness among many Catholics I know today because of what happened and the Church’s response but to point out all the Church’s faults again and again doesn’t help anything.



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Hector

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:50 pm


Rod,
Right, that makes a lot of sense. But I’m referring to something deeper and more problematic. It seems to me there are a lot of people, including Catholics, who are so disgusted with the scandal that they throw up their hands and say, “I believe in God, and that Jesus was His Son, but I don’t believe what any church says about him. Because the lesson of the sex scandals is that churches lie. All churches.”
Those people, I’d suspect, make up a lot of the growing slice of the population that calls themselves ‘spiritual, but not religious’. They haven’t chosen ‘emotionally reserved’ Catholicism, they haven’t chosen another religion, and they haven’t chosen principled atheism- they’ve chosen apathy. And you know, while of course I don’t agree with them, I can understand why they would feel that way. Particularly people who were personally affected by the scandal. Their complete fall away from the church might not make logical sense, but then we aren’t logical beings: it makes plenty of psychological sense.
Those people are cutting themselves off from the church, which is a tragedy, and depriving Christianity of their contributions, which is another tragedy. And of course they aren’t likely to trust the church when it says things like “Don’t kill your unborn child, even when it would make your life much happier and easier to do so.” Which is yet another tragedy.



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:55 pm


Fair enough, John P. It’s an imperfect analogy. But who in the past was going to burn down the house of the Catholic father, uncle or priest who stood up to child molesters on behalf of little children?
I think Cecilia has the answer to that when she says
It’s merely a symptom of a larger problem, namely that the Church had largely tied itself to forces of monarchism and aristocracy, and subsequently to forces of conservatism and authoritarianism (hence the refusal to admit of any right of the laity to question or criticize the clergy, which is the very heart of what is rotten about the current scandals).
As an outside looking in, it seems to me that the RCC takes the attitude that the Church is the representative of God on Earth and that any criticism of a member of the hierarchy is, at the root, a demonic attack on God’s domain that must be squashed. It seems to be that this attitude is also found in Don’s reported conversation:
This kind of thing happened with Cardinal Law…I even had a guy from Opus Dei nearly screaming at me about how Law was a holy man, and that I should be concentrating on sanctifying the world!
Also with respect to your question about what are the consequences of a Priest or parent standing up to defend a child, I would suggest that a Priest might find his career – or if you prefer, opportunities for practicing his vocation – blocked by those higher in the hierarchy as punishment for facilitating a scandal.
I don’t know if it is true that a Catholic layman might be threatened with excommunication for ‘facilitating a scandal’, but it seems to me that a Bishop might find other ways to cause difficulties for a layman in a Catholic community – a businessman might find himself losing clients, or a workingman might find his job in jeopardy if his boss was on close term with the Bishop – or the Bishop might simply appeal to the idea that the layman wouldn’t want to cause trouble for God’s Church.
I got a good chuckle out of this:
I didn’t realize that the South lost the civil war until I was seven or eight years old, and some family friends from the North told me.
Out here in East Texas, there are still plenty of folks who don’t seem to have realized the South lost. If I weren’t concerned about my personal safety, I’d print bumper stickers saying, “The South lost – get over it.”
When I became Orthodox, I resolved never, ever to trust the leaders of my new church as unreservedly as I’d trusted the leaders of my old church.
Glad to hear it. Darn glad.



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Rod Dreher

posted April 5, 2010 at 9:18 pm


Oh, Hector, I suspect you and I see pretty much eye to eye on this. As I’ve written many times, all the cerebral knowledge I had of Church dogma couldn’t stand up against the psychological revulsion I had after years of dealing with this stuff. And I was someone who knew a lot more than many lay Catholics about Church teaching, and who went to mass regularly, and to confession, and who had a decent enough prayer life. The evil present in the diabolical crime of child molestation, especially at the hands of a man consecrated to the service of God, is incredibly potent. Finally it acted on me like kryptonite, and if I was going to save my faith in God, I had to move. You’re right: it is a terrible tragedy that anybody would lose faith in God, or deprive himself or herself of the Sacraments, because of this. But it’s perfectly understandable to me. I’ve been there.



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Carlo

posted April 5, 2010 at 9:52 pm


I do not presume that under different circumstances, with different parents or growing in a different milieu I might not have done the most terrible things without even realizing the depth of my own corruption. I do not belong to a different human species from, say, Fr. Murphy.
The only purpose of denouncing scandals it to stop the suffering of the victims, not to separate the good guys from the bad guys. As Solzenitszin said, the border between good and evil runs across every individual heart. Anybody who looks back to the old south, or to some corrupt pedophile Monsignor, or to Adolf Hitler, or to whomever and thinks “I am a better human being” is, ultimately, a pharisee. We do live in an extremely pharisaic culture, willing to stand in judgement of the past and thus destined to be judged very harshly by the future.
The real crisis of Chritianity is not the moral decay manifested by these scandals. Is that many Christians do not really believe that God revealed himself as Mercy, and that Grace can change even the most horrible people.



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Jim

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:31 pm


It’s sad for me to say this, but the priests cover for each other. “Cover” is not the word: “mutual extortion” is more accurate. Priests are fallible and priests know each other’s weaknesses. They talk about each other. Each knows he is both vulnerable and able to wound all the others. So they shut up and keep quiet. One cardinal recently used the term “omerta” and it fits.
It’s not just about sex with boys, but about sex with women and girls, cheating on donors, cheating the bishop on collections, cheating the IRS on nonprofit issues and cheating the local government at almost every chance on taxes, zoning, permits. It’s a privileged class that operates with some level of impunity. They deeply resent being held responsible, yet they welcome some restraints.
Look at the Pope’s brother: he administered corporal punishment to choir boys (!), but was releived when the West German authorities outlawed corporal punishment. That’s neurotic thinking and most of the priests I’ve worked with have high levels of neurosis. Their lives are full of hypocrisies.



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Helen

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:40 pm


The cradle Catholics I know who were born in the 1930s and 1940s would not be surprised by that shrug at all.



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Cecelia

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:51 pm


John E – sorry but that was not my statement – it was Geoff. I disagree with that statement – all of these posts here keep treating this as if it is a problem peculiar to the RCC – and if that were true I would then be inclined to agree that it has to do with monarchy etc in the Church. But – and I would refer you to my prior post – this problem is not confined to the Church. It permeates our entire society – I mentioned above how the state and our public schools follow the same – cover it up – shuffle them around – no prosecution policy as the Church. Yes yes root out the evil in the Church and condemn the Church for allowing this – but do not delude yourself into thinking this is RCC specific – that this is all about the culture of the RCC – it happens everywhere – and we ignore it. What you are seeing in the RCC is a microcosm of what is going on in our state institutions, our child protective services, our public schools. And we haven’t even touched the primary place where child sexual abuse occurs – the family.
So why does our society ignore this destructive abuse of children?



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John E. - Agn Stoic

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:17 pm


Oops, sorry for the mis-attribution, Cecelia.
I’m not sure I agree with you that the public schools follow the “cover it up – shuffle them around – no prosecution policy” that you describe.
From what I’ve seen, public schools don’t hesitate to kick out teachers who get caught messing around with students. And the local DA’s are happy to prosecute.



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lardy

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:23 pm


the “liberal protestant woman”? … perhaps you were referring to Reverend Dr. Serene Jones who wrote “Not Throwing Stones: A Protestant Remembers the best of the Catholic Church” last March 30, 2010



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Jim

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:27 pm


There is a simple solution to all this and some dioceses have adopted it. Allegations of molesting a minor are referred to the police or DA. No need for the diocese to investigate until the civil/criminal process is done. No need for the priest to minister until he is cleared….fully cleared. If he’s not cleared, he doesn’t minister.
Not so difficult……..it’s called acting in good faith.



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JP in Kansas

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:47 pm


Mr. Dreher,
So I’ll admit that I came back to see if you had commented and was a bit surprised to see you had. Unfortunately I’m also a bit surprised by both the misrepresentation of my position and the ad hominem attack thrown in for good measure. I did not claim that you only wrote “beatdowns of the Catholic Church.” And I wouldn’t deny that you also criticize other churches or say good things about Benedict. What I said was that I was tired of reading a constant litany of posts on the issue. Just scanning the list of recent topics on the blog, perhaps you can appreciate my point: “How Does Benedict Fix this Mess”; “What Does it Mean to be Catholic,” apparently it means defining ourselves in relation to the sex abuse scandal; “The best parts of Easter,” which begins with why someone remains Catholic “despite it all”; “Is Christopher Hitchens doing Vatican PR?” and I could continue. Even if the criticisms are valid and qualified, one might conclude that that the faults of the Catholic Church seem to occupy a disproportionate amount of this author’s attention.
You suggest that I have an infantile attitude regarding the discussion of my faith or big ideas and only want “happy thoughts” whereas you’re in the business of providing “serious analysis.” I might counter that serious analysis and serious reflection would require one to avoid the general media’s focus on the latest headline and controversy. Is the abuse scandal a serious issue? Yes. Is it important to honestly face the grave evil tolerated by many in the Church? Yes. But does it define Catholicism or form a central part of “What it Means to be Catholic”? No. And, if I have a finite amount of time to read blogs addressing the full range of issues regarding faith, social policy and science, can I reasonably decide to not keep reading a blog where it seems to me the author can’t mention Catholicism without invoking the scandal? Yes. Just because someone doesn’t devote as much energy to the scandal as you do or doesn’t want to read about it as often as you seem compelled to write about it does not mean they are not serious thinkers. It might just mean they are looking for a more balanced, comprehensive analysis and discussion of the many serious social, ethical and religious issues of the day.



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Don Altobello

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:47 pm


Jim–
More or less agree with you–with this caveat: if a priest is wrongfully (and ridiculously accused), he’s still tarnished even if vindicated. At my old parish, we had an extremely mentally unbalanced woman who claimed these types of things about the priest…and that the master of ceremonies had given her truth serom to help extract her confession. These is a silly case, but I’d say accusations ought to have the bare minimum of credibility before being required to be reported–iow, they gotta pass a low bar of “this smells like shit” test.
Others in here have talked about the issue being the “cover-up.” I agree, but here again, it’s foolish to think the Catholic Church is the only institution who operated in this manner in years past.



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Doctor Science

posted April 6, 2010 at 12:02 am


How could this monsignor stand up to prevent a child whose family he knew from getting raped by this fellow priest he knew to be a pervert, but not take a stand for other Catholic boys?
A number of Church leaders have tried to explain what happened by mumbling something about “it was a different culture”. Andrew, for one, does not believe them.
I do. They’re not phrasing it very coherently, but they’re right. It truly was a different culture. I’m not talking about the wild 1960s or the free-wheeling 1970s, I’m talking about all of human history, including my youth (you whippersnappers).
It’s the difference between thoughtlessly cruel meat-eating and cannibalism. When you really believe and feel in your gut that some people are just not as worthy, as human, as other people, then rape can be — as it is in much of the Bible — a crime against property and good order, more than it is a crime against a real person.
The Catholic church at least was historically quite firm that all kinds of humans have souls, even slaves — but there’s no question that some souls were better, closer to G-d, than others. And the souls of priests are *consecrated* to G-d, they are more likely to be special and holy, to get G-d to bend an ear.
I think that for the Monsignor in the story Sullivan reported, most people weren’t as far up the Great (hierarchical) Chain of Being as he was. The boy he knew, whose father he knew — they were family to him, within his personal protection, and high enough up the Chain to be worth protecting. Other Catholic boys, well, maybe they weren’t that high up. Maybe they weren’t, in the end, as much like real people to him. But the pedophile priest, he *was* like the monsignor, he was way up the Chain. These things happen — you’re disappointed, but you shrug. Humans — even real humans, even other priests — are fallible, and if it hurts a few not-quite-humans, well, that’s life in this fallen world.
But the Great Chain of Being snapped, in a revolution of which Vatican II was a part, and now it’s hard to imagine that people actually thought that way only a few decades ago. But they — we — did.



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James Kabala

posted April 6, 2010 at 12:07 am


I have criticized Rod in this past, but his recent posts have been perfectly calm and reasonable.



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James Kabala

posted April 6, 2010 at 12:17 am


It seems that the big question is “How long has this been going on?” Is this something that has secretly been going on for centuries, something that nearly all the great prelates of the past have been involved in covering up? If not (and I hope not), why would it spring up in the twentieth century?
I don’t care how superstitious or “priest-ridden” the Irish (or any other people) supposedly are, I find it hard to believe that this could have gone on for centuries on a wide scale without breaking into the public eye at some earlier point – but how can we know? It seems as if in comment threads of this type we see comments of both the “No one in my family ever had an inkling of this” type (my own experience) and the “Oh, yes, my grandfather heard rumors of this back in the 1930s” type. Which experience is more typical?



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted April 6, 2010 at 12:43 am


Why has this been going on, Rod? Very simple. Catholics have been brainwashed to believe that the hierarchy and clergy are holier than laity merely by occupying their respective offices. That is clericalism in a nutshell. Add to that the view of priests primarily as “confectors of the sacraments,” and the sacraments’ fundamental role in Catholic spiriutality, and you have the perfect recipe for the sense of entitlement that many in the clergy and hierarchy feel — and that many in the laity seem all too willing to concede to them. That also explains the fundamental sense of inferiority Catholics feel in relation to their clergy and laity.
I say all this as a lifelong Catholic who is micrometers away from dumping Catholicism — but not God nor Christ.



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baba

posted April 6, 2010 at 1:52 am


There has been systematic ritual abuse of children in military daycare centers. Why don’t we hear about that? There is systematic sexual abuse in hazing that goes on in high schools and colleges, on sports teams and within fraternal organizations. Why don’t we hear about that? I’m not ignoring the fact that sexual abuse has occurred in the Church, I’m just pointing out the obsession that some people have with this particular abuse.
Up until recently there was a system called “fagging” in British schools. I’ve never seen reports of sexual abuse associated with this, but it’s hard to believe it didn’t exist. This was a system where under class men became “slaves” of their upper class “masters”. Maybe someday there will be some allegations that will become public about the types of abuses this led to. There was also a system of corporal punishment that involved caning the bare buttocks of students. It’s hard to believe this did not lead to sexual abuse as well.
I am very concerned that the voice of the Roman Catholic Church is being purposely undermined. One area where we need the voice of the church is in the battle for the sanctity of life. This will become more important in the near future as transhuman technology becomes a reality. I have written an article about this. I hope you’ll read it. This issue will only become more important as the technology advances.
http://publicvigil.blogspot.com/2010/04/six-million-dollar-bionic-christina.html



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Nic

posted April 6, 2010 at 3:46 am


What a wretched, wretched attempt to direct attention away from condemnation of the Catholic church, Baba. Shame on you.
There has been systematic ritual abuse of children in military daycare centers. Why don’t we hear about that? There is systematic sexual abuse in hazing that goes on in high schools and colleges, on sports teams and within fraternal organizations. Why don’t we hear about that?
We DO hear about that. Rape of adult women may get brushed under the carpet and discredited, but when it comes to the rape and abuse of children, at least, there is invariably an outcry whenever it finally comes to light, and whoever may have been responsible.
I’m not ignoring the fact that sexual abuse has occurred in the Church, I’m just pointing out the obsession that some people have with this particular abuse.
You are not ignoring the fact that sexual abuse has occurred in the church; you are simply trying to ameliorate this by pointing accusingly at other cases of abuse.
How can you POSSIBLY do that, in good conscience?
But, yes – the sense of outrage associated with CHURCHMEN abusing the children in their trust is even more acute than when laymen are revealed to have abused their position of authority. And this, my friend, is not a case of the nasty laypeople picking on the poor church – this is precisely because laypeople are asked to accept and believe that popes and bishops and priests and all the other ordained ministers are SACRED. That they are sincere, that they are better than normal people, that they have a moral authority which comes directly from God.
You cannot have your cake and eat it too.
You cannot demand that ordinary men and women put aside their own moral judgment and bow down to the moral authority of these ordained ministers in the belief that there is something greater than normal to them, in the belief that they are holy, are virtuous, are selfless and sincere, are speaking and acting for God AND ALSO demand that we treat their abuse of this power as no worse than any layman’s sin.
It is worse. It is worse BECAUSE THEY ARE REPRESENTING GOD. They are being allowed to be intimate, they are being placed in a position of trust and authority, because they purport to be concerned with the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the physical, spiritual and moral safety of the people in their care.
And current events are demonstrating that whilst this may be true of individuals, it IS NOT TRUE of everyone. That, in addition to a frightening number of cold-blooded rapists, there are a host of supposed men of God – INCLUDING THE POPE – who have chosen to prioritise the good name of the organisation over ensuring the safety of children.
One can prevaricate and justify until the cows come home, but I think it is very clear that Jesus Christ, were He faced with any such choice, would UNQUESTIONABLY have placed the safety of even one single child above the loss of prestige to a powerful organisation. He would have spoken truth to power – that was what He did throughout his ministry. He did not let pride or avarice or fear prevent Him from doing what was right.
The same, regrettably, is not true of those who purport to speak for Him today.
The weasel words of Papal spindoctors who are trying to compare the sense of shock and outrage these revelations have provoked to the acts of genocide committed upon the Jewish people are only going to prove that we are looking at an organisation so self-serving, so profoundly far removed from the teachings of Jesus Christ, that any moral authority they may claim is thinner than antique paper.
We do not need a Pope to tell us what is right or wrong, or an organisation which will fail to protect our young people, and spout words of hatred and bigotry about others. We only need the words and teachings of Jesus Christ Himself, and the compassion and integrity and inclusivity He espoused.



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TTT

posted April 6, 2010 at 8:42 am


Reading the words of Baba and some others, I really have to wonder if some of the RCC’s defenders here either have no idea how secular organizations work, or no idea how civil law works, or no idea what children are.
There are no decades-long criminal conspiracies to protect child rapists in daycare centers. Any daycare centers. Nor at any public schools. Any teacher who is credibly accused of sexual misconduct WILL be fired, and that has been the case for at least 40 years if not more.
You just don’t get the concepts of responsibility and accountability. The RCC is one of the most powerful and most legally favored and priviledged institutions in the world, and we now see that it has used those institutional privileges to enable serial child rapists and protect them from any punishment whatsoever.
If they had been expelling rapists and turning them over to the cops from day 1 like ANY OTHER INSTITUTION IN THE CIVILIZED WORLD WOULD HAVE TO DO there would be no scandal, because the background rate of pedophilia within the RCC would then likely be no higher than any other group and everyone could see that its authorities took seriously the concepts of “justice” and “innocence”.



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baba

posted April 6, 2010 at 9:04 am


Nic – You are certainly aware that there are a group of Protestants that have always objected to the Roman Catholic Church and for some of the very reasons that you have mentioned. Some of the main reasons are: the priesthood, the role of Mary, the use of paintings and statues depicting Jesus. These differences should not be allowed to become a wedge to divide and destroy the Christian religion.
Christianity is under attack – not just Catholicism, but all of Christianity. When Hollywood consistently shows images of evil priests and compromised nuns and of the symbols of the church like the Vatican being destroyed, this leads to a crumbling of the base upon which the Church is built. The corporate media is chipping away at that Rock.
What ever happened to forgiveness? Isn’t that one of the principal distinctions that distinguishes the teachings of Christ from other religions and philosophies. If there are new sexual abuse crimes that are being committed today that is one thing, but all that I see are accusations about crimes that were committed many years ago.
The Church does now and has done in the past marvelous things. Somehow we never hear about those in the news. The abuse scandal is more than 20 years old, but it continues to be front-page news. At the same time the entertainment industry cranks out movies, videos, songs and TV programs with occult themes. The result is that neo-paganism is the fastest growing “religion” in the United States. This is all part of a hidden agenda in my opinion.
I’ve been writing about this trend in my blog. You are probably unaware of the occult symbolism that is contained in Lady Gaga’s videos for example. Of course we all recognize the blatantly obscene use of sexuality, but the real underlying message is that satanism is good. I encourage you to learn more about this subject. You can start with this article:
The hidden Egyptian cult worship in Lady Gaga’s Telephone video



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TTT

posted April 6, 2010 at 10:13 am


What ever happened to forgiveness? Isn’t that one of the principal distinctions that distinguishes the teachings of Christ from other religions and philosophies. If there are new sexual abuse crimes that are being committed today that is one thing, but all that I see are accusations about crimes that were committed many years ago. The abuse scandal is more than 20 years old, but it continues to be front-page news.
When you’re talking about how great an ancient religion is for all the things it’s done through the centuries, you can’t very well tell still-living people to get over the crimes it committed against them yesterday. It took the RCC about 1,930 years to forgive the Jews for the crucifixion.
Forgiveness is impossible, and should not even be requested, when the guilty have never been punished and never will be. End the cover-ups and dismiss all the guilty to be subject to civil law, either for the crime of rape or the crime of conspiracy to commit rape and obstruct justice–THEN you can talk about “forgiveness.”
Christianity is under attack – not just Catholicism, but all of Christianity. When Hollywood consistently shows images of evil priests and compromised nuns and of the symbols of the church like the Vatican being destroyed, this leads to a crumbling of the base upon which the Church is built. The corporate media is chipping away at that Rock.
The Bible is full of imagery of evil priests and the destruction of houses of worship. Not buyin’ it.
And Cardinal Ratzinger was certainly under no Hollywood edict when he covered up for the priest who molested 200 deaf boys.
You talk about forgiveness, you talk about how long it’s been and that nobody should be angry anymore. I can only conclude you don’t have children. You just don’t get it.



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David J. White

posted April 6, 2010 at 10:59 am


And Cardinal Ratzinger was certainly under no Hollywood edict when he covered up for the priest who molested 200 deaf boys.
TTT,
As long as you repeat this tiresome and demonstrably false accusation, you reveal yourself as just another vile anti-Catholic bigot with nothing of value to say.



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Aimee

posted April 6, 2010 at 11:05 am


But TTT, I don’t think you really get it either. The completely unfounded, and by now totally refuted by evidence charges that Benedict somehow “covered up” for Father Murphy are what’s driving the exasperation of a lot of Catholics right now. If you’ve followed the press, and I have, you’ve seen boilerplate articles, one each day, with almost exactly the same wording, trying desperately to tie Benedict to a “coverup.” Each time, there’s no follow-up to that particular article, (usually starting in the NYT)–just a new one. Because there can’t be a follow-up–because if you follow the paper trail, for example, in the Father Murphy case, what you find is that the office that Benedict headed waived the statute of limitations and pursued the case against Murphy, which civil authorities had dropped the ball on years earlier, until Murphy died.
I do have children, and I am Catholic. But because of that, I actually know of, and participate in, programs at my parish specifically designed to avoid future abuse. I’m also not naive–I think there will be future cases of abuse, and the issue then will be whether or not we shrug, as Rod puts it, and whether or not there’s some kind of systemic coverup. My children are very aware of the failings of our church. But my children are also Catholic, and when virulent anti-Catholcism is being stoked by the press(and just read the comment boxes following, say, a Dowd hit piece if you don’t believe me) and my Catholic children deserve to know the whole truth about their church, and they deserve to live in a culture where Catholics like me speak up against unfair attacks. While they should be healthily realistic, they should not be made to feel ashamed of their faith, or their church, unfairly.
It’s not an either/or situation, though false dichotomies always work well to polarize people. The fact is, I can hate the scandal, and wish that the Church had been much more vocal and determined in rooting out pedophile priests in the past. But I can also be skeptical about the media reports I’m seeing, especially when my skepticism is borne out because I am willing to do the kind of reading many are not.
I understand what Rod is saying in his analogy to the South, but I have to say I do not believe in coporate guilt. It was wrong when it was applied to the Jews, and its equally wrong when applied to Southerners, or Catholics.



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hlvanburen

posted April 6, 2010 at 11:19 am


“I’m also not naive–I think there will be future cases of abuse, and the issue then will be whether or not we shrug, as Rod puts it, and whether or not there’s some kind of systemic coverup.”
Well, here we have an opportunity for the Church to either shrug or do something.
http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/156694/group/homepage/
“A former Greenbush, Minn., Catholic priest, charged with sexually assaulting a young girl there in 2004, remains working as a priest in India and says he’s innocent and won’t return to face the charges in Roseau County, according to a report Monday from The Associated Press.”
“Jeyapaul said Crookston diocese officials told him to stay in India once sexual assault charges were filed against him, AP reported. That doesn’t jibe with what a diocesan official told the Herald last summer when the criminal case against Jeyapaul became public.”
Charges have been filed. A civil suit was filed several years later by the alleged victim. The alleged victim is a girl (can’t blame the gays for this one), and if the alleged abuser is to be believed the Church has aided his fugitive status. So far the Vatican has not requested/ordered the alleged abuser to return to the US to face the charges.
Should they?



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David J. White

posted April 6, 2010 at 11:47 am


TTT–
I apologize to you, Rod, and the readership for letting my buttons get pushed that way. I really shouldn’t. And it was really other things I’d been reading before I checked Rod’s blog that had gotten me worked up. Again, I apologize.
You really shouldn’t keep asserting something about Pope Benedict that is demonstrably false and which is clearly being used as part of a smear campaign against him.
Still, I apologize for overreacting.



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Jim

posted April 6, 2010 at 11:50 am


Why apologize for calling a vile anti-Catholic bigot “a vile anti-Catholic bigot”?



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Jim

posted April 6, 2010 at 11:55 am


Is someone editing beliefnet articles secretly? There is NOT ONE, let alone “four or five” paragraphs praising the Church’s good works.



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Aimee

posted April 6, 2010 at 12:26 pm


hlvanburen: Not only should they, but my understanding is that they are. In a different article on that case, the AP reports that the Vatican said that they have told the Bishop in India who has jurisdiction over this priest that he should be defrocked, but the Bishop refuses to comply. Meanwhile, the Vatican spokesperson also said that they are working with American law-enforcement to extradite the priest for trial, and have ordered that he do so. I’ll try to find the article and post the link here so you can see it.



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Aimee

posted April 6, 2010 at 12:38 pm


Actually, he’s headed back for trial:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/world/asia/07church.html?pagewanted=1
I’m really not trying to be snarky, either, but it took about two seconds to look that up.



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hlvanburen

posted April 6, 2010 at 1:16 pm


“I’m really not trying to be snarky, either, but it took about two seconds to look that up.”
Neither am I, but you did notice the date on that story, didn’t you?
Strange how a little bad publicity can move an organization as big as the Catholic Church, isn’t it? You have to wonder what would have happened if the press had not aired this latest story.
Given that the church had several years to do this and didn’t, I’m guessing the bad press was the impetus here.



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Denise

posted April 6, 2010 at 2:09 pm


Sir,
Didn’t you convert to Catholicism only to leave the Church a few years later? If that is true, how can you possibly know what it means to be Catholic–or is this just your saying what someone who didn’t make good on the commitment says it means? I am confused.



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Your Name

posted April 6, 2010 at 2:09 pm


The reason that Catholics have historically “shrugged” over sexual abuse is the fact that they have not been taught Biblical standards. They have not been taught God’s perspective because they do not appreciate Scripture as much as evangelical Protestants do. Instead, they have bought into an authoritarian system whose members place themselves above God. We are reaping the fruits of that nonsense right now.



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted April 6, 2010 at 2:10 pm


I submitted the comment on April 6 at 2:09 p.m.



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Denise

posted April 6, 2010 at 2:22 pm


Oh and I should add: The reason that the negative perception many non-Southerners have of Southerners is because they earn it each and every day. I have lived in this region for 10 long years and I have never come across a community that is less educated, more bigoted, less welcoming or more hateful in my life. I can’t wait to leave.



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Denise

posted April 6, 2010 at 2:30 pm


LOL I complained about others being ignorant using poor grammar. But, the fact remains: People in this region generally tend to be very ignorant and proud of it. There is a lot to dislike about the American South and very little of it has to do with the weather. The law might have changed the way white Southerners behave towards black Southerners, but that doesn’t mean many people’s hearts have changed.
And, again, I would suggest that someone who converted but did not stay with the Church for any substantial period of time has little to say that is not merely a projection of his own perceptions on the subject of “What it means to be Catholic.” Those of us who have chosen to stay know the pain these scandals have caused everyone in the Church but we also know the joy of belonging to a Church that has done and is doing so many positive things for humankind.



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baba

posted April 6, 2010 at 3:03 pm


My last comment was deleted for whatever reason. I’ll try to summarize it. Here is a link to an article about sexual abuse of children at military bases. The relevance to this discussion is that the perpetrators were never punished and we never hear about it in the corporate press. Is there a double standard for the military vs. the Catholic Church?
CHILD ABUSE AT THE PRESIDIO – THE PARENTS’ AGONY, THE ARMY’S COVERUP, THE PROSECUTION’S FAILURE



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Aimee

posted April 6, 2010 at 6:56 pm


Yeah, I noticed the date. Did you read past it, by any chance? I’m guessing no, based on your comment. And I don’t believe I said the press had no place, or no job today–you just can’t swallow whole everything they say. Or, stop at the date when you’re reading.



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Tom Degan

posted April 7, 2010 at 6:26 am


In my parish, St. John the Evangelist in Goshen, NY, the first major pedophile scandal materialized in the early nineties. The priest in question, “Father Ed” had been molesting boys in their early teens. To say that the parishioners were traumatized by this would be an understatement. They were devastated. Then something wondrous happened….
Father Ed was eventually replaced by Father Trevor Nichols. Father Trevor had been an Anglican in merrie old England when he converted to Catholicism. On becoming a Catholic was transferred to Saint John’s – WITH HIS WIFE AND TWO DAUGHTERS! A married priest! WITH TWO KIDS!
You want to hear the punch line? Our little parish did not implode. The sun did not fall from the sky. Huge cracks did not appear in the earth’s surface. In fact, it was nice having them. They were – and are to this day – deeply beloved by the people of St. John’s.
Allowing priests to marry would transform the Catholic Church. Having a married priest and his lovely family in our midst certainly transformed the people of St. John’s.
http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com
Tom Degan



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R.C.

posted April 7, 2010 at 12:13 pm


I have to disagree with Tom Degan.
The various Protestant ministers and youth pastors have as high a rate of sexual misconduct with children in their flocks despite being mostly married. Fill the Catholic church with married priests, and the problem of pedophilia will not go away; it will remain.
The distinction between the Catholic church and various other organizations is that the Catholic church has, for various (insufficient) reasons, transferred these pervert priests hither and thither instead of laicizing them and having the parish contingent of Knights of Columbus march them to prison at swordpoint. That organizational distinctive makes the scandal worse in the Catholic church. But the percentage of married clergy is utterly non-predictive for the frequency of pedophilia.
Not that married clergy are in and of themselves a bad thing! There are fabulous examples, including St. Peter. (Admittedly, most of the historical examples gave up sexual relations with their wives, living in permanent continence, after their ordinations. A lot of people miss that little historical detail.) But no one is denying the presence of wonderful married priests.
So perhaps the celibacy discipline should be open to review. But the reasons should be relevant. The pedophilia scandal is not relevant, and has no place in that discussion.



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R.C.

posted April 7, 2010 at 12:22 pm


Denise’s comment about the South is baffling to me.
Frankly I saw an awful lot more bigotry and prejudice and “oh well, there goes the neighborhood” attitudes in the cities of the Northeast than I ever have in the suburbs of Atlanta or in middle Georgia. The latter, on matters of race, are every bit as carefree and integrated as San Jose. (Albeit with far fewer Latinos.)
But I suppose one can always wind up in a neighborhood full of po’ white trash, as they say, and get stuck with the wrong kind of neighbors. That can happen anywhere, I suppose. But to generalize from that is probably not justified: The sample set is too small for statistical validity.



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Denise

posted April 7, 2010 at 12:44 pm


R.C.,
I have lived in Richmond Hill, Georgia (an upper middle class suburb of Savannah), Long County, Georgia (a rural area of south Georgia) and Charleston, South Carolina. My opinions are my own but I wonder what we can expect but “ignorant and proud of it” with public schools that, with the exception of Bryan County’s, are uniformly under-performing and under-supported.
Again, these are my opinions and I understand that they are not shared by most of the people from the three areas mentioned above. Again, I have lived here 10 long years and can’t wait to leave. Life is just too short.



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TTT

posted April 7, 2010 at 4:38 pm


Why apologize for calling a vile anti-Catholic bigot “a vile anti-Catholic bigot”?
I’m not anti-Catholic–I’m anti-pederast. I’m not sure why you confuse the two, but then again, I’m not sure why you only describe me as “vile” and not the actions of pederasts.
As for “demonstrably false accusations” against Ratzinger–it is an incontrovertible documentary fact that Ratzinger was entirely responsible for the office that ceased the trial of Murphy and allowed him to die still in the priesthood as per his wishes, and also that it is due to Ratzinger’s graces and protection that Cardinal Law is still in Rome living like a king.
You can call me any names you like. It isn’t important. Criminal conspiracies to protect and enable rape are important. And you’re making it loud and clear just which upsets you more.



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Denise

posted April 7, 2010 at 8:53 pm


TTT, Google searches are truly wonderful things:
“It was not until 2001 that Pope John Paul II charged Ratzinger with reviewing every credible case of sexual abuse. While poring through these documents, Ratzinger’s eyes were opened. The church became more active in removing abusive priests — whom Ratzinger described rightly as “filth” — both through canonical trials and administrative action.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/06/AR2010040601902.html?hpid=opinionsbox1



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