Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Lady Doth Protest Too Much.

What is it with these darn Catholics? A snarky tossed away comment by a journalist whose stock and trade is snarky tossed away comments get some poor defender of the faith's head to explode. The complainant, a Ms. Charlotte Allen, goes round the corner, jumps the shark, and then belly flops into the deep end over one line offered up by the always supercilious Maureen Dowd.

Check out the screed in the Opinion section of the L.A. Times: (http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-allen-20100502-14,0,4040027.story), we will wait.

There might be more dishonest attempts to distract the reading public with totally peripheral issues. There might be other Op-Ed pieces that take umbrage on totally trivial and non-germane items in the discussion about the scandals surrounding Holy Mother Church, but I am hard pressed to find them. Dig out the smelling salts, poor Ms. Charlotte Allen is about to fall into a swoon because someone made fun of priestly garb.

The blatant dishonesty of the article is flabbergasting. The stance of wounded and put upon poor soul is ridiculous. The transparent, bad faith, attempt to appear balanced is manifest. This is yet another irony-free attempt to use the bull horn of the media to smear the media.

The media is not working at undermining the Roman Catholic faith, it does not have to. The Church is doing the job quite well all by itself. It is amazing that an institution with a long and storied intellectual history and memory has forgotten the lesson made manifest by the crimes of Richard Nixon; it is not the bad deed that gets you, it is the cover-up.

As horrific as the crimes the assorted priests committed were, and they were some of the most evil things ever committed by men in a position of great trust, what was worse was the systematic cover-up committed by the Roman Catholic Church. There is a grave and systemic institutional failure with any organization that allows one of members to rape and abuse over 200 hundred deaf children with no consequences. The argument that the present Pope was somehow out of the loop, or that this issue is now somehow fixed, holds no water.

Even if the present Pope was somehow out of the loop on this particular item; by organizational responsibility—by the position he held at the time, he should have acted sooner, and with much more alacrity. That priest should have been defrocked at the first incidence of child abuse; he should have been shot out of the priesthood with a cannon. After the second incident he should have been turned over to civil authorities. After the treatment failure, the failure to involve civil authorities was a gross violation of the Church's moral responsibilities. That the priest in question was never held accountable by neither Church, nor civil authority, after decades of abuse and malfeasance, is an evil that can never be forgiven. The Roman Catholic Church acted less like an institution of high moral virtue, and much more like a Criminal Organization. If a secular charitable organization had acted in this manner, the Federal Government would have long ago shut it down—with prejudice. Unfortunately it is really bad politics to frog-march bishops into criminal proceedings. No Prince of the Church is going to be perp-walked into any court in the land if the civil authorities have any other options on hand.

This is not about Maureen Dowd's or any other ink-stained wretch's objection to Catholic Dogma. It is about a pattern of abuse and cover-up that if any other group of people participated in, they would be facing Federal RICO laws. It is about what in any other case would be prosecuted as a criminal conspiracy. Thousands of Catholic parishioners were beaten, abused, raped, tortured and other wise violated by men in a position of trust. That these men used a sacrament of the Church, the confessional, to further these crimes only adds to the horror.

This is not a question of Catholic Dogma, this is a matter of how Holy Mother Church's own sacraments were violated and abused by the very people who were supposed to uphold them. What part of "the priest used the confessional to further acts of rape" does Ms. Charlotte Allen fail to understand? What part of "this was going on for years" did she miss? What part of "instead of turning over the priests over to civil authority, the priests were transferred to other parishes, where they raped again," is unclear to her? What part of "massive violation of trust by the entire hierarchy of the Church" is beyond her comprehension?

Instead of dealing with the manifest failures of the Church, Ms. Charlotte Allen would rather set up straw-men arguments about mean old media types, who are nefariously trying to impose their unclean notions on Holy Mother Church. It is all about the secularist wanting to change Church policy on Homosexuality and Women Priests; so says Ms. Charlotte Allen. Leave those good men in Cassocks alone! Leave them alone! Stop being so mean to them; you bad old Meany!!

What absolute rubbish is this Op-Ed piece. What manifestly dishonest red herrings it drags into the conversation. What an epic illustration of flop-sweat and desperation. What a feeble attempt to toss sand in the eye of the reader of her piece. What an insult to the intelligence of that same reader.

It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the Media may be chewing on this particular bone because of all the horrific and salacious details. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the Media is overindulging in schadenfreude in this matter. Despite that; there is a real story here. There is a story of a major institution and the massive violation of trust it participated in over decades. It is a story of abuse, cover-up, buck-passing, and institutional failure. It is a story of systemic rot that looks to have gone all the way to the very pinnacle of the organization. It is a story of how one of the oldest and most powerful institutions in the world had an accountability moment; and how it abjectly failed to pass that test. It is a story of how the Roman Catholic Church managed to vaporize the trust of millions of the faithful. All the happy talk the Church, its flacks, its laity, and its independent supporters; supporters like Ms. Charlotte Allen, cannot begin to heal that self-inflicted wound. Trust in the institution is lost. The details of how that trust was violated keep staggering in like drunken sailors from shore leave. It is no longer a question of if a new horror will be discovered; it is only a question of when. What is worse is the sneaking suspicion that the Pope is now dealing with the mess he managed to fob off when he was head of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The media has every right to run with that suspicion. It is a story much loved by the scribblers, hacks and morbidly curious readers of purple prose; it is the story of an ignored alligator biting its negligent keeper in a tender spot. It is the story of a formerly sleeping dog waking up and being very belligerently. As this dog was allowed to go feral, is it any wonder at the carnage it is inflicting on its supposed master? How could the Media not report on this event? At the very least it has the theater of a very bad train wreck.

This is not about some secular inquisition of Holy Mother Church. It is manifestly about the revelations concerning unresolved violations of trust by the Church. It is about the apparent violators that have slipped through the cracks of Pope John-Paul's reforms of 2001. What guarantees do we have from the Holy Father that criminals in cassocks will be turned over to civil authority, or at least dealt with harshly? There appear to be rather large fissures; large enough for several bishops to slip through. One wonders if the recently resigned Belgian and German bishops would still be at their posts had not the Media shown such a harsh light on his moral failures. Would the Pope be so concerned about the Vatican's Ship of State if he did not see the Media sharks circling round in such profusion?

The calls for Papal resignation have many motivations. Some of them are less than pure and are rooted in a dislike of the Holy Father's staunch conservativism. There is however a pure and honest desire for an accountability moment. There is a burning need for a serious act of contrition. A few tears shed in Malta are barely the beginning of the Mea Culpa required by the Holy Father. The complaint that Benedict XVI was not in charge when most of these crimes and misdemeanors happened is a dodge. He is manifestly in charge now; his is the penance, both private and public, that must be performed. It is passing strange that the Church and its supporters fail to understand the need for the admission of sin and the plea for forgiveness required from Holy Mother Catholic Church. After two thousand years one would think that the Church would understand the absolute need for grace and humility that are part of the basic teachings of Christ.