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Catholic Scandal | Catholic Life

Catholic Scandal

There is a Catholic saying that “the Church lives on forgiveness.” The most important thing that I could possibly express about the topic of scandal in the Catholic Church is sorrow. I am sorry.

No, I am not a bishop, so my expression of sorrow cannot officially represent the Church, but as a member of the sinning body it is only right for me to convey sorrow at the profound failure of my Church.

When someone brings up the topic of Catholic scandal I assume that they mean the sex-abuse scandal. I could attempt to address the sociological history of Catholicism which enabled bishops to simply move criminal priests from one parish to another and cover up the evil reality of abuse while parishioners did nothing. But I am not a sociologist and I do not think that the history of how this could happen is really at the heart of the issue. I could explain what the Church has done to remedy the situation. But efforts to stop failure of epic proportion do not make up for the fact that it happened.

Even if I had a perfect answer for the question of the sex-abuse scandal, there would still remain the general question of scandal in the Church. What about the crusades, Spanish Inquisition, encouraging secular governments to enslave non-Christians etc.? What about the majority of American Catholics who ignore the Church’s instructions to give to the poor, care for the environment, uphold sexual morality, and oppose unjust war? The painful truth is that the Catholic Church fails dramatically to live up to its call to represent Christ on earth.

In order to be Catholic, one must either live in denial of the reality of the Church’s failings, or else accept the difficult idea that God has chosen to work through horribly defective humans. One Catholic theologian suggested that God could have chosen to create a sort of angel-administration to run the Church, but that if God had done so we would have loved the Church in its perfection rather than the source of the Church, God. I am not sure that explanation is any more satisfying than the typical explanations for how a good omnipotent God could allow evil, but it the best attempt I have encountered.

What aspects of Catholic scandal are of most concern to you?

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30 Responses to “Catholic Scandal”

  1. Annie 23. Dec, 2009 at 6:32 pm #

    What a thoughtful post. And, from a non-religious person, thank you for writing about this. There were two things about the scandal that I found most disturbing (most of my knowledge about the cover-up in Boston came from a Frontline documentary called The Hand of God.) One- the victims were unable to get any sort of apology or acknowledgement of wrong-doing from the church (I think this was the priests or maybe other authority figures that the victims of abuse met with in the film? I should re-watch it.) From what I read and saw, it sounded like the lawsuits came about only after this had happened. The other was that the Church reacted to the scandal by saying that there might be a problem with homosexuality among priests, since most of the victims were boys (I don’t have the exact wording of the statement, but that was the gist of it.) It sounded to me like either they were not clear on the difference between a pedophile and a homosexual or heterosexual, or else they were trying to muddy the waters, so to speak, by bringing up homosexuality- i.e. create a controversy to detract from the scandal.

    Many of the parents of the victims knew what was right for their children- if they were given a choice they would not have allowed them to be abused. I think some Nuns also tried to step in, and were silenced. So, it is not the entire Church and congregation that was to blame for this, clearly. But somehow an environment was cultivated where the majority was silenced and a few criminals were allowed to wreck havoc in the lives of children (and now adults- if anyone is not clear on how much harm the abuse did, I recommend watching the documentary.) And I think there is an important lesson to be learned there, you know? There are other instances of wrong-doing by a group that somehow they get away with, even if most of us would disagree with what is going on- a corporation that is polluting the environment, for example. I don’t know if I have any answers, either- but I think transparency and accountability is a step in the right direction.

    And thanks again, for writing about this. I think in the face of horrors that humans are capable of it is tempting to deny instead of ask questions. I think it’s very brave of you to acknowledge and examine the situation, instead.

    • Rae 28. Dec, 2009 at 6:56 pm #

      What a sad story. I think that you are right that watching the documentary is good for showing how much suffering the abuse and cover-up caused. Unfortunately the raw emotion does not serve well for a factual discussion, but it is extremely important to recognize, and completely understandable why someone in that situation would want nothing more than to rip the Church apart.

      You are right that the parents weren’t to blame in this story (though I did get the feeling that Paul did actually blame his father for not being there for him in his teen years) but this is the story of one man told from his limited perspective. It would be nice if we could act as if it is only the evil bishops who covered for the abusers, but the simple reality of abuse is that people know. Bishops could not transfer offending priests without the complacency of the congregations. Those who reported the problem must have been content that it was no longer “their problem.” One woman told me about when her daughters were little (over 30 years ago) and the parish priest behaved “oddly.” Their response was to move to another parish without ever saying anything. Yes, they protected their daughters, but ultimately I think that the evil is far worse than anyone wants to recognize. I can’t suppress my horror at how no one was really innocent.

  2. Annie 23. Dec, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    Also- unfortunately, it now appears that a similar scandal happened in Ireland, as well. I was sorry to hear that there are more victims. Here’s a link to the documentary, if anyone’s interested you can watch it online or participate in a discussion:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/handofgod/

    • Rae 23. Dec, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

      Thanks for the link! I’ll watch it as soon as I can, and then get back to you. I don’t want to respond to your comments without knowing what it is we’re really talking about. It may take me a bit, but I am not ignoring you.

  3. Molly 23. Dec, 2009 at 7:35 pm #

    OMGosh, this is perfect time. As someone only now learning about the Catholic Church, and like parts of what she sees, the past scandals are something hard to follow. Especially when I hear people say things like “God makes sure the Church/the Pope will never make a bad decision for the Church” and its by holding fast to that beliefs that things like this happen.

    When I see modern scandals like these current sexual abuse ones, I can shrug it off a little – it’s a personal failing and not the Church telling its Priest that this is an acceptable way to live their lives.

    A basic study of history shows us not only those big issues, but gives a slue of corrupt bishops and Cardinals and even a few shady calls by a few Popes when they have directed the Church based on power and greed. It is when the Church becomes synonymous with Politics that this happens most of the time and when it’s followers become to complacent with its orders and doesn’t have the courage to say “you’re wrong”.

    I quote Spiderman in say “With great power comes great responsibility” however remember “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” (not Spiderman of course). It’s a fine line the Church walks and as your Theologian says, the Church is not made of Angels, but of Men and men are fallible creatures, which (by my reasonings) makes the physical (not spiritual)embodiment of the Church falliable as well.

    That too is a fine line – we can accept the Churches rulings on all strictly spiritual matters as infalliable, but when does the spiritual end and the physical matters begin? Not to open up another can of worms, but isn’t that precisely what a lot of political/legal/religious debates come down to? When does our physical law end and spiritual law begin?

    I just wrote a little post about a passage I found in C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” last night and I’ll quote it here as I think it might help- (for anyone who has not read it, I highly recommended it and it is the fictional letters of demon training his nephew on the ways to win a man’s soul)

    “Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity he is ours – and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you pretty cageful down here…”

  4. Sarah 23. Dec, 2009 at 8:31 pm #

    I like this post a lot. I think for me, the biggest scandals are (1) nuns and priests who fail to uphold Church teaching, and who even openly dissent from the Church on issues such as women’s ordination, abortion, same-sex marriage, war, death penalty, etc., and (2) lay people who do the same. Basically anyone who can claim to be a card-carrying member of either political party in the US and be an authentic Catholic at the same time.

  5. Tiphaine 23. Dec, 2009 at 9:08 pm #

    Great post!! Thanks for saying it.
    For me the greatest scandal is not following up on social justice, getting tepid about our faith, making it a nice tradition, a safe sunday morning habit, between coffee, donut and walk by the lake :( I think encountering Jesus should send us beyond our limits, to reach out to the poor, in spirit, in love, in materials. But too often we let the rest of our world numb us out. I am sorry that I get cold about my faith and how it radically changed my life.

  6. Trena 23. Dec, 2009 at 10:06 pm #

    Great post Rae. I have a lot of family members who think I “am in a cult” because I belong to such a flawed church. As flawed as it may be, it is the only church that can provide me The Eucharist. And really it isn’t the church that is flawed it is the people. We are human, not perfect in anyway, and unforunately some of our leaders have made some very grave errors. I do not in anyway, shape or form, condone what these people have done, and I’m not saying ‘it’s okay they aren’t perfect.’ But I do pray for these people and their victims.

    Another thought. The Catholic Church is in the media a lot for scandal. Has it ever occurred to anyone that the reason we don’t hear about as many scandals in other churches is because there is not one united church for that affiliation? The Catholic Church, regardless of where you live in the world, is one church. We are all connected, one, and have one leader on earth, the Pope. Baptist have hundreds if not thousands of different types of churches. Same with Methodist, Lutherans, etc. I once heard that there have been more pedophile cases in the Protestant churches than the Catholic Church. (Unforunately I have tried researching this and can’t find where I heard this.) The only reason you don’t hear about it is because there are so many different sectors of the Protestant church. Plus with the Catholic Church it is primarily a male priest and a young boy. With the Protestant church it has been a male leader and a female girl. And for some reason, that is more acceptable.

  7. Annie 23. Dec, 2009 at 10:49 pm #

    This is interesting. I think Rae’s original post is about the sex-abuse scandal and the cover-up. So far most of you chose to side-step that and offer your own interpretations of a scandal in the church. I’m sure there are other churches that also have pedophiles in their midst- does that make it acceptable for the Catholic Church to have them also?

    I would encourage you to watch the documentary- this Catholic family lays a pretty serious charge against their Boston church. There are links to documents and articles at that link , too. Also- there was a pretty serious cover-up. Molly- is it okay for a church to protect its’ members who have committed crimes against children? Because to me that is sort of implying that that’s an okay way to live your life.

    Trena- I don’t think either scenario is acceptable. In fact both scenarios are serious crimes, and anyone protecting those criminals is guilty of a crime, too. I am curious about your statement regarding Protestant churches- I am an atheist and I have no loyalties, but I’m not familiar with any abuse scandal quite like the one we’re talking about here, in other churches.

    I do have some reasons for examining these questions right now, and I really appreciate any Catholic, in particular, who is willing to discuss them. I am interested in the Catholic Church from a humanitarian and an academic perspective. I feel like I have been affected by it lately, and I’d like to know about the things that are affecting my life. One thing I am interested in is social justice, and I’m wondering how my ideas’ (and others’) extend to the Catholic Church, given some of this information. I hope that makes sense. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

    • Rae 28. Dec, 2009 at 7:03 pm #

      My origional post recognized the sex-abuse scandal as the most frequently mentioned scandal, but it was meant to address the broader issue of scandal since I think that there is an entire history to be dealt with, not just our current problems. I don’t think that any of the commenters were side-stepping the issue of sex-abuse since I didn’t put it out there as *the* issue to address.

      It makes sense to me that different people are going to be bothered by different things. As a non-Catholic who watched an emotional documentary it is natural for you to be more caught up in the harm of the recent sex-abuse scandal than for others who had to process it 5+ years ago and figure out how they were going to relate to the Church. It is different to be on “the inside” and to have daily interactions with innocent priests who have not only fought corruption from within, but daily contend with the presumption of guilt due to their vocation.

      I’d love to know your thoughts on social justice and how it relates to your perception of the Church, if you care to share!

  8. Molly 24. Dec, 2009 at 12:41 am #

    Annie –

    I just wanted to clear up I do not believe that it was right for them not acknowledge or attempt to change the issues you and Rae bring up and yes by doing nothing they were essentially giving it the ol’ thumbs up. It was and continues to be something horrible in the modern history of the Catholic Churchand if I was Catholic I would be particularly vocal about that issue with in my church.

    I think what I mean to express is that while the Catholic Churches response to the sexual scandals was wrong, the initial acts were done by individual people (what I mean is to my knowledge there is no one else telling them to commit these acts, they alone are choosing to do this to children, etc and it’s not an official doctrine saying if you’re a priest you have to have sexual relations with children) and it’s those individual acts that I can put farther down the scale of the list of “Horrible Thing Catholics Have Done”, with the Catholic Church propensity of covering up issues like this farther up that list. Whereas lets say, the Spanish Inquisition which was backed by Pope Sixtus IV or previously Pope Innocent IV’s authorization of torture when investigating heresy is worse than both because truly evil acts were committed with the full knowledge of the Church.

    I know that this might not be the perfect argument I’d wish to make, but this a comments box and not a dissertation. If I can clear anything else up for you I’d love to respond further on a non-comment page forum.

  9. Kathleen 24. Dec, 2009 at 7:04 am #

    Annie, if I had to guess, I would say that probably people sidestep because this issue has gotten so much press, and overshadowed other issues that are equally important. And Catholics also object to being singled out for censure on this issue, knowing that it is not a problem limited one denomination or one gender.

    However, that being said, I think that any incident of abuse is an abuse of power, and completely aside from the emotional damage, I think it’s horrifying because of the effect it has on the person’s faith–and not just on their faith, but the faith of their family and friends. How can you trust God when God’s representative has so completely abused that trust?

    On the other hand, I think it’s also important to acknowledge that this scandal quickly turned into a witch hunt. I personally know of one priest who was relieved of his duty for some stupid things he did that were not, by any stretch of the imagination, abuse–but the bishop wanted to be seen as responding strongly. That is an injustice to the priest. I also know of a priest who claims his innocence from prison–his story is here: http://www.thesestonewalls.com/ I know nothing about this situation other than what he has on the blog, but I thought it was interesting.

    In any life, the worst times are opportunities for growth in holiness. My hope and prayer is that this will be an occasion for the Church to do the same: to reflect on its weaknesses, to come to terms with humility and brokenness, and to walk, purified, toward the future.

  10. Trena 25. Dec, 2009 at 9:39 pm #

    Annie-

    I think you may have read my comments out of context, or else, I wrote them wrong. In no way shape or form do I think what the Catholic Church has done to cover up the scandal, let priest switch parishes, pay off familes, etc. is acceptable. I am horrified by what my church has done and it makes me sick. But I realize that these are flawed people in my church, making horrible decisions. And no matter how flawed these people may be, they won’t keep me away from my Jesus.

    Here is one article about the sex scandal in other churches:

    NPR did a piece on it as well years ago. It is 8 minutes long but interesting:

    Here is an interesting scriptural based post on scandal.

    Like I said, I think the scandal is wrong and I pray for these victims. But no matter how bad that scandal, or any other scandal, can get, I can’t take it out on my Jesus.

    • Rae 28. Dec, 2009 at 7:30 pm #

      “And no matter how flawed these people may be, they won’t keep me away from my Jesus.” Precisely!

  11. Annie 26. Dec, 2009 at 12:32 am #

    Molly- I agreed with some of what you wrote. The main part that I took issue with was when you said that you can shrug the scandal off because it’s a personal failing- I think it ceases to be a personal failing when a large cover-up ensues.

    Also- I didn’t mean any comments as a personal attack. I’m not blaming anyone here for anything- mainly I’m trying to understand how and why something like this happened. As for sounding like a dissertation- I find it’s helpful if I try to be precise in my statements.

    Kathleen- it is unfortunate if one of the victims was an innocent clergy person- but you note that was a Bishop’s doing. However, with a lot of victims out there and no jail sentences handed out, I think calling this a witch hunt is a little premature. And how is it that the Catholic Church decided to shelter criminals, in the first place?

    I’ve been speaking to a lot of people about this over the course of a year. I don’t know if I can explain how horrified many people are by this, and a lot of people are really angry- besides settling some lawsuits, it seems like it’s impossible to hold the people running this Church accountable for their actions. That is the part that worries me the most.

    If we wanted to also discuss scandals in other churchs, I could delve into that. However, it’s not a defense of one church to point out that it also happened somewhere else, correct? I don’t think it’s okay for abuse and endangerment of children is acceptable anywhere. I think any person involved in abuse or cover-up in a similar situation should be held accountable for their actions, too. (After reading your link- there was no cover-up involved, so I can’t really compare that to the Catholic scandal.)

    Here’s my conclusion- the Catholic Church needs to be reformed and reined in. I don’t think that’s going to happen internally- it will have to be external pressure and grassroots movements to remove its’ influence from the lives on non-Catholics and vulnerable children, and it should be treated like an organization that thinks its’ above the law.

    • Rae 28. Dec, 2009 at 7:29 pm #

      “the Catholic Church needs to be reformed and reined in” I would assume that you were speaking hyperbolically except that you said that you’re being precise. I formerly agreed that discussing the evil outside the Catholic Church was not a defense of evil within Catholicism, but if you think that the Church needs to be “reined in” by outside forces, then it is imperative to show that the Catholic Church is actually a bastion of systemic evil. I see a huge problem with the area of moral authority and harming those under one’s care, but I don’t see a Church more dangerous to children than other churches or schools.

      When you mentioned “external pressure” to “remove influence from the lives of non-Catholics” I found myself quite defensive and wondering whether you know of steps which have been taken to remedy the situation. Is your latest news on Boston the documentary? If so, you can’t know of anything done by Cardinal O’Malley, the mandatoryprograms for preventing abuse, or even the work of Voice of the Faithful.

      As someone who has lived in both the archdiocese of Boston and the diocese of Manchester post-scandal I know that I couldn’t volunteer for anything in the parish where I might be around children without the church office having a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Certification. Parish bulletins urge parents to not ever allow their children to be unsupervised in church. When I needed a ride home one night it was not enough for two priests to drive me home, they also needed to get a non-priest maintenance worker to join us for the ride. It was not that I felt threatened, but rather that they could not take the chance of an appearance of anything improper.

      Because that is my background, I find your statement highly inflammatory and am curious as to what it is you think needs to be done that isn’t currently being done.

  12. Annie 28. Dec, 2009 at 9:30 pm #

    I’m sorry if I offended, but that is the conclusion I have come to, and it’s not about the documentary alone. I read a lot of the articles and discussion that went with the film. I really don’t consider the film inflammatory- it merely showed what happened with one family. If they wanted to be inflammatory, they could have taken it city, state, country, or world-wide. The whole reason for my interest in the Church and its’ people was due to this documentary and the Bishops’ involvement in the Stupak Amendment, among other things. I do appreciate your willingness to discuss this- honestly, a lot of people won’t.

    Here’s the thing- after trying to read and discuss as much as a could through podcasts, discussion boards, current events and some internet research- the more I learn the more disturbed I get. I went into this thinking there must be something positive I could learn about the Church. I mean, there must be more good than bad if people keep supporting this institution, right? (I did hear one member of the clergy on Talk of the Nation who really sounded like a spiritual person- like he had something worthwhile to say. I wish I had his name, but I haven’t found that spirituality reflected anywhere in what I learned about the Church.) But I think more and more people are leaving church (in general) because they can’t fully explore their spirituality in the confines of an institution- any institution. I think part of the reason the Catholic Church has come under such fire in modern times is its’ apparent inability to change and adapt. There is no person on this earth the Pope is held accountable to, right? The church is extremely wealthy (I worked at an accounting firm for a while that conducted yearly audits for the church) and powerful- that makes it very difficult to hold it accountable. And it has learned how to influence public perception over the years- it did a great PR job on Mother Teresa. btw- the measures you’re talking about all sound like they’re for keeping up appearances. Really, don’t leave your child unsupervised in church? That sounds like they’re washing their hands of the whole mess- as in, we’re not responsible for what might happen.

    And if their influence was limited to the lives of Catholics’, I still might not like it, but I’d have to live with that. What I can’t live with is their ideas about morality and sexuality influencing my life, and the lives of other ordinary non-Catholics. That violates the separation between church and state- but I think the Catholic Church is unique in its’ ability to see itself as a church and a state. And the more powerful and corrupt the state becomes, the less people see them as a Church with any moral authority. That’s one part that really struck me about the film- that family was an ordinary Catholic family who believed in the Church, donated money, hung up pictures of the Pope- all of it. But by the end, the conclusion they had to draw was that their beloved institution had no moral authority left. There really is nothing I can say, as an outsider, that is as powerful as that. What I am searching for is some grassroots or watchdog organizations that following the goings-on of the Church- and those are not easy to find, so far. I’m sorry to have drawn such harsh conclusions when you were nice enough to engage in a discussion- I just didn’t see it coming, how disgusted I would get when I started looking into some of these things.

    • PresterJosh 28. Dec, 2009 at 11:20 pm #

      “I wish I had his name, but I haven’t found that spirituality reflected anywhere in what I learned about the Church.”

      Have you considered actually reading classics of Catholic spirituality? For instance, the works of St. Theresa of Avila? It sounds like you’ve been focusing very much on a “this scandal in the Church’s history” sort of survey. Researching an institution’s failings isn’t generally a very good way to find out about the good work that it does, especially when it is something as intellectually and emotionally challenging as genuine spirituality.

      “And if their influence was limited to the lives of Catholics’, I still might not like it, but I’d have to live with that. What I can’t live with is their ideas about morality and sexuality influencing my life, and the lives of other ordinary non-Catholics.”

      If the influence of atheist leaders was limited to the lives of atheists, I still might not like it, but I’d have to live with that. What I can’t live with is their ideas about morality and sexuality influencing my life, and the lives of other ordinary non-atheists.

      Personally, I don’t think this makes very much sense.

      “That violates the separation between church and state-”

      Actually, it doesn’t. “Influencing” is something that is perfectly legitimate in the American system. What isn’t legitimate is the attempt by some groups to force Catholics to fund abortion. That is a violation of the separation of church and state. That is moral totalitarianism. And that is what the Stupak amendment is intended to prevent.

      Obviously, I have rather major disagreements with you. But I’d encourage you to take the time to look into the spiritual resources of Catholicism. I doubt that it will change your mind on current issues, but perhaps it will help you to have a more balanced perspective on the Church’s contributions to society.

      Some ideas, if you’re interested…

      * Books by Henri Nouwen
      * The Cloud of Unknowing
      * The Catechism of the Catholic Church (the basic teachings of the Church)
      * The Interior Castle by St. Theresa of Avila

    • Rae 29. Dec, 2009 at 1:03 pm #

      You did not offend me, and I do not think that the film was inflammatory. It was emotional rather than rational**, but that is completely reasonable given the fact that it was a man telling the story of his brother’s suffering. I don’t think that telling stories of abused people world-wide would be inflammatory, I think that it would be a healthy start to healing.

      What I thought was inflammatory was your words that the Church needed external pressure to remove its influence. This implies that Catholics such as myself are at best too weak to face reality, while outsiders such as yourself are perfectly able to judge the situation. I recognize that complacency is always a danger, so if you see something that the Church is doing today that hurts children, please say so! What steps do you think are necessary to prevent abuse that have not been taken? I am well aware that my Church is prone to failure, so I do not want to ignore valuable warnings or suggestions.

      If the steps taken by the Church are simply a PR stunt, what would count as a real step to protect children? I am sure that you would be surprised how eager Voice of the Faithful would be to push for change. What do you think they’re missing?

      What do you mean by the Catholic Church “coming under fire in modern times”? It seems to me that the roots of anti-Catholicism in the US are quite deep and that those behind the hatred haven’t always been on the side of change themselves.

      From my study of religion I am under the impression that most religions are well-equipped to function as both “Church” and “State”. Also, since humans are inherently religious (there is never more than a small minority who are able to function well without religion) society tends to be inherently religious. What cultures do you think are good examples of an effective separation of Church and State? How do you understand the Church of England or the Lutheran Church in Germany to be better than Catholicism in maintaining a separation between civil life and Church life? The US has done an unusually good job of maintaining a government that does not oppress religion, not “prohibiting the free exercise thereof ” and all that, but it seems to be an unusually good example which has based its laws on protecting rather than prohibiting religion. I guess I don’t see why it is okay for the Catholic Church to lobby for rights for immigrants, but not for it to oppose abortion. And why is it okay for evangelical Christians to oppose abortion, but not the Church? It seems to me that this is either unfairly anti-Catholic, or else you’d have to condemn all religious people acting on their consciences, even to the extent of Anglicans fighting for civil rights in the Deep South or gay rights in CA. Is that really what you mean?

      It is perfectly appropriate to be disgusted at the way people who claimed to be representatives of God abused their power. But to paraphrase Dag Hammarskjöld “is our disgust with the evil of others the only virtue with which we will live?”

      **Can you see the logical problem with making a case that the source of the evil is that priests are too elevated, and then telling a story where none of the unapproachable priests did anything of note, and the problem priest was one who was far too close with the boys and taking them on trips etc? How about trying to “make the Church feel the pain” financially, and then complaining that it is shutting down parishes for financial reasons?

      • Annie 29. Dec, 2009 at 9:31 pm #

        Here’s a quote from an earlier post as to why I think the victims had to go after the Church’s money- it was the only way to hold the church accountable, and that was the conclusion of the victim’s of the abuse:

        “One- the victims were unable to get any sort of apology or acknowledgement of wrong-doing from the church (I think this was the priests or maybe other authority figures that the victims of abuse met with in the film? I should re-watch it.) From what I read and saw, it sounded like the lawsuits came about only after this had happened. ”

        And what does that tell you about the church? According to their conclusions, the Church seems to be more about the money than anything else. I think the victims would have been satisfied with an apology and acknowledgement of the cover-up, full cooperation with investigators, and some jail sentences handed out, if justified- but they didn’t get any of that.

        Actually, people don’t need religion to live in a society, nor do I think they are inherently religious. Religion has been used in many societies to preserve a particular power structure, which benefited the people in the positions of power to the detriment of everyone else. The Catholic Church is one legacy of the Roman Empire- it stepped into the power vacuum created when the empire fell. Iran is the best modern example of how intolerant and undemocratic a church and state that intermingles can be. Dissidents are jailed and killed for offenses ranging from homosexuality, reporting on the news freely and honestly, infidelity (usually only the woman is punished for that), and for not wearing a veil.

        Japan is a great example of a society where the majority of people are not religious, and the two religions that play a minor role in their society have managed to coexist harmoniously for most of Japan’s history- Buddhism and Shinto. They have also intermingled to a large degree. A poll conducted by Ashahi Shimban found that 55% of Japanese are not religious, and 50% consider religion to have no importance in their everyday life.

        As for state churches- the Church of England’s membership has been in decline for a while, as in the case with most of Europe. From 1968 to 1999, the people who attended the Church of England declined from 3.5% of the population to 1.9% of the population. They have a legislative body, but it is in charge of the laws of the church, not the laws of the country. Countries that have seen a lot of bloody religious conflicts are much more inclined than the US to support the separation of church and state, and that includes most of Europe.

        And abortion is legal in this country- if you don’t like it, don’t get one. Personally, I’m not a fan of corporate bailouts, but I can’t stop my tax dollars from paying for them. And everyone has the right to oppose or support issues with one vote, or to march in the streets with their group- what I don’t agree with is clerical interference in legislature (like what happened with the Stupak Amendment) under any circumstances by any religion.

        I think the anti-Catholicism in this country was more a result of old world Protestant/ Catholic tensions than anything else. It just happened that Catholics were in the minority here. Our policy of religious freedom did at least ensure we avoided any religious wars like the 30 years’ Catholic/Protestant war that raged in Europe. But, any Church that was as heavily anti-Semitic for as long the Catholic one was should be prepared for some backlash in a country where Jewish people were also free to worship and live. Pope Pius XII ignored pleas for help from the Jewish people during the Holocaust. The Christmas holiday was also traditionally a day on which the Pope encouraged Christians to harass the Jewish people.

        And my disgust with the evil of others is not the only virtue by which I live, if that’s what you’re implying- but the evil of others shouldn’t be ignored. One quote from the film discussion that I found particularly powerful:

        “I was a twelve year catholic school participant and alter boy, but have never had the tragedy of physical abuse. What was clear to me is that the main business of the church is the protection of the church itself, and the power of the priests. I no longer am a catholic and will not participate in their dysfunctional organization that was and is unable to live by their own teachings. You can make the agrument that not all the church is this way, but when the bishops, cardinals and pope all participated in the protection of pedophile priests and continued to do so for fifty years, that is an organization worth avoiding at all costs.”

        John D’Angelo
        Magnolia, DE

        • PresterJosh 30. Dec, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

          “Here’s a quote from an earlier post as to why I think the victims had to go after the Church’s money- it was the only way to hold the church accountable, and that was the conclusion of the victim’s of the abuse:”

          That’s a perfectly understandable position. But Rae didn’t say that was a problem. She just pointed out the irrationality of both going after the money and complaining when the Church has financial problems. You can legitimately do one or the other, but not both.

          “And what does that tell you about the church? According to their conclusions, the Church seems to be more about the money than anything else. I think the victims would have been satisfied with an apology and acknowledgement of the cover-up, full cooperation with investigators, and some jail sentences handed out, if justified- but they didn’t get any of that.”

          Of course victims are going to have that perspective. It would be shocking if they didn’t. But that doesn’t make it the whole truth.

          “Actually, people don’t need religion to live in a society, nor do I think they are inherently religious.”

          Rae didn’t say that people need religion to live in a society. She said that because people are inherently religious, societies also tend to be religious.

          Perhaps you’re thinking of “organized religion.” However, I suspect that Rae has a broader meaning in mind. Awe/worship of the divine seems to be a pretty universal part of the human experience.

          “Religion has been used in many societies to preserve a particular power structure, which benefited the people in the positions of power to the detriment of everyone else.”

          I agree that this happens quite frequently. But the reason it happens is because human beings are naturally oriented toward a religious/spiritual dimension of life. If they weren’t, then religion wouldn’t be a very effective way of controlling society, would it?

          “The Catholic Church is one legacy of the Roman Empire- it stepped into the power vacuum created when the empire fell.”

          I agree that the Catholic Church partially stepped into the power vacuum, but calling it a legacy of the Roman Empire is overselling the case.

          “Iran is the best modern example of how intolerant and undemocratic a church and state that intermingles can be. Dissidents are jailed and killed for offenses ranging from homosexuality, reporting on the news freely and honestly, infidelity (usually only the woman is punished for that), and for not wearing a veil.”

          I agree that Iran is a good example of how religion and state can mix badly. I just wonder what your point is.

          “Japan is a great example of a society where the majority of people are not religious, and the two religions that play a minor role in their society have managed to coexist harmoniously for most of Japan’s history- Buddhism and Shinto. They have also intermingled to a large degree. A poll conducted by Ashahi Shimban found that 55% of Japanese are not religious, and 50% consider religion to have no importance in their everyday life.”

          Are you claiming that these 55% have no spiritual beliefs?

          “As for state churches- the Church of England’s membership has been in decline for a while, as in the case with most of Europe. From 1968 to 1999, the people who attended the Church of England declined from 3.5% of the population to 1.9% of the population. They have a legislative body, but it is in charge of the laws of the church, not the laws of the country.”

          And how is that different than the Catholic Church in the US, which is in charge of the laws of the Catholic religion, but not the laws of the country?

          “Countries that have seen a lot of bloody religious conflicts are much more inclined than the US to support the separation of church and state, and that includes most of Europe.”

          Really? Like the Lutheran Church in Germany, which taxpayer money supports?

          “And abortion is legal in this country- if you don’t like it, don’t get one.”

          Slavery is legal in this country. If you don’t like it, don’t buy a slave.

          Killing Jews is legal in this country. If you don’t like it, don’t kill them.

          The idea that because something is legal, it’s okay, is a moral fallacy. It’s “might makes right.”

          “Personally, I’m not a fan of corporate bailouts, but I can’t stop my tax dollars from paying for them.”

          There is a big difference between pragmatic issues of economics, and fundamental issues of morality. Catholics believe that abortion is murder. And so, for us to just go quietly away and let abortion continue would put us in the situation of the German citizens who did nothing to protect the Jews, or the American citizens who thought slavery was wrong, but did nothing to help the abolitionists.

          “And everyone has the right to oppose or support issues with one vote, or to march in the streets with their group-”

          You mean everyone except those who disagree with you.

          “what I don’t agree with is clerical interference in legislature (like what happened with the Stupak Amendment) under any circumstances by any religion.”

          So what you’re saying is that the clergy shouldn’t lead their people to protest government injustice, like the Catholic Church did with segregation, or like the Catholic Church did in fighting the Nazi party.

          “I think the anti-Catholicism in this country was more a result of old world Protestant/ Catholic tensions than anything else. It just happened that Catholics were in the minority here. Our policy of religious freedom did at least ensure we avoided any religious wars like the 30 years’ Catholic/Protestant war that raged in Europe. But, any Church that was as heavily anti-Semitic for as long the Catholic one was should be prepared for some backlash in a country where Jewish people were also free to worship and live.”

          You do realize that the anti-Catholics and anti-semites in America have largely been the same group of people? It’s not as if Protestant Americans were anti-Catholic because they were pro-Jewish.

          “Pope Pius XII ignored pleas for help from the Jewish people during the Holocaust.”

          This is manifestly false.

          From 1941 to 1944, Pope Pius and the Catholic Church were responsible for saving more Jews from Nazi persecution than any other person or institution. Some Israeli scholars estimate that as many as 860,000 European Jews were saved from death through concealment in Church facilities, issuance of fake Baptismal certificates, public appeals and other methods. In one instance, Pius lent the Roman Jewish community part payment of a ransom demanded by the Nazis to save several hundred Roman Jews. Prior to becoming Pope, Pius negotiated a Concordat between the Vatican and Germany, which provided that Jews who had converted to Christianity would not be subject to persecution in Germany as Jews. This provision enabled local priests to save tens of thousands of Jews from deporation by issuing fake Baptism certificates. The World Jewish Congress, American Jewish community, Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, Rome and Budapest, Golda Meir and many other prominent Jewish representatives praised Pius for his relief efforts and public denunciation of racial persecution. In August 2006 extracts from the 60-year-old diary of a nun of the Convent of Santi Quattro Coronati[180] were published in the Italian press, stating that Pope Pius XII ordered Rome’s convents and monasteries to hide Jews during World War II.[181]

          The Kaltenbrunner Report to Adolf Hitler dated November 29, 1944 on the background of the July 20, 1944 Plot to assassinate Hitler, states that the Pope was somehow a co-conspirator, specifically naming Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, as being a party in the attempt.[182]

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Pius_XII#The_Holocaust

          “The Christmas holiday was also traditionally a day on which the Pope encouraged Christians to harass the Jewish people.”

          Citation, please.

          “I was a twelve year catholic school participant and alter boy, but have never had the tragedy of physical abuse. What was clear to me is that the main business of the church is the protection of the church itself, and the power of the priests. I no longer am a catholic and will not participate in their dysfunctional organization that was and is unable to live by their own teachings. You can make the agrument that not all the church is this way, but when the bishops, cardinals and pope all participated in the protection of pedophile priests and continued to do so for fifty years, that is an organization worth avoiding at all costs.”

          This last quotation definitely reflects the anguish that can cause some Catholics to leave the Church. However, it isn’t an argument. It’s just one person’s reflections based on their experience.

          I understand that you dislike the Catholic Church. But looking only to people who are victims or disaffected with the Church won’t give you a balanced understanding of the Church that saved more Jews than any other organization, cares for more AIDs patients than any other organization, and operates more hospitals than any other organization.

        • Rae 05. Jan, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

          I guess that I should not have gotten us sidetracked on the question of the place of religion in society. I do not think that religion is required for a society to function, but I do believe that it is a natural component. I don’t think that we’re going to be able to agree on this issue, since I can’t understand how you can see Japan as a good example of separation of religion and government when it was the US who separated the two after WWII and the emperor is still the highest authority in the Shinto religion.

          And I am a bit baffled at your view that Europe has a stronger separation of Church and State than the US. I guess I simply do not understand what you mean by the concept. You are welcome to explain, or we can simply drop the subject as unsolvable. :-)

          Perhaps I just missed the news, but what happened with the Stupak Amendment that constitutes “clerical interference in legislature”? As far as I am aware, the Church did not do anything different than it does on many, many issues, this one just happened to capture the media’s attention. Also, how would you say the Church’s “interference” was different in this case from what it always does in Catholic countries in Europe?

          Do you also oppose the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr Day since he was nothing if not a pastor interfering with legislation? I don’t see how we could actively oppose Church influence on politics without violating the constitutional right to free practice of religion.

      • Annie 29. Dec, 2009 at 11:39 pm #

        Sorry- a couple of other things. I don’t know that the problem is that the Church is still harming children- they’d have to be pretty stupid to let that happen again. I don’t know that Catholics are weak, either- but I think there is some indoctrination going on. The problem is the hypocrisy of the institution, and that favored buzzword today- lack of transparency. So maybe they won’t endanger children again, but they don’t seem to be willing to change anything significant about the power structure, either. They seem perfectly willing to protect their own at the expense of others, until forced to do otherwise. I just don’t think that has changed.

        As for closing the parish- maybe that was necessary, but maybe they could have made cuts somewhere else, rather than leave those parishioners without their parish. The wealth of the Church is estimated at 10-15$ billion- tax-free, in Italy. I just think that closing all of those parishes might have been punishment for the people who came forward about the abuse and the cover-up.

        And the quote by Rev. Anthony Laurano, who was charged with raping an 8-year-old boy, said something about his mentality: He said- “The man of God should not be accepted by a community. He should be revered, he should be feared, he should be listened to. … I’m a man set apart. I’m somebody different.”

        • PresterJosh 30. Dec, 2009 at 1:41 pm #

          “Sorry- a couple of other things. I don’t know that the problem is that the Church is still harming children- they’d have to be pretty stupid to let that happen again.”

          Then what was your point in bringing it up?

          “I don’t know that Catholics are weak, either- but I think there is some indoctrination going on.”

          Of course. Churches teach doctrines. The point is to help them live better, holier lives by indoctrinating them. It’s the same sort of thing you see in citizenship classes which are supposed to help immigrants become better citizens by indoctrinating them with American values like separation of Church and State, free speech, etc.

          “The problem is the hypocrisy of the institution,”

          Institutions can’t by hypocritical. Only individuals can.

          “and that favored buzzword today- lack of transparency.”

          Maybe you should visit Cardinal O’Malley’s blog, if you want transparency. He posts about almost everything he does.

          http://www.cardinalseansblog.org/

          “So maybe they won’t endanger children again, but they don’t seem to be willing to change anything significant about the power structure, either.”

          So what you’re demanding is not that the Church stop hurting children, but that it remake itself in your modern, American, democratic, non-religious, image.

          “They seem perfectly willing to protect their own at the expense of others, until forced to do otherwise. I just don’t think that has changed.”

          There’s an awful lot of generalization going on in these sentences. Have you ever read a single book by a single Catholic priest, bishop, or pope?

          “As for closing the parish- maybe that was necessary, but maybe they could have made cuts somewhere else, rather than leave those parishioners without their parish. The wealth of the Church is estimated at 10-15$ billion- tax-free, in Italy.”

          You do realize that most of the Church’s “wealth” consists of parish churches and related buildings? You’d rather that the Church close an Italian parish that had nothing to do with the scandal?

          “I just think that closing all of those parishes might have been punishment for the people who came forward about the abuse and the cover-up.”

          This is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Are you aware that Cardinal O’Malley of Boston sold the Bishop’s mansion in order to raise money?

          “And the quote by Rev. Anthony Laurano, who was charged with raping an 8-year-old boy, said something about his mentality: He said- “The man of God should not be accepted by a community. He should be revered, he should be feared, he should be listened to. … I’m a man set apart. I’m somebody different.””

          I agree that that sounds quite terrible coming from the mouth of someone accused of rape.

          One pattern I see in all of your comments is vast generalizations about how evil the Catholic Church is without any evidence that you have the slightest familiarity with the Church apart from the scandal and your disapproval of its political positions. I agree that some priests and bishops did horrible things. But your perspective seems wildly unbalanced.

          I highly suggest you familiarize yourself with the beliefs, spirituality, and charitable work of the Catholic church. If you need help locating resources to read, I’m happy to provide you with a further list.

        • Rae 05. Jan, 2010 at 9:06 pm #

          If you’re not saying that the Church is currently a threat to children, then I guess that I can just turn back to everything that I said in my original post. The Church is full of sinners. The Church is run by sinners. We fail. I am sorry.

  13. Trena 31. Dec, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    Rae-

    I just want to say:

    Keep up the good work. Discussions like this are great and really get people thinking.

    You are doing God’s work.

  14. Sarah 06. Jan, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    Nothing like ragging on the Catholic Church to make seemingly normal people lose it.

    Good job Rae and PresterJosh.

    • Rae 09. Mar, 2010 at 10:12 pm #

      Why did you switch names?

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