I wrote this post on March 27, 2010. For some reason it feels peculiarly relevant again today.
The LA Times notices that the pope has a problem. The problem is that instead of just saying ‘We did a terrible terrible terrible thing, and we did it for decade upon decade,’ the Vatican is lashing out at 1) news outlets that report the terrible things the church has been doing and 2) other institutions that do terrible things. This is infantile and disgusting, and it is unworthy of an institution that (to repeat a point I’ve made a few hundred times) purports to have a higher and better morality than anyone else. It is unworthy because it persists in caring more about the self than the object of the terrible actions. This fact all by itself shows that they are if anything morally worse than the majority of reasonably good people. There’s a reason for that. The reason is this: if you become convinced – if you have good reason to realize – that you have caused appalling harm and suffering to another sentient being, then the only thing you should be feeling about that is agonized repentance. That’s all there is to it. Your angushed empathy and regret should simply inundate all self-concerned feelings, blotting them out of your awareness. This is all the more true if you’re a huge powerful age-encrusted institution that is able to command deference and obedience – right down to literal kneeling – from millions of people and even from heads of state, and the sentient beings are underage, small, weak, and defenseless. You should be grinding your head into the dirt with remorse, in the intervals of doing everything you can to repair the damage to your victims. The last thing you should be doing is even thinking about how all this will affect you. Yet the church is doing exactly that. It’s not surprising, but it damn well is shocking.
Earlier in the week, New York’s archbishop, Timothy Dolan, used his blog to dismiss the New York Times’ reports and defend the pontiff’s record by arguing that authorities outside the church also are culpable…Sadly, this latest everybody-is-responsible-so-nobody-is-to-blame defense is of a piece with a little-noticed section of Benedict’s letter to the Irish church in which he seemed to blame the crisis, in part, on “new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society.”
Ah – it wasn’t little noticed around here. I noticed it, I can tell you. Jumped right on it, I did.
Behold the archbishop of New York, if you can bear to. He certainly has no problem forgetting all about the powerless victims of his powerful church, nor any hesitation about talking like a petulant nine-year-old rebuked for punching a smaller child. Moral squalor at its finest.
What adds to our anger over the nauseating abuse and the awful misjudgment in reassigning such a dangerous man, though, is the glaring fact that we never see similar headlines that would actually be “news”: How about these, for example?
– “Doctor Asserts He Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since Dr. Huth admits in the article that he, in fact, told the archdiocese the abusing priest could be reassigned under certain restrictions, a prescription today recognized as terribly wrong;
– “Doctor Asserts Public Schools Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since the data of Dr. Carol Shakeshaft concludes that the number of cases of abuse of minors by teachers, coaches, counsellors, and staff in government schools is much, much worse than by priests;
And so on and so on and so on, through Judges, Police, Lawyers, District Attorneys, Therapists, and Parole Officers. There’s Love for you, there’s Charity, there’s Agapē. There’s compassion, there’s generosity, there’s giving the shirt also. Yes we did it but so did all those other people so why don’t you yell at them too? Beautiful.