Monday, March 04, 2013

Excuses, excuses...

I have tried, in the past, to pull my "punches" when talking about Catholics and the Church regarding the recent scandals making the news.  I've tried to make the point that every person who walks into any organization, much less a church, and does business with it or follows its principles in an active and cooperative way is usually seen as supporting that institution.  Support, in this case means that one generally believes in what the group stands for and supports its activities.  Another way to say it is to note that one condones the group's actions and the actions of the people who run it.  I've tried to keep from saying what I really think, just to save some hurt feelings.  But I can't any longer.

Now, an argument I've run into repeatedly by Catholic apologists and/or supporters is that the "evil" men who have been caught up by the recent sex scandals are just that - evil men - and are acting on their own against the teachings of the church.  So, no evil intent accrues to the church itself.

I beg to differ!

A perfect example is the now retired Cardinal Keith O'Brian and the accusations against him by a former priest and three priests regarding his actions over thirty years ago.  There are plenty of people who will say that the accusations are old and stale, that the man's entire career should be taken into account instead of just a few unfortunate incidents decades ago.

I have the feeling that if the man was brazen enough three decades ago to solicit sex from other priests, albeit younger and more vulnerable than he, that it probably wouldn't take much to find a few more perfectly willing partners along the way, if not even a few more unwilling ones.  Sexual predators, whether gay or straight, do NOT stop preying on the vulnerable, especially when they keep getting away with it!

Let's face it - the culture of the priesthood of the RCC is a rarified one, almost 1800 years old with traditions and ways of doing things that are undoubtedly all their own.  The truth about that organization is one mentioned in the ABC News tonight - it is a feudal monarchy.  Each man in that hierarchy represents a rank in that hierarchy that begins with the lowly priest and ends at the top with the Pope, and the Cardinals are, as they are described - the Princes of that church.

Within that culture, they are the law within their own demesne, second only to the Pope, who is known to keep his hands out of the Cardinals' affairs to a remarkable degree.  They answer to no one, and their power over their underlings is absolute.  Absolute, because the Church has always chosen to claim that it and it alone, is above secular law.

And when people consider themselves above the law, they begin to do strange things.  The recent scandals expose what kinds of things they will do.

Rape young children.
Buy the services of those who sell their bodies for cash.
Engage in homosexual activities even as they condemn that lifestyle in public.

To top it off, the men who run that hierarchy control all that.  What, you don't think that each Cardinal doesn't know the sexual proclivities of his priests?  They live in a culture in which the higher officials control every aspect of the lower ranks' lives.  Everything!  It would be a wonder if they failed in just this one narrow subject, now wouldn't it?  After all, that knowledge is power, since the official line of the RCC is one of celibacy, the knowledge that one's underling is engaging in forbidden fun is power over that person, allowing the knowledgable boss to control that person absolutely, by being able to destroy that person's career in a heartbeat!

The flip side of that power is that once exposed, one runs the risk of public ruin oneself!  Just ask Cardinal Mahoney about that one...

I know that much of this is, officially, supposition.  I cannot prove any of this.  But this kind of activity is known to have existed in monarchial systems throughout history, and the known history of the church exposes similar kinds of Machiavellian maneuverings in the past.  There is no reason to believe that today's church authorities are any different than their predecessors.  Absolute control is absolute control.

Keith O'Brian is a perfect example, because for thirty plus years, he has been able to act out his fantasies, suppress its exposure and publicly excoriate people who are publicly acting out what he does in private.  The word hypocrisy is really too mild a word for that kind of perfidy and yet, at the same time, this man controlled, absolutely, the lives of the priests and other authorities below him.  He controlled the administrative apparatus, the human resources system, the theological apparatus that held the entire church of Scotland together!  You cannot tell me that his actions over the years were simply accidental, that he really didn't mean to hurt anyone or act in a hypocritical manner.  No, his actions can only be purposeful and deliberate.  You can bet your bottom dollar his bosses knew all about it too.

Does the word credibility mean anything these days?

In a very real way, these men ARE the church.  The people who they minister to may be the body of the laity, but they answer to and are bound by the word of those august men in red and black when it comes to matters of the soul and the word of god.

They teach kindness, love and helping the poor, all the while literally controlling a system that allows child abuse and not only tolerates sexual predatory practices against their own members, but publicly denounces gays who openly practice what they do or tolerate in secret.  All things which are officially denounced by the very theology they teach to their laity.

Yet, countless rank and file Catholic laity ignore these things, calling their religion a "way of life" as if that excuses their willingness to look the other way as if each scandal is a solitary and isolated thing that bears no relation to the overall organization that has housed and nurtured those scandalous activities for centuries.

No.  You cannot continue to treat these things like a hidden family scandal caused by the lone black sheep.  These men are not only the men who control your church, but they set the doctrine of that church.  It is within their power to change anything about that doctrine they wish, and they have the power to admit all and end it with the stroke of a pen.  But they do not.  They prevaricate and try to continue to stall until the public forgets and it all blows over.

Yes, they have taken some actions to allow some positive policies at the lower levels to protect children and handle the abuse cases better.  I am sure that there may be more that I am unaware of.

But it came after the exposure of their activities to public scrutiny and public condemnation.  None of the admissions of abuse have been wiling, open and unforced.  As a result, thousands of Catholics have left the church, and more are undoubtedly considering whether they can stay in light of the continuing scandals.

These are the people I can feel some compassion for.  They have the strength to admit the truth and the gumption to realize that their continued support for the church allows it to keep dragging its feet.

I am tired of hearing that these are evil men and each case is an isolated one that sheds no culpability on the church itself.  Yes, they ARE evil, but if they are and their actions are evil too, then how can the church escape that taint?  How can one believe a hypocrite - once his hypocrisy is exposed, nothing else he says or does has any credibility.  Even where he is supposedly acting rationally and in total compliance with policy, how can one keep from wondering how much more he has lied about?

I am sorry if this hurts some feelings, but I cannot and will not stay silent in the face of apologies which soft pedal the issues.

As a writer, if I do not write things which make some people uncomfortable or even angry, I have failed at my job.  If you're feelings are hurt, it isn't my fault, I have no control over the feelings or the thoughts of others.  I can only write what I see and feel to be true from my perspective.  If all I write is stuff you agree with, why write at all?  We could just go have a beer and denounce the evil bastards we disagree with.

But that wouldn't make you think about it, would it?

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