Monday, March 25, 2002

that the answer to the priestly abuse scandal is.... to adopt the agenda she's been floating all along!

I'm going to do my first full cop-and-paste takedown, so those who bet on "Anna Quindlen" for first Man Bites Blog take down can collect now.

In the middle of last month Cardinal Edward Egan, who leads the Archdiocese of New York, lamented that the Roman Catholic church was “under siege” and threatened with a situation that might put it “out of business.”
EACH DAY BROUGHT new revelations of pedophile priests, each morning new stories of young Catholics victimized by the men they had been raised to call Father. But the cardinal was sounding the alarm about something altogether different. In the midst of the greatest scandal to engulf the church in his lifetime, he was irate about legislation that would require mandatory health-insurance coverage for contraceptives in New York state. His anger brought to mind the Gospel of the Sunday before, in which Jesus gave a blind man back his sight while one of the Pharisees criticized him because he had performed the miracle on the Sabbath.

I guess Quindlen is saying that the Church should slam on the brakes, and stop being what it is because there's a scandal. This means that nobody in the Church has the right to be irate about anything. I'm also always supicious of one-word quotes taken out of context.

Missing the point has become the stock in trade of many of those who purport to lead the world’s Catholics. And they are about to miss it again as they talk of better psychological screening for seminarians, of finally relinquishing the role of prosecutor to actual law-enforcement authorities, of ministering to victims, of agonizing over how in the world all this could have happened.

But I'm sure Anna Quindlen hasn't missed the point! Silly us, we were trying to address the problem at hand. This would be as silly as attacking al Qaida for the 9/11 attacks rather than studying the "root causes."

Perhaps they might want to ask the ordinary Catholics who have been too little consulted by the highhanded hierarchy. We understand that in the world of “Father knows best” in which we came of age, all this was bound to occur. For too many years, the church seemed to have a bizarre preoccupation with sins of the flesh so unrelenting that, to this day, people will ask if the nuns taught me that patent-leather shoes reflect up. (No.)

So, we should hold it against the Church that others perceive it as preoccupied with sex. As evidence, Quindlen produces an incorrect and ignorant assumption "people" have about Catholic education.

And, contrary to what Quindlen believes, many "ordinary Catholics" share the hierarchy's views about sexuality and its place in our lives. Note that the editor riffed off this quote for the headline. Hmmm, I guess I should have expected this from a writer who resurrected the long debunked myth that Bush 41 didn't know what a supermarket scanner was so she could show how out of touch Republicans are. Even false stories are valuable when you're pursuing your agenda!

The enforced celibacy of the male priesthood, an invention only of the faith’s second millennium, taught a clear lesson: eschewing human sexuality was the greatest glory of the highest calling. (“Our ideal is not to experience desire at all.”—Clement of Alexandria, saint.)

Here's our first out-of-context quote from a saint.

Does the fact that this is a later invention mean it's wrong? Mass in the vernacular is an invention only of the faith's 20th Century, does that mean it's not a good idea?

There are several good reasons for celibacy. Dedication to Church without the distraction of a family, for instance. But no, to Quindlen it's all some backwards attitude about sex.

The ban on contraception taught that sex could be countenanced only when it could lead to pregnancy. There was no passion or pleasure, only procreation and punishment.

Explain to me why procreative sex has "no passion or pleasure, only procreation and punishment?" Where exactly did punishment come from, anyway?

Here, Quidlen is recycling one of the worst slanders others throw at the Church -- that we think sex is inherently dirty. Maybe she was not catechized correctly, but that could not be farther from the Church's position.

Of course, there was power, too, the absolute power of the priest, a man whose psychosexual development often became becalmed in what Eugene Kennedy, the psychologist and former priest, describes as “a child’s-garden-of-verses world in seminaries and novitiates,” a world customarily entered in adolescence, when most of us are just beginning to learn about the uses and abuses of sexuality.

Here, I sort of agree with Quindlen. At the very least, the fact that the abusing priests were dealt with exclusively by celibate priests who will never have children is troubling. The laity needs to be more involved in the decision-making process.

Out of such preparation, with such sentiments, how could there not be some whose sexual impulses would be perverted into twisted power relationships with children or unformed young adults?

Well, the priests in question could have excercised their gift of free will and not done so, thats how.

“They reached towards children,” Kennedy writes, “for children they were themselves.” And despite the church’s antipathy toward homosexuality, it was inevitable that most of those victimized would be male. After all, the teachings about ordination and celibacy and the evils of desire had as their subtext a misogyny that would lead any reasonable person to conclude that sex with a female is the lowest form of sexual expression. (“Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man downwards as the caresses of a woman.”— Augustine of Hippo, saint.)

Make that two out-of-context quotes from saints.

I think I'm reasonable, and I've somehow managed to avoid that conclusion; my marriage is evidence. Lots of other married Catholic men have apparently not succumbed to the elegance of this logic, either. Quindlen has apparently avoided that conclusion as well, though her reasonableness can be questioned.

Where is this misogyny coming from? What does she cite as evidence? If this were the case, wouldn't the Church be more in favor of male homosexuality? Would Quindlen go so far as to label male homosexuality as a form of misogyny? I didn't think so.

Even when a kinder, gentler Catholicism began to flower after Vatican II, pregnancy politics often threatened to crowd out social action, and questions about the ordination of women were sometimes treated like the most unthinkable blasphemy.

Read the pope's statements. Read the bishops's statements. It seems to me they talk a lot more about socail action than "pregnancy politics."

We didn’t understand, some of the bishops say now about the pedophiles among them, moved from parish to parish, with fresh choirboys to importune and then hush. We thought they could change. We thought they could be cured. We didn’t know. There is so much they didn’t know years ago, and yet about which they were so certain. They didn’t know what it was to bear and rear a half-dozen children, to turn away at night not because of coldness but because of mother fatigue. They didn’t know what it was like to drag along in the harness of a dreadful marriage, dying by inches. But no birth control, they said, no divorce. No self-abuse, no petting, no impure thoughts. The church of a Jesus who let Mary Magdalene caress his feet threatened to be swamped by an icy sea of sexual prohibition

This week, we remember Jesus's accepting of torture and death by cruicifixion when he had done nothing wrong. Yet, Quindlen tells us that it is too much for Catholics to bear to respect promises they have made and to not be freed from the consquences of their sexual activity.

The bishops gathered wood for this current conflagration every time they turned away from the human condition to emphasize wayward genitalia. They must be amazed at how harshly they are now judged after all those years of deference, when they were allowed to make their own laws. Perhaps they sense that they are being judged with the ferocity of those accustomed to being judged harshly themselves. The judgment of divorced Catholics reborn in good marriages ordered not to go to communion. The judgment of women up all night with sick babies lectured about the sanctity of life.

Whoah, there... Is Quindlen saying the Church should come out in favor of infanticide for sick babies keeping their parents (yes, fathers sometimes stay up all night, too) up all night? That we should reserve judgement because, well, life is tough.

Yes, life is tough. And yes, the Church is wary of human institutions that shield us from the consequence of out choices, and is sometimes needlessly cold in doing so. I'll take that rather than reserving judgement for infanticide.

By the way, what were we talking about, again? Oh, right, the hierarchy cover-ups of priests who had improper sexual relationships with underage boys. Hmmm, seems like the Church's harsh judegement on divorce and infanticide is a long way off from there, isn't it? We've only got a paragraph and a half left; we better be making a connection soon.

The judgment of hardworking, devoted priests who have watched the hierarchy cover up the dirt that sullies them, too. The judgment of now grown children who have taken to drink, drugs, domestic violence, because of the shadow that Father’s wandering hands have cast over their lives.

Ah, yes, there's a connection

Might I add the judgement of agenda-driven columnists who are taking advantage of this scandal as an excuse to air all the grievances they have with the Church..

Now there is some new talk of allowing priests to marry, even the occasional radical suggestion that the notion of ordaining women might be revisited. That’s the way, isn’t it? As soon as a job is devalued enough, they offer it to us. Perhaps, in this case, too late. (“I don’t care to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”— Groucho of Marx, wise guy.)

Yeah, that's exactly it. Like National Security Advisor, or Supreme Court Justice, or Secretary of State, or Attorney General.

That was the point of this scandal all along -- create enough controversey around the priesthood, so we can knock it down a few pegs to allow chicks in to help the shortage. Dang, I guess we couldn't fool her!

When the sad stories were told from the pulpit of dwindling vocations, there was always this underlying notion of selfishness, of a smirking guy with a beer and a babe not great enough to give himself up to the service of God. Instead there is now a sense of a priestly existence so out of balance, so estranged from normal human intercourse that, for some, the rapacious pursuit of altar boys passes for intimacy. The leaders of the church miss the point. This is not simply about pedophilia. It is about a pathology deep and wide, a pathology that allows blindness to continue as long as the Sabbath is observed.

So, is she saying we'll never get past this, or should we stop observing the Sabbath?

I've read this a couple times, and I haven't yet figured out what Quindlen's point is. She doesn't like the Church's teachings about sex and birth control, but we knew that already. It's just a weak attempt to connect her problems with the Church to the current scandal.

Why do I dislike this so much? Not I only do I not get the sense that Quindlen thinks that the Church will emerge from this stronger, having made some neccesary changes, I get the feeling she doesn't want it to. That she's hoping this ruins the Church, so that it will have little choice but to adopt her aganda. And this I don't like.

This is a serious time for the Church. I pray that we can all rise above our own agendas, and work together to mkae the changes we need to make.
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