Monday, August 19, 2002

what may become a regular feature

I've noticed several people with an agenda in the Catholic Church are using the abuse scandals as a talisman to promote their points of view. I've noticed this usually comes in one of these two easily discernible flavors.
  • Declare that the status quo (without your agenda in place) is the "root cause" of the abuse scandals, so to oppose this agenda is to be complicit in the raping of boys. Examples:Rod Dreher, Anna Quindlen
  • Compare the treatment of abused priests to the treatment of others you sympathize with, while conveniently ignoring significant differences in circumstances. Example:Andrew Sullivan

I got the idea for this feature after reading Amy Welborn's post (an example of the second category) where she compares the Church's treatment of men who leave the priesthood to marry to that of an abusing priest in New Orleans, who attended Tulane law school on the diocese's nickel. Now, a study into the sacrament of Holy Orders shows that there's a a strong difference here -- there's a convenant in place between the priest and the Church, that includes the Church taking care of the priest.. One who leaves the priesthood to marry is breaking that covenant (even if for a very good reason), while the abusing priest has not voluntarily done such a thing. There also is the matter that the marrying priest is aware of the consequences of his actions, and can prepare for them, while the abusing priest cannot.

It's a dirty cheap shot, and I hope we in the Church would be better than this. It's the type of argument I'd expect to see from someone with contempt for the Church's teachings who is writing from ignorance. Not from someone who writes books and is regularly critical of others' catechesis. And it makes me sad to see the faithful turning on the Church in this way.

As you can see, these abuses can come from "reformers" or the "orthodox." If you see an example you'd like me to include, you can e-mail it to me at the address on the left.

If the Church is going to emerge from this scandal with strength, we will do so because we have held on to our faith, not because we used this time when the Church is in trouble to kick it when it's down, and advance our agenda on the backs of abused children. It's fine to want to advance an agenda, but it's another thing to try to form a tenuous link between this agenda and the sexual abuse scandals. Expecially when this agenda has nothing to do with sexual abuse or cover-ups!

I expected the secular media and the Church's critics to resort to these, "How can the Church say abortion/the death penalty/embryonic research/social injustice is so bad when they can't even keep their own priests from touching children?" type arguments. To my pleasant surprise, I haven't seen all that much of that , yet. But they may not have to if we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.
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