Skip to comments.Profile of a scandal
Posted on 07/17/2002 11:21:37 AM PDT by gordgekko
Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church
By The Investigative Staff of the Boston Globe
Little Brown & Co.
Profile of a scandal
By Steven Martinovich
web posted July 15, 2002
Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church is based on a series of reports in The Boston Globe on the sex abuse scandal that has hammered the Catholic Church during this and recent years. It is a scandal that has seen dozens priests charged with sex abuse, mostly involving young boys, dating sometimes far back as several decades. Betrayal shows its newspaper pedigree by rarely getting into the deeper questions of the scandal. It eschews that in favor of a somber tourist trip through events that some have predicted will bring major changes -- organizationally and perhaps even doctrinally -- to an institution that has survived over two millennia and remains the world's strongest proponent of traditional values.
Despite that, Betrayal does serve as a worthwhile introduction to a scandal that has many American Catholics reevaluating their devotion to the Church. Personified by figures such as disgraced former priest Jack Geoghan and Boston Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, the scandal has led to an unprecedented attack on the Church and its priests and once again raised issues that have dogged the Catholic Church for centuries.
Given that Boston has served as the epicenter for the scandal, it's not surprising that Betrayal concentrates much of its focus on the traditionally Catholic city. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Church was all-powerful, helping Catholic immigrants establish themselves in their new country and providing a social network for its members. Although the Church's power began to wane in the 1950s and 60s, thanks to a new permissive culture that continues to make its presence felt, the Catholic Church remains an integral part of many Bostonian's lives. Even in these secular days, Boston's residents continue to have a close relationship with their Church. It's not surprising then, that the strongest reaction to the burgeoning scandal has been from that city.
The picture the Globe paints in Betrayal is one that isn't likely to build confidence in the Church. For decades priests that had been accused of sexual abuse of children had been shuttled around from parish to parish with little advance warning to the parishioners whose children were at risk. With the help of deferential politicians, law enforcement and parishioners, not to mention fellow priests who said little, these priests were shielded by a Church afraid to admit the extent of the problem and interested in protecting its reputation. Out of proportion to their actual numbers, these priests gone wrong have wrought incredible damage to the Church.
As the Globe's investigative team aptly illustrates, by refusing to deal with several issues decades ago, the Church has unwittingly opened a Pandora's box of problems. Activists who have been pressing for years to allow female and homosexual priests have been strengthened as the Church has reeled from each new allegation. The very moral standing of the Church is now in question among many.
Despite that, some good could come out of the sex abuse scandals. Betrayal spotlights a new generation of lay people who are eager to turn the Church into a more open institution, in stark contrast to the rigidly hierarchical organization that has come into being. Although it's still early to tell what long-term damage the scandals will do to the Church, increased participation by the laity could help revitalize it in this new century.
Along with its skimming of the issues, Betrayal does an adequate job of sketching many of the people behind the names that have burst into the headlines, including Geoghan and Law. Although some of the agendas of the Globe reporters can be discerned at some points, including some thinly veiled arguments in favor of eliminating celibacy as a requirement for priesthood, Betrayal is in general a good review of the scandal that has shaken the Church in America.
Steven Martinovich is a freelancer writer in Sudbury, Ontario.
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It makes some effort to be even-handed, noting that many conservatives believe that the root of the problem is active homosexuals in the priesthood; while liberals understand that the problem is a celibate clergy and no woman priests. (Really, the language goes like that -- I don't have the book here at work, but the conservative view is all "alleged" and "perceived" and other weakeners; the liberal view is presented straight.)
The book has a section of photographs -- not especially apt, all of them, looks like what they had on hand -- and (as american colleen predicted) a section reproducing some of the documents that used to be on the Globe's website.
The final chapter wrapping it all up could have been written by James Carroll (and likely was). Much like his article in today's Globe I posted this morning, Let church reform begin, only less exuberant.
There will be problems whenever attempts are made to write about the Church WITHOUT the assistance of educated insiders. Here are a few problems:
Although the Church's power began to wane in the 1950s and 60s, thanks to a new permissive culture that continues to make its presence felt...
Actually, there are more causational reasons for the decline of Catholic influence. The disastrous "liberalization" and "modernization" within the Church contributed greatly.
"Despite that, Betrayal does serve as a worthwhile introduction to a scandal that has many American Catholics reevaluating their devotion to the Church."
This is phrased in a slightly confused manner. The existence of corrupt individuals is not going to shake "devotion to the Church" (whatever that means) for actual Catholics. There is a tendency in the media to talk about "the Church" in only the institutional, bureaucratic, political sense. That's not the only sense in which a faithful "Catholic" would understand the matter. A person may remain strong in faith and "devoted" to "the Church" whil being critical of the mere human agents entrusted with its institutional administration. The Church is primarily a spiritual institution. The writer seems preoccupied with a political, secular, and modern American understanding of the Church. It's great the scandals are exposed. It's fine The Globe played a role in that. Quite obviously though, there's a need for a more thorough understanding of Catholicism. Orthodox, conservative "Catholics" were complaining about the homosexualization of the institutional Church in America a long time before the problem was discovered by The Globe & Co.
Um -- it's not entirely clear that the "Glob" has yet discovered the homosexualization of the institutional Church (at least in a pejorative sense) -- it's heard some rumors, but seems disinclined to take them seriously. (The book also made sure to include so many cases where the victims were female, it must have exhausted them; they also managed to dig up one 1927 case.)
Globe article: "Files Show Shanley Tried Blackmail": Letter threatened Medeiros with 'shocking' revelations; late cardinal spurned effort
By Michael Rezendes and Thomas Farragher, Globe Staff, 4/26/2002
The Rev. Paul R. Shanley, the priest who approved of sex between men and boys, tried to blackmail former Cardinal Humberto S. Medeiros into reversing his decision to end Shanley's 1970s-era street ministry, according to documents released yesterday by church lawyers acting under a court order.
Other documents released yesterday show that Thomas J. Flatley, one of the city's most prominent Catholics, wrote Medeiros criticizing Shanley's gay advocacy and his apparent support of drug use.
In his letter to Medeiros about Shanley, Flatley said, ''Already he has done a great amount of damage where he has spoken before groups, including college campuses ... Few have listened to him but he has been able to grab the headlines at the expense of family life and our Catholic philosophies.''
Flatley could not be reached for comment last night.
The letter prepared for Medeiros in which he apparently replies to a letter from Shanley was among the most provocative douments released yesterday.
''In my work, you gave me four directions,'' Shanley wrote to Medeiros. ''You forbad [sic] me to start a gay parish. You forbad me to encourage gay unions. You forbad me to continue to celebrate Mass for homosexuals. You forbad me to give my own opinion on the morality of homosexual acts. Although I agree with none of these proscriptions, I have been obediently observing them.''
... The records released yesterday also contain letters to the archdiocese asking about Shanley's appearance at a December 1978 conference in Boston that was said to have led to the founding of a group that advocated tolerance of sexual relations between adult men and boys, the North American Man-Boy Love Association.
In a 1983 letter, the Rev. Hugh Weston, pastor of Desert Christian Church in Palm Desert, Calif., asked if Shanley had represented Medeiros at the conference, which was reported in the book, ''The Homosexual Network.'' --------------------------------------------------------
I think it's safe to conclude that any liberal would have to bend over backwards to claim this article was not about homosexuals in the Church.
Curiouser and curiouser!
I think I actually predicted online on FR that the libs in the media would start backing off this whole sex scandal story as soon as the homosexualism became ridiculously clear for everyone. They actually favor the homosexualization of our entire society K-12, schools, the workplace, churches, government, housing, insurance, etc. They are in what is known as a "double bind." They love bashing the Church, but they can't pursue this story aggressively without uncovering unsavory details of homosexual subculture - namely, that underage, adolescent boys are highly favored in that subculture.
I Believe in GOD not men. The only thing that could shake my faith is if some archeologist unearthed the "Bones of Christ"
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