Skip to comments.Anti-Catholicism, Again
Posted on 04/25/2010 1:47:48 PM PDT by NYer
The day the Antichrist is ripped from his papal throne, true religion will guide the world. Or perhaps its the day the last priest is gutted, and his entrails used to strangle the last king, as Voltaire demanded. Yes, thats when we will see at last the reign of bright, clean, enlightened reasonthe release of mankind from the shadows of medieval superstition. War will end. The proletariat will awaken from its opiate dream. The oppression of women will stop. And science at last will be free from the shackles of Rome.
For almost 500 years now, Catholicism has been an available answer, a mystical key, to that deep, childish, and existentially compelling question: Why arent we there yet? Why is progress still unfinished? Why is promise still unfulfilled? Why arent we perfect? Why arent we changed?
Despite our rejection of the past, the future still hasnt arrived. Despite our advances, corruption continues. It needs an explanation. It requires a response. And in every modernizing movementfrom Protestant Reformers to French Revolutionaries, Communists to Freudians, Temperance Leaguers and suffragettes to biotechnologists and science-fiction futuristssomeone in despair eventually stumbles on the answer: We have been thwarted by the Catholic Church.
Or by the Jews, of course. Perhaps its no accident that anti-Semitism should also be making a reappearance these days. The poet Peter Vierecks famous lineCatholic-baiting is the anti-Semitism of the liberalsgets quoted in too many contexts to express the connection anymore, and, God knows, the history of Catholicism has plenty of anti-Semitic sins to expiate. Still, Jews and Catholics do have this much in common: In moments of uncertainty and doubt, the people of the West go haring back again to their old gods and traditional answersblaming the Jews and the Catholic Church.
As it happens, the question Why arent we there yet? is, in its way, a biblical question. Christianity spread across the world the Bibles new idea of historyborn from the vision that God is a God who entered time, and time is moving toward a goal. Even modern nonbelievers still somehow believe this part; in important metaphysical ways, their progressive view of the world remains Christian, albeit with Christ stripped out.
Innumerable books have been written about the good effects of this forward-aiming view of history, from Christopher Dawsons old Progress and Religion to Rodney Starks recent The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. Perhaps not enough has been said, however, about one of its bad effects. As we wait for the Second Comingor its many secular stand-insan odd, hysterical impatience can take hold. We worked so hard, and still the change in human nature didnt come. Still heaven didnt get built on earth. Evil must have intervened, and since the past is the evil against which progress fights, what more obvious villain than the Catholic Church, that last-surviving remnant of the ancient darkness?
Welcome to the Year of Our Lord 2010. Welcome to our own odd hysteria.
The best sign of such hysterical moments may be the difficulty of anything sane or sensible being heard in them. As Newsweek noted on April 8, the surveys and studies over the past 30 years show little reason to conclude that sexual abuse is mostly a Catholic issue. Nonetheless, in 2002, after the last set of revelations, a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found that 64 percent of Americans thought Catholic priests frequently abused children.
A poll released on April 13 this year found that between 8 and 11 percent of Canadians say they know personally a victim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priestwhich works out to well over 2 million people, out of a national population over 33 million. Given the number of Canadian claims over the last 50 years, that would require every abuse victim to know thousands and thousands of peoplebut the poll respondents arent lying, exactly. Theyre responding, quite accurately, to an atmosphere, reinterpreting the past and reinventing the present to conform to the ambient understanding of the world.
Even in such an atmosphere, however, its worth setting down the sane, sensible thing to be said about the new round of Catholic child-abuse cases that has obsessed first Europe and now America in recent weeks.
The scandal has two parts, which need to be distinguished. The first partthe more evil, disgusting partis over, thank God. Every sufficiently large group has a small percentage of members with sick sexual desires. By their very calling, Christian ministers ought to have a lower percentage. For a variety of reasons, however, Catholics suffered through a corruption of their priests, centered around 1975, with the clergys percentage of sexual predators reaching new and vile levels.
The Church now has in place stringent child-protection procedures, and even with obsession over the scandals raging in Europe, almost all the cover-ups now being discussed, real and imagined, are more than a decade old. Besides, the younger priests, formed in the light of John Paul IIs papacy, seem vastly more faithful to Catholic spiritual practice and moral teaching.
Still, the second part of the scandal remains, for it involves not the mostly dead criminals but the living institution. The bishops who ruled over those corrupt priests in the 1970s and 1980s catastrophically failed to act when they needed to.
Some of this came from the short-sighted and anti-theological advice that dominated Catholic institutional thinking in that era. The lawyers told the bishops, as lawyers do, never to admit anything, and the psychologists told them not to be so medieval. Theres an irony when the 2009 Murphy Report, the official Irish investigation, noted, The Church authorities failed to implement most of their own canon-law rules on defrocking and trying priests. From the 1950s through the 1970s, those same Church authorities were blamed for having the old canon-law rules, which lacked compassion and didnt recognize the psychiatric professions supposed advances in curing pedophilia. And so, instead of being defrocked, guilty priests were often sent off to treatment facilities and, once pronounced cured, were reassigned.
The bishops of the time dont get off that easy, however. Lawyers and psychologists contributed to the mess, but the much larger portion of the failures came simply from the bishops desire to avoid bad publicity and, like military officers, to protect the men in their unit when those men get themselves into trouble. For these episcopal failures, every Catholic is now payingin nearly $3 billion of American donations lost in court judgments, in suspicion of their pastors, and in deep shame.
The general figures of child abuse in the world today are shocking. One widely reported study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence suggested the United States has 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Its a little hard to believe. More than 12 percent of the population were abused at least once as children? But Charol Shakeshafts respected study insists that 6 to 10 percent of recent public-school students have been molested. Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, claims 10 percent is a conservative estimate. John Jay Colleges Margaret Leland Smith says her numbers come closer to 20 percent.
All this, while (as the papal biographer George Weigel points out) the most recent audit found six credible cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clerics in 2009, in an American church of 68 million members, with all the perpetrators reported to the police and stripped of priestly faculties by their bishops. The only hard data that has been made public by any denomination comes from John Jay Colleges study of Catholic priests, an April 8 Newsweek story noted.
Limiting their study to plausible accusations made between 1950 and 1992, John Jay researchers reported that about 4 percent of the 110,000 priests active during those years had been accused of sexual misconduct involving children. Specifically, 4,392 complaints (ranging from sexual talk to rape) were made against priests by 10,667 victims.
I dont like it when Catholic leaders fall back on the child abuse happens everywhere defense, Ross Douthat observed on the New York Times website. I do like it, however, when mainstream media outlets do their job and report that theres no evidence that the rate of sex abuse is higher among the Catholic clergy than among any other group. In fact, its lower. If the John Jay study is right, the rate of clerical abuse over the past 50 years, including the peak of the crimes around 1975, was considerably lower by Allens figures, and much lower by Smiths figures, than the abuse rate of the general male population.
Then theres Irelandground zero for the European scandals raging now, just as Boston was for the American scandals back in 2002. Brendan ONeill, editor of the Spiked-Online website and no particular friend of the Church, points out that the Irish governments official commission spent 10 years, from 1999 to 2009, intensively inviting, from Irish-born people around the world, reports of abuse at Irish religious institutions. Out of the hundreds of thousands of students who passed through Catholic schools in the 85 years from 1914 to 1999, the commission managed to gather 381 claimswith 35 percent of those charges made against lay staff and fellow pupils rather than priests.
It might be unfashionable to say the following but it is true nonetheless, ONeill concludes. Very, very small numbers of children in the care or teaching of the Catholic Church in Europe in recent decades were sexually abused, but very, very many of them actually received a decent standard of education.
And yet, precisely because priests are supposed to behave better than other people do, fulfilling their vows of celibacy, its not an answer to point out that higher percentages of children are abused by other segments of the population. There were never a lot of these Catholic cases, but there were enoughwith every single one a horror, both in the act itself and in the failure of the bishops to react forcefully and quickly. The Catholic Church didnt start the worldwide epidemic of child sexual abuse, and it didnt materially advance it. But the bureaucracy of the Church sure as hell didnt do enough to fight that epidemic when it broke out among its own clergy.
All of which is pretty much what Pope Benedict preached at a Mass in Rome on April 15 and repeated when he met with abuse victims in Malta on April 18. I have to say that we Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word repentance, which seems too harsh, he explained. Now under the attacks of the world, which speaks to us of our sins, we see that the ability to repent is a grace, and we see how it is necessary to repent, that is, to recognize what is wrong in our life.
What more does anyone want from the Catholic Church?
Everything, is the answer. This, they think, will finally bring about whatever desire for the Church theyve been nursing for decades. An end to what they call the sickness of clerical celibacy, for example. Or to the unfair authority they say the bishops hold, or to the lavender-tinged homosexual gang they imagine is running the seminaries, or to the leftist Jesuits they believe dominate Catholic higher education.
Liberal Catholics see the scandals as a chance to discredit conservatives, and conservatives as a chance to discredit liberals. Maureen Dowd, who regularly devotes her New York Times column to bite-sized rehashes of Mary McCarthys old Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, opines on the Churchs Judas moment. The liberal theologian Hans Küng accuses the pope of directly engineering the cover-up. The left-leaning National Catholic Reporter declares it the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history, and another liberal Catholic magazine demands theological reform, to be achieved by arraigning Benedict in the Dock. All this, while the hard traditionalist Gerald Warner takes to the pages of the Telegraph in England to blame the crimes on the liberalizing changes of Vatican II.
Everyone is working, whether deliberately or not, to keep the hysteria alive. Abortion supporters have seized on the news as a way to damage the pro-life movement, and proponents of the recent American health care bill are using it to punish their opponents for giving them trouble during the congressional vote. The tattered figures of old anti-Catholic Protestantismin isolated Bible churches of the fever-swamp right and isolated Episcopal chanceries of the fever-swamp leftfeel newly empowered. Feminists, homosexual activists, therapists, talk-show hosts, plaintiffs attorneys: The scandals are a hobbyhorse all the world hopes to ride to victory.
Several Catholic commentators have charged that the European and American press is out to destroy the Church. The New York Times is conducting a vendetta against this traditionalist pope in news stories, editorials and columns, Pat Buchanan announced in a column on April 6. But this, too, only adds to the hysteria. For all the journalistic sins that have been committed in recent weeks, what the media primarily want is a story to selland since the narrative of hypocrisy remains nearly the only moral shape a modern newspaper story can have, a tale of immoral clergy is ready-made for reporters.
And then the news begins to feed on itself. Each story about Catholicism makes the next story bigger, more worth pursuing. The reported cases are mostly decades old, but that doesnt matter, once the frenzy catches hold. Anti-Catholic motives in the media are beside the point. The utter conventionality of reporters, together with the cycles of the news business, explains more than enough. Catholicism in general, and the pope in particular, are news right now, and news sells.
The self-denominated New AtheistsRichard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and the resthave latched on, as well. The pope should be in a police station being quizzed about his role in covering up and thereby enabling the rape of children, opined one British writer. He should be in chains before the International Criminal Court, said another. Religion is the cause of evil, they know, and so this evil must have been caused by religionwhich is why their lawyers have tried to arrange for Benedict XVIs arrest during his trip to England this fall.
Add it all up, and you get a time in which the European papers are howling about systematic rape and torture, a clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel, and the Catholics international criminal conspiracy to protect child-rapists. A particularly bizarre moment came on March 29, when Mehmet Ali Agcas views were published. The Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II says Pope Benedict XVI should resign over the Catholic Churchs handling of clerical sex-abuse cases, the AP wire item explained.
Hes hardly alone in demanding the popes resignation, but the more likely scenario is that the whole thing will kill Benedict. The man turned 83 last week; hes old, and he looks ill and miserable in his recent appearances. Bad as his loss would beyet one more penance Catholics would pay for those corrupt priests and the bishops who failed to confront themthe conclave to choose his successor would be even worse.
As things now stand, the papal election would be headed by Angelo Cardinal Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and a figure already accused of benefiting from the financial misdeeds of Fr. Marcial Maciel, the sexually corrupt founder of the Legion of Christ. Rome would become an unimaginable media circushours of airtime to fill every day, while waiting for the white smoke from the Vatican, with nothing to talk about but the scandals.
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Our beloved Pope Benedict needs and deserves our prayers. He has been called upon to shoulder an inhuman burden, and while I have no doubt that his spirit is up to the task, he is no longer young. May God bless and protect him.
I have not heard similar calls from these two righteous moralists for the prosecution of all Nambla members.
**The best sign of such hysterical moments may be the difficulty of anything sane or sensible being heard in them. As Newsweek noted on April 8, the surveys and studies over the past 30 years show little reason to conclude that sexual abuse is mostly a Catholic issue. **
So true. I wondered about this article as it began, but changed my mind. (Weekly Standard? Hmmm. I thought.)
**Several Catholic commentators have charged that the European and American press is out to destroy the Church. The New York Times is conducting a vendetta against this traditionalist pope in news stories, editorials and columns, Pat Buchanan announced in a column on April 6. But this, too, only adds to the hysteria. For all the journalistic sins that have been committed in recent weeks, what the media primarily want is a story to selland since the narrative of hypocrisy remains nearly the only moral shape a modern newspaper story can have, a tale of immoral clergy is ready-made for reporters. **
Twenty years ago, a well educated friend told me straight-faced “the Catholic Church is responsible for all the problems in the world.” I’m still trying to figure out what exactly he meant.
Your “well-educated” friend is a perfect example of the famous quotation by Bishop Fulton Sheen,
“There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.”
“...and his entrails used to strangle the last king, as Voltaire demanded.
What people do not know is that Voltaire howled in agony for a priest to visit his deathbed. A priest did hear his confession before Voltaire died. He had a big mouth in life but was scared sh*tless when he was dying.
Hmmm, somehow old Voltaire did not forget the things he was taught in his youth.
What a huge burden on his shoulders. What a tremendous personal sacrifice to accept this burden. It has been only 5 years yet the words he spoke from the balcony on the day of his election, still ring in my ears.
"Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in the Lord's vineyard. The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all, I entrust myself to your prayers."
He needs our daily prayers!
I could not agree more! Imho, our beloved Pope Benedict is a saint.
... or educators, camp counselors, non-Catholic ministers, rabbis, imams and the list goes on and on. There is plenty of guilt to go around!
The poet Peter Vierecks famous lineCatholic-baiting is the anti-Semitism of the liberals
Yeah ... because those people believe listen to the WSJ and NBC rant and rave about this issue making it sound like every priest is a molester.
A poll released on April 13 this year found that between 8 and 11 percent of Canadians say they know personally a victim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest
And how many people are out there that say they've seen a UFO or have been abducted?
Our faith is under lots of attacks this year ... more often that I can remember.
“... the Irish governments official commission spent 10 years, from 1999 to 2009, intensively inviting, from Irish-born people around the world, reports of abuse at Irish religious institutions. Out of the hundreds of thousands of students who passed through Catholic schools in the 85 years from 1914 to 1999, the commission managed to gather 381 claimswith 35 percent of those charges made against lay staff and fellow pupils rather than priests.”
4.4 cases of abuse per year? You mean the world in Ireland is ending because of 4.4 cases A YEAR?
And the cases against religious amount to 2.9 cases a year?
Every case is a case too many, but abuses in the Irish Church were clearly overblown.
My godson, before he became a Catholic, bought and read a copy of John Paul II’s Crossing the Threshhold of Hope. He left it on a coffee table one day as a professor he knew came by for dinner. The professor saw the book and said, “Mike, I’m surprised you’re reading that book. I think John Paul II is the most evil man of the 20th century.” My godson told me his mind went reeling: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot. . . No, the worst man who lived in the last century was the pope.
Some men are so intensely bigoted that their prejudice actually makes them stupid.
“For almost 500 years now, Catholicism has been an available answer, a mystical key, to that deep, childish, and existentially compelling question: Why arent we there yet?”
What a load of ....
Actually, it’s the OPPOSITE. Ask these jackasses who constantly harangue on Christianity and the “dark ages” - just what was Europe like before Christianity?
That’s right, it was nowhere. A bunch of primitive tribes warring each other and living in squalor.
I join in your prayers for the Holy Father.
May God bless you, FRiend.