Questionable Motives

March 28, 2010

Why is the current catholic theme “We’re no worse than others!” so hypocritical?

Archbishop Dolan of the New York Archdiocese has posted a commentary here against the unfair treatment against the catholic church by the press and offers us a defense of the church in general and the pope in particular. He writes

What causes us Catholics to bristle is not only the latest revelations of sickening sexual abuse by priests, and blindness on the part of some who wrongly reassigned them — such stories, unending though they appear to be, are fair enough, — but also that the sexual abuse of minors is presented as a tragedy unique to the Church alone.

That, of course, is malarkey.  Because, as we now sadly realize, nobody, nowhere, no time, no way, no how knew the extent, depth, or horror of this scourge, nor how to adequately address it.

Really? Is that true? Nobody?

As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, didn’t Ratzinger – who admittedly had to read thousands of detailed reports and has since publicly stated that this revelation was cause for his enormous spiritual pain – know something of the extent, depth, and horror of this scourge? Is Ratzinger a ‘somebody’ in the archbishop’s estimation? More importantly – and certainly very revealing – is the answer to the question what did the man do to effectively stop this kind of abuse within the church? Well, the sad fact of the matter is that he shifted blame to others while maintaining and justifying the very policies of Vatican secrecy and interferences in judicial investigations that led to the abuse becoming a scandal wherever the church operated as an institution and not, as the pope himself would have you believe, merely unconnected local scandals the world over.

Now look what Dolan is doing: he, too, is playing the time-honoured blame game: ‘We’re no worse than anybody else!’.

So what?

What seem singularly difficult for the leadership of the church and their supporters to grasp is that calling on a fair comparison of abuse to other public institutions like schools and prisons is simply not relevant. Schools and prisons do not claim moral superiority the way the church does. The church has never claimed to be only a human institution; it claims to represent Jesus and his way of salvation in the world. Never just a human institution, that is, until it wants mercy for its culpability in criminal activity. Then, and only then, is the leadership of this institution willing to give up the claim to expect all kinds of worldly authority to be granted to it based on its self-proclaimed exalted moral status, but plays the childhood recess game of blaming everyone else for its failure to live up to its own claims and self-proclamations.

And you, dear reader, will note that whatever excuses we hear from church leaders like Ratzinger and Dolan for the church’s moral failings is always in response to secular revelations of these criminal activities – the same secular influence the pope blames for supposedly creating the social conditions that influenced helpless clergy into abusing, sexually assaulting, and raping children around the world. Yeah, secularism is the problem, we are told. But let’s remember that if it weren’t for this secular influence and investigations into abuse of children within the catholic church, we would know nothing about it. That’s the real danger secularism brings to the cloisters of the catholic church: exposure of what’s true.  That fact, that we the public find out about the depravity within the church only through secular investigations, is also quite telling and reveals the depth and breadth of the hypocrisy needed to defend and excuse the church as just another human institution with a few bad apples. That spin – between calling the church holy or human depending on what suits the church’s leadership at the time – is not an example of moral superiority but hypocrisy. The message from Jesus, if the church could ever be honest with itself, would probably be much more critical than anything offered up by secular authorities:

“whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Maybe after all the hypocrisy from the Holy See and the rest of the church’s leadership and supporters is revealed, that’s where the Vatican properly belongs.

Or we could just stop supporting it as any kind of moral authority when it clearly is not.

I prefer the latter.

1 Comment »

  1. From on the latest Hitchens installment on why the pope should stand trial:

    16. Comment #474713 by RainDear on March 31, 2010 at 8:04 am

    You can’t have it both ways.

    The Pope claims to be infallible. He claims to be the ultimate authority of ethics, morality and goodness. He claims to be the divinely appointed representative of the omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent creator of the universe. All his adult life, he has actively sought this position as the spiritual and moral leader of an organization of over a billion people. He speaks in a special voice, he is granted a special attention whenever he opens his mouth, he enjoys special respect, special trust, special doors open for him wherever he goes. He absolves, judges, decrees. He has a special influence on the way a billion people should live their lives and tries to extend this influence on the lives of billions of others as well.

    The Pope, the priests, the RCC as well as many other religions have enjoyed all kinds of special benefits for centuries, because they claim to have special knowledge, special moral and ethical authority. All through history, they have been granted special trust. They have been priviledged people of a priviledged organization.

    But you can’t have it both ways. When you have enjoyed special priviledges, you have to assume special responsibilities too. You don’t get to make the same excuses as someone without the benefits and priviledges. If a dentist wrecks the teeth of a patient, he can’t defend himself by saying boxers and hockey players do that too. A judge of the supreme court can’t defend his shoplifting by saying films stars and teenagers do that too.

    This is what I despise about churches, religions and religious leaders: they don’t play fair. They claim the higher moral ground, they enjoy being considered more righteous than their neighbours, they expect special respect, special politeness, special attention.

    But when they do something wrong, they not only deny their special responsibility, they demand special leniency. The morality of the RCC is so warped, they don’t even see how despicable this is.

    Comment by tildeb — March 31, 2010 @ 8:46 am | Reply

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