Monday, September 26, 2005

Priests, sex abuse, and the survival of the Church

The Catholic priest sex-abuse scandal is back in the news in a big-time way in this neck of the woods. The Philadelphia Inquirer has been all over this case like flies on manure after the Philadelphia district attorney released a grand jury report that found credible allegations against more than 60 priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (over a 50-year period, but still...).
In fact, at one point the Stinky landed neck-high in the manure, thanks to a misleading (and very unfair) front page headline.
This situation brings a sizable quantity of anger out of me.
I'm angry at the priests who abused the powers of their position to prey on the innocent.
I'm angry at the bureaucrats in the Church who behaved in a classically bureaucratic way, instead of in a way that would have ended the victimization of those young folks and isolated those predators in collars.
I'm angry at the way the district attorney approached the matter; it's now a case of conviction by publication, especially since the cases -- almost universally -- cannot be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations (which should be changed, I'll admit, but not retroactively).
I am angry for the damage that those unprintables have done to the calling of the priesthood. By their truly sinful actions, they have cast doubt on the thousands of priests who have lived by the book, men who do not in any way, shape or form deserve to be tarred with the same brush as the guilty. Their actions are an affront to the many good men who have served God and continue to serve God with their talents in the priesthood.
It's interesting that NAMBLA has not spoken out in defense of the priests whose preferred victims were young boys. It's interesting that the traditional hard-core gay activists have not spoken out (at least not loud enough for me to hear) about Pope Benedict's plan to prevent gay men from entering the priesthood. (My friend Regular Ron applauds that move fully; to me, a man's sexuality would not be an issue as long as he honored the vow of celibacy.) Of course, they're not keen on the Catholic Church in the first place and would like nothing better than to destroy it. There are a lot of people who would like to see that happen.
Guess what? That isn't going to happen, Jack.
The church is a lot more than the bureaucrats who let it down.
The church is a lot more than the priests who, by their actions, mocked the faith they signed on to teach, preach, protect and advance.
The church is the communion of the faithful, who try -- not always perfectly, to be sure -- to follow the teachings set forth in the Scriptures.
It is the bureaucratic church that is the target of those who seek to kill it. They think that by killing a structure, they can kill the faith and the principles imbued by that faith. The fact that the church is far greater than the bureaucratic structure is why it cannot be killed.
Author Lee Harris offered this at Tech Central Station as the best explanation I've ever seen as to why the church must not be killed:
If we are to change reality for the better, we must first be prepared to see it at its worst. And here, oddly enough, is where politics inevitably becomes delusional, and only religion manages to get it right. Politics selects a certain group and explains why they should rule over others; religion looks at us all and says that none of us can be trusted with power. The doctrine of original sin is the best prophylactic against the pretensions of any ruling class, and it is precisely those groups that have stressed this doctrine the most that have freed themselves from the tyranny of their betters.