That awkward silence

That awkward silence

Terry Mattingly wonders why there is so much silence regarding the latest Dallas Morning News revelations. For the most part, the mainstream press hasn’t picked it up and even Catholic bloggers seem relatively quiet, except for throwing up a link to it.

Are we jaded? Are we now inured to the latest outrage? Perhaps we just can’t get the blood pumping for yet another report of a pervert molesting kids. Maybe we’ve moved on from outrage at the individual stories and only want to address what’s going to be done about it all. I’m not sure why others aren’t getting in on it. What do you think?

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
28 comments
  • I don’t know either Dom, perhaps it’s outrage fatigue.  It’s almost as if we have come to expect such behavior from our priests and bishops and so yet another instance of it is just not that remarkable.  Perhaps that is how most of the faithful during the “Babylonian Captivity” felt about have two or three popes hanging around or those in the Renaissance felt about all the worldliness infesting the hierarchy.  That is exactly why the Church has always needed great saints to lead her out of whatever quagmire the sins of her sons has lead her into.

  • Definitely Jaded, Those of us who see abuse stores almost daily in the press are not surprised that the shifting of priest has gone beyond the border or that it exists in religious orders.

    I think those conclusions were a given at the start of this.

  • I watched World News Tonight this evening, and heard of today’s beheading in the Middle East. “Oh, another one,” I thought … and then caught myself, realizing that I was getting used to this now.

    Outrage fatigue seems about right. But if we succumb to that (on the priest scandal, I mean), what hope is there that true reform will come? We know that the hierarchy will not reform the Church out of the goodness of its collective heart, that it will do so only kicking and screaming, when forced to by outside pressure. Do we all intend to sit here and let Caesar do it? What if Caesar gets bored? District attorneys have to run for public office too, and if there’s more risk than reward in prosecuting clerical criminals, they they’ll cut deals and not touch it.

    And the system shambles on…

  • It occurs to me that if American Catholics, and the American public in general, really are suffering from outrage fatigue in all this, then Bishop Gregory was right: the scandal is over. Over, not in the sense that the system has been reformed, and the conditions that gave rise to the scandal have been eliminated. Over, in the sense of, “The pressure is off.”

  • Well Rod, why don’t we become great saints then – it’s what we’re set here to become anyway – and save our Church?  It was from the establishment of prayer groups to promote a renewal of piety that the great leaders of the Counter Reformation emerged.  I think that a similar process is active today.  The question is how long it will be before the light starts to shine so that all can see it.

  • As I understand the report on Fr. Aguilar, he was in the Los Angeles Diocese for less than a year.  Yet in spite of that:  “Cardinal Mahony is fighting in court to withhold clergy personnel files from prosecutors and plaintiffs’ lawyers, citing the priests’ privacy rights.”

    If the impetus is defense of diocesan priests, it would hardly apply in this case.  Within two months in the diocese Fr. Aguilar was transferred for the first time.  Doesn’t it seem unlikely that he would have gotten to know Mahony well during those two months?  So what prompts Mahony to be so fiercely loyal?  This just doesn’t make sense to me.  If the crime had been theft from the collection plate that had taken place in two months, would the same fierce loyalty have been invoked?  Doesn’t this hint of some undisclosed motive on the part of Cardinal Mahony?  Mahony, afterall, is taking heat for his defense of records in the abuse cases.  Why hasn’t he thrown Aguilar to the wolves to keep them busy, so to speak, and make himself look transparent, while continuing to resist disclosure in cases that involve his own diocesan priests?

  • I was astounded that the NYT/Globe didn’t pick it up. Maybe they will when they get some sort of notion that people are actually interested in the DMN series, which is what we’re talking about.

    (Parenthetically, I was and remain numb about the slaughter of the South Korean businessman and have no clue as to why this hasn’t been picked up, especially here.)

    On the Church scandal? I don’t think the pressure is off at all. Folks I’ve spoken with—those who have read the first or second installment of DMN series—are, for whatever reasons, skeptical. Maybe, I don’t know, it’s the writing. The style does seem to me, and this is just an opinion, rather—what’ s the word?—sensational, maybe? The writing seems—and again this is just my opinion and I’m only comparing it to the Globe style—more like a columnist’s, rather than a reporter’s story. But hey, what do I know from journalism.

    The people I’ve talked to are the same folks who devoured the Boston Globe coverage, no matter how much it hurt, no matter how much it sickened them, no matter how much they would have loved to have shrugged it off as another “anti-Catholic” Globe attempt.

    I’m not sure the “outrage fatigue” theory works. People I know are still reading everything they can about the church, and here in Boston are still, uncompromisingly, refusing to let the Scandal go. Just read any Letters to the Editor section on any given day of the week in the Boston Globe. (BTW, I don’t subscribe to the DMN…does the letters to the editor section reflect interest in the series?)

    People are still outraged, at least in my neck of the woods, and among the folks I’ve spoken with.

    One thing’s clear to me. The byline of Brooks Egerton isn’t exactly helping the cause. But then I’m sure that isn’t news to anybody.

    Odd, though, isn’t it? How, when Dom posted Rod’s—forgive me, this is probably not the right description— “teaser” last week? He was bombarded with speculative, excited posts. Not exactly, to my view, any indication of “scandal fatigue.” Quite the opposite, actually.

    Then, when the actual series came out? Things seemed to have quieted down.

  • While the subject of general indifference to these latest revelations is on the table for discussion, I want to ask what anyone else might know about the Society of St. John abuse scandal involving Fr. Urrutigoity and Fr. Ensey.

    I’m on the email list of Dr. Jeffrey Bond, President of the College of St. Justin Martyr, who is attempting to gain recognition for this particular scandal and some legal remedy, since his college was associated with the SSJ until he severed the ties. 

    Does anyone have an opinion as to whether Dr. Bond is over-reacting or whether Bishop Joseph F. Martino is attempting to effect a cover-up as Bond believes?

  • At this point, I can’t say I’m terribly surprised by what’s been going on.  After the raping of African nuns and previous molestation charges, how can we say this is surprising?

    What I’d like to know is if any bishops are being criminally prosecuted for helping a fugitive flee the law.  We’re have a little to-do here in NYC over a judge who let a guy leave the courtroom by a back door to avoid a police detective (who caught up with the guy the next day, I believe).  Shipping child molesters around the world probably opens these bishops to several venues for criminal charges—in all the countries the molesters were posted to. 

    So… why not?  I think that’s really what it would take to get bishops to pay attention.  Some will have to end up in prison for their collusion.  Just sucking off money that originally belongs to parishioners has little personal effect for these bishops. 

  • Why of course we’re all burnt!  We have seen our children taken from wombs and now we have read and heard the latest in what we should all know is quite a spiritual battle.  How to awaken the others from their slumber—for me is the question?  The “fox” has already entered the hen house taking our precious futures.  How do we get “Joe Catholic” to awaken?  Prayer AND ACTION are the only weapons I know in this battle!  There are so many that want to blame someone else and hide their heads from all the negative.  No one can afford this behavior—God have Mercy.

  • Rod,

    Not to beleaguer the point, but the press is certainly part of this shambling “system” of which you write.  It’s the same storyline—- no investigation beyond the surface plot, no counterpoise of characters or outcomes.  For example, we get no tales of wrongly accused priests to give the story any depth beyond “priest evil, bishop unconcerned and unaccountable, lawyers good.”

    “True reform” comes when a path presents itself.  Saints must be visible to be seen, and your colleagues aren’t helping any.  People long ago settled into a pattern of thinking whereby “priests I know” are good, while “priests I don’t know” are suspect.  In a global story, “priests I don’t know” are even further removed.

  • It seems to me that Boston captured attention because frequently readers knew the priest.  Something that happens in Mexico or South America is removed from our immediate experience, and therefore less important and less shocking.

  • Justin, I don’t understand the point you’re making here. The investigation was undertaken to see if the same pattern we saw in the domestic scandal—bishops shipping molester priests from parish to parish—was being done on an international scale. They found that it was. The scope of the investigation was not to explore the phenomenon of the priest sexual molestation of children; that has been done, and done, and done. The investigation was to isolate this unlooked-at aspect of the phenomenon. What would be the point of looking for falsely accused priests for this investigation?

    Brooks, Reese and the others investigated this stuff exhaustively. They found over 200 cases of international transfers—and surely would have found more if they’d had the time to look (I am aware of at least one involving a Carmelite who’s not even on their radar). I think maybe you want them to tell a story they didn’t set out to tell.

    In any case, tomorrow’s story is the last in this round of reporting. In a couple of weeks, there’s going to be a new round of stories with a somewhat different focus.

  • Well, I also wonder if it is going to cut much closer to home for the mainstream press.  For example, implicate all their sources for all the rest of their “Catholic” information.  Cardinal Law got a lot more ink than Rembert Weakland but who personally did worse?  And if the Mexicans did it then maybe “diversity” and “respect for another culture” makes the mainstream press shut up.  Don’t forget that just as the scandal broke two years ago the UN was on the verge of approving adult-child sex.  An *international* story that provokes outrage will really put paid to a long-standing and corrupt desire to change the rules.

  • I’m a little puzzled by Kelly’s remark about Brooks Egerton.  What quality does he have or lack that explains to some extent the modest attention the story has gained so far?

    I think the story isn’t simple enough to attract much public outrage.  People expect bishops to be powerful executives who can solve problems, so a diocese has someone who can be easily blamed. 

    In a religious community, on the other hand, the superior may be a provincial who lives nowhere near the problem and only holds office for a few years until his term is up.  Responsibility is diffused among officials and councils, and so is blame.

    A story about corruption in religious orders, moreover, doesn’t fit into a familiar anti-Catholic “meta-narrative” (i.e. stereotype): e.g., that archbishops are rich, powerful, arrogant, and callous.

    There’s no comparable myth about male religious-order superiors.  Now, if you find a story about women religious shuffling their own perps around the world and letting them prey on kids, that’ll find some resonance.  Any story that can summed up with the words “cruel nuns” has legs.

  • Rod writes:

    The investigation was undertaken to see if the same pattern we saw in the domestic scandal—bishops shipping molester priests from parish to parish—was being done on an international scale. They found that it was. The scope of the investigation was not to explore the phenomenon of the priest sexual molestation of children; that has been done, and done, and done. The investigation was to isolate this unlooked-at aspect of the phenomenon.

    Well, that’s fine in the analytical/research terms that you employ, here, but then I’m not sure why you expect rekindled outrage.  Inasmuch as I can’t recall reading a single Catholic expressing relief that it was only and American issue — “Whew!  At least this isn’t happening in less sophisticated nations!” — the reaction would seem likely to be in the vein of your more-academic characterization.

    As a tangential comment, I’d say that it’s an oversight to say that the “phenomenon of the priest sexual molestation of children… has been done, and done, and done.”  Foreign branches of the Church are notably different in how they are perceived from that of the United States, and in ways that would have implications for the “phenomenon.”

  • RC: I think the story isn’t simple enough to attract much public outrage.  People expect bishops to be powerful executives who can solve problems, so a diocese has someone who can be easily blamed. 

    In a religious community, on the other hand, the superior may be a provincial who lives nowhere near the problem and only holds office for a few years until his term is up.  Responsibility is diffused among officials and councils, and so is blame.

    But RC, the series has implicated three cardinals—Mahony of L.A., Rodriguez of Tegucigalpa, and Rivera of Mexico City—as being part of this system. The series revealed that some bishops and religious orders are running the equivalent of a “ratline” to get molester priests overseas and away from law enforcement, and back into ministry. Today’s (Wednesday’s) entry, which most of you probably haven’t seen yet, shows that even the Dallas norms didn’t keep one accused molester priest from overseas from working in the US.

    I don’t understand why any or all of this isn’t outrageous, and easy to understand.

  • Speaking for myself, I can only say that I probably have become unshockable (which is what my personality tends toward anyway) on certain subjects. The Islamofascists beheaded someone … why should that surprise us, that’s what they do. Fish swim. The French pissed on something Anglo-American … why should that surprise us, that’s what they do. Birds fly. Church leaders covered up molester priests, laity be damned … why should that surprise us, that’s what they do.

  • I should add, in case it isn’t obvious, about the worldweary tone of my previous post, that this is not a personality trait I’m especially proud of. It does cause me to shrug things off that maybe shouldn’t.

  • The DMN report is not “news.”  We already know that the Catholic Church is loaded with pervert priests and spineless, pervert-enabling bishops.  But that will all pass away in time, even though it is excruciatingly painful to endure in the present time.  Let’s instead fix our eyes on Christ and work for a solution to this mess that we’ve got ourselves into, a solution that will produce holier priests for the future, bold bishops, and a holy, converted and educated laity.    In the realm of sexuality, the always on-target Alice Slattery hit on the solution in an earlier post:  the Holy Father’s Theology of the Body.  This must be taught in seminaries, parishes, marriage prep programs, high school CCD programs, etc.  So let’s quietly continue cleaning house, tracking down and removing these evil, dangerous perverts from the priesthood.  But let’s not do it while wringing our hands in despair over a problem that, while serious, is really a problem of the PAST, which just now happens to be coming to fruition.  Theology of the Body is a gift to the Church.  Let’s use it.

  • Fr. John Hardon at times related Will Roger’s definition of advertising: Advertising is that which makes people buy what they don’t need with money they don’t have…

    Perhaps, this gentleman should have used his talents to encourage, as Isabel rightly suggests, more Eucharistic Adoration, or more vocations, or more people to attend Sunday and daily Mass, and on and on.

    On wonders where he was or what he was doing while the deliberations on parish closings or consolidations were occurring?

  • Yes, maybe it’s the parishes that should be doing the advertising.  When we were traveling through MA last week, Dh started looking for a church for Sunday Mass.  He was astonished at how few Catholic churches were listed in the Yellow Pages.  We had real difficulty finding a church!  Is the assumption is that the only people who might want to go to Mass were born and bred in their own town and already know where the churches are?  So much for welcoming travelers, newcomers, and potential converts.

    (We finally ended up at Sacred Heart in Lawrence.  I didn’t see if they had Adoration, but they did have a Corpus Christi procession planned with another parish.)

    The pastor at our previous parish would obtain a list of recent home sales from a realtor (it’s public record) and send each new household a letter of invitation.

  • The series is interesting and informative.  It names names, and there are at least three Cardinals involved—likely more as the series progresses.

    Good stuff.  The tone is a bit ‘breathless,’ but it’s consistent with what I’ve seen in Milwaukee papers reporting on the domestic version of same.

    Now the question:  so what?  Aside from prayers, what does one do?  Writing to Roman congregations is usually an exercise in cloud-punching; and what does one do in LA?  Keating’s “Mafioso” comment was correct, except that he slandered the Mafia, which did NOT condone homosexual pederasty.

    The suggestion to “track and remove” dangerous perverts is nice:  how does a regular in-the-pew Catholic “remove” a dangerous pervert?  (Legally, that is?)

  • A comment on the “so what” attitude reflected here – what about the children? As a gramma I refer to grownup children as well as lil ones. My daughter has 2 lil ones whom she will probably homeschool as she doesn’t trust either the public school system or now the Catholic school system. Exposure to priests and nuns? Well there aren’t any real nuns for them to be exposed to – except perhaps in the retirement homes.  The kids will see Father at Mass but admit it – we’re NOT comfortable having him around our lil ones ‘cause we just don’t know…… terrible to paint with a broad brush but there it is – the elephant in the room. It is difficult for my children to defend their faith in this climate and I worry that they will succumb to some evangelistic Protestant community as some of their friends have. So while we may be becoming numb to the sordidness , it’s effects are still being felt and will continue to be felt for generations I think. I also ask – what can one do besides prayer and fasting? Today’s readings at Mass tell the story of a whole people turning back to God – sackcloth and ashes anyone?

  • I wonder what is to gained by holding onto these church buildings Is it all a matter of denial, vanity and nostalgia or is there something deeper here I’m missing?

  • Nan,

    Perhaps one of the good things that came out of the “Situation” is that now priests are going to have to be convincingly holy to gain back the trust of their parishioners, particularly those with kids.  No more skating on the reputation of the priesthood – each one will have to pass muster on his own merits.

  • “I don

    The loss of clerical credibility that these kinds of rules both reflect in the present and will reinforce for the future is a catastrophe, or a “tragedy” as Sinner calls it. I agree not trusting priests is the only rational course for a parent to take any more. That hardly makes it good.

  • Kelly—

    Thanks for the link.  It was quite illuminating as to why, as Justin Katz observed, “Itreet. Go to that one if you’re unhappy.

    Advertising has so successfully changed so many other parts of society. Gee, why can’t sentence-long soundbites do the same for the Church? Go ahead and read the ads. You won’t be surprised that a guy who makes his living selling stuff nobody probably wants comes up with such inane theological reasoning.

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    isabelkilian@hotmail.com

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    2004-06-22 22:29:15
    2004-06-23 02:29:15
    Just wondering how many parishes that are closing had perpetual Eucharistic Adoration.  Sometimes, we say we love God but we don’t even go to visit Him unless we are forced.

    When you really love someone, nothing on earth could keep you away from them.  You wouldn’t miss Jesus for the world and He would remain waiting patiently for your visit.  You certainly would never have to be concerned with your church closing.  Love would never permit it!

    Isabel

    Isabel

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