This is progress?

This is progress?

We are hearing a common refrain coming from the bishops’ meeting in St. Louis and it’s most often this: It’s a media creation.

“We all know that we are going through difficult times and that some real problems within the church have been magnified to discredit the moral authority of the church,” Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo said

Have anti-Cathollic journalists reveled in the Scandal? Yes. Has it been magnified? No. It is as bad as it seems and as it has been reported. Priests abused kids and bishops and other priests turned a blind eye to it and facilitated even more abuse by wilful, and probably criminal, negligence. And while I’m sure it happens in other institutions, I don’t think we’ve ever seen institutional acceptance of such a phenomenon on such a scale, especially by the highest levels of authority.

“It’s an incontrovertible fact, just from reading newspaper articles, magazine columns, opinion pieces ... that many have chosen this crisis to move forward their own agenda,” Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh said in an interview.

Agreed. But rather than blame the scorpion for being a scorpion, blame the frog who carried him on his back across the stream for giving him the opportunity to sting him. Those with their own agendas were handed this opportunity on a silver platter by the same negligent bishops.

Others argued that the press has ignored the good deeds of the church. “The focus has distorted the public image of the church, whatever the reasons are,” Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan of Brooklyn said at a midday press conference. “Nobody knows the real story of what this church has done” for housing, the mentally ill, and the homeless, he said.

Now this sounds like Bernardin’s “whole cloth” argument that is used to defend pro-abortion Democratic politicians: “Hey, they may be for abortion, but they’re against the death penalty and want the federal government to hand out tons of money to the poor.” Does that justify or take away the sting of what has been done? Shall we turn to the young man who was sodomized by his parish priest and say, “But what about all the good the Church has done?”

Do the bishops who shuffled predatory priests among the children of their dioceses also want to take personal credit for the Church’s ministry to the poor, the sick, the homeless? We’re mixing up our ecclesiology here. Is the bishop the Church or not? Most of that work is done by individual communities of religious and laypeople, not organized by the bishop himself. So when we criticize the bishop for his failings, we can’t say, “But look at all the other good he’s done.” Besides it seems a little subjective like the end justifies the means.

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein of Indianapolis criticized what he called “overgeneralization and telescoping” in coverage of the church. “It’s disappointing that we’re not addressing the issue as it affects our public school system and other aspects of society,” he said.

Has there been a case of a superintendent of a school system shuffling a known child molester among the schools and classrooms of his school system? Perhaps I missed that. Besides, we hold the Church to a higher standard because she is supposed to be the moral rule above all others.

It seems to me that if this is the general attitude among bishops at the meeting, we haven’t come all that far after all. It’s the same sort of evasion of responsibility we heard back in January 2002. The vaunted progress that’s been made has been on the order of policies and procedures aimed at the perverts themselves. What we haven’t seen is a corresponding effort by the bishops to reform themselves and root out the corruption within their own body that allowed their brother-bishops to abide predators in the ranks of their priests.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli