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.

  • The majority of the bishops still do not get it!!  They still have their heads in the sand.

    Bishop Joseph Galante of Dallas, consciously or not consciously, declared the reality of the problem.

    “when we are not faithful to our mission”

    The majority of bishops have not been faithful in dispensing the teaching of the the Church; have not been faithful in defending the teaching of the Church; have not been faithful in admonishing and penalizing the faithful, and this means all the faithful——bishops, priests, religious and laymen——for the public dissent against the teaching of the Church.

    Yes! Yes, by all means “forgive” but please, do not be blind to the fact that consequences do follow for public sins and crimes against the faith, against the sacred dignity of our fellow brothers in the Lord.

    The bishops must purge from public ministry of the Word and the Sacraments all who have promoted and lived according to dissent.

    Until they do this, credibility will never return.  This will mean that the Church will become smaller in number. The local Churches will lose out in the field of finances etc.  But this has to be the inevitable cost or penance for the public “infidelity” to Christ who is Church.

  • And before you say that the media coverage has been unfair, ask yourself a question: Do you have any doubt in your mind that if the media hadn’t created a firestorm of criticism that the bishops would have done anything to correct the problem? If the past year and a half of Scandal had not happened, Shanley would still be loose, dozens of perverts would still be wearing collars, and the cover up would continue.

    Yes, the media, by and large, hates the Church, but remember the Assyrians hated the Israelites. Yet, God used them to punish the Israelites, to urge them to reform, and to remember who it is that lets them prosper. Sometimes God gives evil men free reign in order that good men can be awakened.

  • The story that should have been told is that we as a society have a serious sexual abuse problem and it goes even as far as the Catholic Church! Instead the story that was told by the journalists was that ONLY the Catholic Church has a sex abuse problem and its problem is the only and most serious problem in the US.

    This is not true. Witness:
    The award AND standing ovation in Hollywood at the Oscars for convicted child rapist and fugitive from justice Polansky.

    Witness the articles in the New York Times about passing the trash (term for public school systems quietly arranging for suspected molestors to get jobs in other districts).

    Witness the fact that psychologists estimate 1 to 2 percent of the population has had sex with people under 18. Yet, one to two percent of the population is not in jail!

    This is a serious problem and the real story was how prevalent denial is—that it could even be so hidden within Roman Catholicism.  Even the victims themselves and their families contribute to keeping it hidden.  How many other children were put at risk because victims and parents sought money rather than indictments that would prevent others from being hurt?  This story is big and so far we continue to see only the tip of the iceberg. If Hollywood, school districts, camps do not tumble along with the Church, then the Bishops who claim that this is selective reporting are correct: this is a targeted attack on the Church only. If the rest of society is forced to own up and take responsibility for putting children at risk, then the reporters will have done a noble thing at the end of the day. 

  • Should have added witness the fact that the vast majority of the coverage has focused on the problems of 1000 to 1500 priests over the past 50 years while the number of abusers (most of whom who have been uncharged) is much larger—1 to 2 pecent of estimate of 220 million adults is 2.2 to 4.4 million abusers!  Yet all the press goes to just 1000 to 1500!

  • The old saying goes “it’s not the crime, it’s the coverup.” It’s not so much that there were abusers in the priesthood—you’re bound to have abusers in any representative sampling of the population; after all we’re a sinful people—but it was the systematic cover up, denials, and negligence allowing even more abuse that is what galls people most of all.

    I don’t understand how someone could just shrug and say, “Well, it’s worse over there.”

    If someone came to your house and pointed out the fact that someone in your household was committing a crime, would you dismiss him as a biased and ask why he didn’t point out the crimes of the guy across the street? Or would you thank him and take steps to clean up your house, even knowing that the guy only did it because he wanted to point your flaws?

    The reason why the Scandal in the Church is a big deal and abuse in society at large isn’t is because of the hypocrisy. We are the Body of Christ, a divine institution, yet the men entrusted with the care of that institution harbored the most horrific sins.

    The reason the Church was a target is because she is supposed to be so much better than that. That the rest of society is sick isn’t news to anyone.

  • Chris,

    Now you’re presuming too much. I never said I was unconcerned about the welfare of children in other circumstances. But I want to clean up my own house first before I start trying to clean up other people’s messes. And it’s not like these messes aren’t being dealt with other people as well.

    As for this crisis in the schools you keep talking about, what evidence do you have this is going on? How do you know that there’s a cover up?

  • Chris, the thing is that some Catholic news outlets have been on this story for a lot longer than the secular media, but because it was the “inside baseball” guys, the “bad” bishops ignored us and went on their merry ways. It wasn’t until the big-money media came along and splashed the story in front of millions of people that they began to do anything.

    Let’s get one thing straight: are you denying that some/many bishops have engaged in a massive cover up of negligence concerning pedophile priests?

    Let’s ignore all the side issues of what everyone else is doing for now and concentrate on the Church. “Everybody is doing it” is not an excuse.

    Do we or do we not have a situation in the Church where bishops abused their power and put vulnerable people at risk of sexual predators? If we do, then the media blowup was justified because it was the only way they were going to deal with it.

    I have not doubt that if this wasn’t splashed all over the news in the past year, we’d be continuing on our merry, dumb way thinking everything was peachy.

  • Dom,

    You have stated well the truth of the matter.  All through the US the bishops have never admitted to or confronted serious issues brought to them by the laity unless the matter got into the secular news media, then quickly a letter or phone call was made to arrange a meeting with the bishop to discuss the issue.  Otherwise, as you say, everything would continue on its merry, dumb way thinking everything was peachy.

    True, all from the Holy Father down to the new-born infant the effects of the first act of disobedience affects all of us.

    However, we are dealing with men who have had all the opportunities to study the spiritual life, the theoligical and moral life of the Church, and the daily means at their disposal to fortify themselves against the temptations of this worldly journey.  We are talking about men chosen to be other Christs to lead and nourish the faithful on the journey to our eternal goal.  We are dealing with what is of a Divine nature, we are dealing with the realities of realites, life everlasting and not just the here and now.

    The scandal is that the bishops and priests have failed in obedience to their fidelity to Peter and thus to Christ, Who is Church.  Dissent is disobedience, failing to defend and teach the truth is disobedience and disobedience is a lack of love. And a lack of love in one’s life is the abandonment of Love Himself.

    This is the scandal and the crux of the problem. Don’t kid ourselves.

    This is not a homily, a sermon or preaching which I’m sure many will see it as such.  Nevertheless, unless one perceives it in this light, not much progress will take place.

  • Except, Chris, as the original point of this post said, “This is progress?” I could take what you say about moving on to heart if I felt like anything substantive had been done. But we’ve only scratched the surface. The real problem, as Richard points out, goes much deeper.

    The reason that dealing with these problems in the Church is more important than the others you name is that the Church is conduit of grace and means of salvation in the world. I would think that every Catholic would be concerned with this type of corruption in the Church. I guess I don’t understand why they’re not.

  • To whom it may concern,

    Dom nor myself do not have the right to be judges of the Church, or judges of ones spiritual outcome. Nor has Dom done so.

    What has been done is what the Lord expects of the very intelligence and will power that is part of our created nature and our right and at times our obligation to do. 

    Know the facts, be sure of the truth and the actions and from them make prudential and common sense judgements.  Our daily lives are filled with constantly making judgements.  Let’s be sure they are right and just with the help of the Lord’s Light and Truth.

    The judgement of the individual’s immortal being belongs only to the Lord Jesus. This Dom and I know and will acknowledge and respect.

    But when it comes to daily living here and now, we do have a right to judge the words and actions of individuals or groups if they are right or wrong according to the guidance and teaching of the Magisterium of the Church, Holy Scripture, Divine Revelation and Tradition.

    I’m certain that Dom and I will openly confess our wrongfulness and ask forgiveness if we fail in the area of “judgement” beyond our compentency.

  • For one thing, I’ve never used the term “hapless bench of bishops.” I’m not sure where the phrase originated; Was it you Rod?

    Secondly, I’m not saying that the Globe reporters are going to or even trying to fix the Church. In fact, I have leveled quite a bit of criticism at them over the past 18 months.

    My only point is that for the US bishops to claim that the Scandal is really a bunch of media hype and that they’ve got it all under control is too much to swallow.

  • Well after harping on the press about their missing the story, it seems that not ALL the reporters missed the BIGGER implications of this story:

    Check out

    Its a story by the Associated Press about sexual abuse cases in public schools.  Story said no good statistics kept (where have we heard this?) but estimates are that 700 children nationwide are victims per year.  I suspect that is higher. I know in my high school there were 3 teachers who were known for “eyeing” the girls and getting too friendly.  Several years after I graduated, one was eventually removed only because he diverted a bunch of them while on a school trip to a hotel and had them watch porn movies. Thankfully nothing happened to the students.