Saturday, March 27, 2010

On the possibility of considering oneself Catholic

Cardinal Caffarra of the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for the Family recently stated that it is impossible to consider oneself Catholic if one believes that there is a right in any way—presumably, given the context of his statement, even in the merely civil sense both of "marriage" and of "right"—to same-sex marriage.
Since I consider myself Catholic and yet I believe that, in the strictly civil sense of both terms, there is a right to same-sex unions and marriages, he is wrong about this possibility. Anything that is, is possible.
But, much more importantly, it is interesting, to say the very least, that one apparently can think that one is a Catholic at the same time one is covering up the abuse of children. In fact, as in the case of Cardinal Law, one can even be promoted to Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, having done that very thing and then having done everything but lie under oath about it.
Of course, I am very aware that the powers that be both in the Vatican and in the diocesan chanceries around the world are busy blaming the sex-abuse crisis either on gays or on Vatican II or on secularization of society—ignoring the fact that it is isn't openly gay men who are molesting children, but men who claimed to be regular, old heterosexuals; that, for instance, the case most recently come to light in Wisconsin of a priest who molested at least 200 deaf boys began in 1950, more than a decade before Vatican II, a not atypical case; and, that the massive molestation and abuse in Ireland, covered in the Ryan and Murphy Reports, occurred in the most religious (i.e., least secularized) country in Western Europe, the only one in which lay people were likely to trust the clergy,  and went back many decades, including systematic abuse of a non-sexual nature in the Magdalene laundries—but this is nothing more than a red herring, designed to pretend that the real problem isn't the way that bishops in power have done all they can to protect the Church, by which they mean themselves and not the people. Clearly they are wolves positioning themselves as shepherds. 
There are probably no more molesters in the Church than there are in the general population, and I am genuinely sad for all those who have dedicated themselves to the Church and have now had themselves put under suspicion for nothing more than their vocation. The problem—and the one that the pope and others are unwilling to address—is that the hierarchy has acted like so many American CEO's, protecting the leadership, acting in the interest of the corporation, and blaming all failings on a few and never on the structure of unconnected, uninterested, power-hungry leadership. 
Most recently, there has been a spate of claims that every institution, whether it is a school or a scout organization, has the same culture of coverup and corporate-think, as if the claim to represent the teaching and body of Christ is absolutely meaningless, as if the Church shouldn't be held to a higher standard, as if it really were just a corporation that should be expected to fail and shouldn't even feel particularly bad about it, because, after all, such things happen.
Now, I'm not a Donatist, but before members of the hierarchy start telling me which moral and political beliefs I may have and still be a Catholic, they may want to get their own moral house in order. Ordination and consecration may have sacramental effects, but moral authority doesn't come with imposition of hands or the donning of the purple. It must be earned; and not many are earning it these days.
Christ said, "But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea." 

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