Kudos and thanks to Minute Particulars for eloquently saving me the job of writing a bigger and longer blog this mess than the one I’m about to write. I continue to believe the Cardinal was absolutely unjustified in publishing the names of merely accused people. I also believe he was absolutely unjustified in publishing Gerard’s name. If there is a problem or danger with Gerard, he should go to the cops, not the papers. It would be morally wrong for me as Gerard’s brother in Christ to dredge up old sins and noise them abroad. It is doubly wrong for a shepherd–a SHEPHERD, dammit!–to so betray one of his flock. His job is to keep the flock safe, not expose their sins to no purpose other than to simply in order to fulfil the Charter for the Protection of Bishops from the Media.
The Cardinal had in mind the good of one person: William Cardinal Keeler. Not “potential victims”. And sure as hell not his priests he absurdly claimed to be caring for, who are rightly disgusted with and alienated from him for this act of utter betrayal.
Now, I’ve been gone for the weekend in beautiful Arkansas and haven’t followed the developing brouhaha on my comments and on other sites very carefully. I see Gerard has told more about what he did and it ain’t pretty. I’ve seen at least some correspondence that suggests he is (dear God in heaven!) *still* sinful. How can that be? Years of grace and *still* sinful? Not sinful in the way that got him (rightly) laicized, so far as anybody knows. But in other–annoying–ways. Dear God. I thank God I’m not sinful anymore. I’m past all that.
Just a short discourse and then this topic is closed on my blog henceforth. Our duty is charity. When we don’t know the story, our obligation is to assume the best, not the worst. Some have written (on comments on other blogs) to claim that I was a sucker or a fool for “believing in his carefully crafted persona”. This is, of course, to claim the mind-reading ability to know that Gerard is really a monster of iniquity, writing prose in celebration of the Catholic faith for years to mailing lists, websites, and BBS out of an evil and nefarious desire to….
Those of us who take seriously the command to be charitable might say (in light of recent revelations) “to attempt to live out forgiveness and redemption for sins committed by a miserable sinner whom Christ has saved.” I’ve read Gerard’s stuff on the Internet for a long time and in all that time he has not been self-centered, or justifying of his own sins or much of anything beyond a pleasant guy who loved the Faith. He has not been “crafting a persona” (people who craft personas do so for a reason, they want something).
“Ah! But Gerard did want something! He wanted people to…”
to what? Not hate him? Outrageous! How unusual! I know I just love being the target of universal disgust. Who can explain this strange quirk in his psychology?
To not hold an eternal internet referendum on whether he’s a monster? How weird. I certainly enjoy it when people bandy my name in endless debate about whether I’m the equivalent of Hitler or Stalin. And I can’t think of anybody else who doesn’t enjoy it just as much as I do.
No. Gerard was and remains under no obligation to say anything about his past just as none of us are, for precisely the reasons that this present controversy demonstrates. Every one of us has sins in our background which we bitterly regret (“disgust”, “horror” and “revulsion” are, I believe, the words Gerard uses to describe his attitude toward the sins the Cardinal so cruelly made public).
“But he’s made excuses and whined and been emotionally manipulative! Look at all the (now intelligible) excuses he made for the bishops in the comments boxes.”
What would you expect? Put yourself in his shoes, with his background. As the Scandal unfolds and the anger builds, he knows it’s just a matter of time before something like… oh… exactly what happened is done to him and a certain percentage of people do… oh… exactly what they did: declare him a moral leper and guilty of the Unforgiveable Sin which must henceforth be punished (and publicly discussed) forever. What in God’s name do you expect him to do as he watches the menace to his whole life come ever nearer, heedless of whether or not he’s ever been punished, ever repented, ever sought redemption. Just out for blood. I think it falls within the pale of normal human psychology that he’d be scared to death and try to defuse the “Kill Them All!” rhetoric (and that he would increasingly hear all complaints about the Scandal as “Kill Them All” rhetoric, including mine (which it never was). And I think that as panic sets in this effort would sometimes go to ridiculous lengths, as some of Gerard’s comments clearly did. And, when exposed, I can excuse the fact that in his horror and shame, he says some whiny, self-exculpating and emotionally manipulative things (though I add, for the sake of one of my readers whom he hurt badly, that at least one of these outbursts was sinful and I hope he apologizes to the person he hurt). I wonder very much how I would behave if the things I am most ashamed of were held up for public view–and if this were done by my shepherd in the name of the Faith I love. I wonder what I’m made of and if it would break me.
“Say what you will, but I’ve made up my mind. I know who Gerard *really* is now. You can go on with you pollyanna charity toward him, but I say ‘what has mercy accomplished? It’s time for judgment instead!’”
I blogged this on May 3, but I think it’s apropos now:
A priest I know once pointed out to me that one of the marks of the satanic is that it claims to see right through you, to identify you with your sins and pin you to the wall like a bug on a card. The devil, in speaking to Jesus, says “I know who you are!” He does the same to us. He says “I see right through you. You are your sins. This is who you really are!” In contrast, Jesus never does this. Indeed, in the miracle of grace he distinguishes us from our sins and frees us from them. Peter says, “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man” and Jesus doesn’t say, “You’re damn right you are! You sicken me!”. He liberates Peter from that. He calls him by a new name and gives him a new life. Something that troubles me about the way in which we treat sin is this tendency to speak as though our sins name us. “Now we know who Jesse Jackson–or Cardinal Law–or Whoever–really is.” The answer of the Faith is, “No you don’t. Not when you are naming people by their sins.” Sin is what destroys persons. It’s not what constitutes them. To the degree that we sin we are not who we really are. Doesn’t mean that we can’t sin, of course. Radical evil is a reality. Nor does it mean that we should not speak clearly of evil when it is committed. But when we say that “This is who X really is” we are in fact delighting in evil and rejoicing in a lie. The point of the gospel is not that our sins name us, but that Jesus comes to free us from our sins and really name us. It’s a reality we as Catholic will have to cling to, not least because of the temptation we will feel to indulge it as more betrayals from our clergy come to light. Such revelation will, it is true, show what evil our clergy have done. They will not in the least show “who they really are.” No sin does that. Jesus Christ alone is the image of who we really are.”
Our sins–even Gerard’s sins, do not name us. Gerard’s sins have been and are now being punished in sufficiently painful ways. If there is a *civil* danger that the authorities need to look at then I am at the front of the line urging the Cardinal to see to it that the law is notified and an investigation done. But if not, then it remains none of our damn business.
That said, this is my last blog on Gerard. I note that there’s been a bit of unpleasantness in some of my comments and, as Supreme Plenipotentiary and Lord High Executioner of This Here Blog I will be going through and deleting some of the more egregious remarks said in various phases of anger. Some of you have written with regrets for those remarks (you know who you are) and so we won’t speak of it again.
One final note: This has hurt us all like hell, I know. May God grant us peace and reconciliation. Feel free not to comment and to just move on.