The Always Interesting Rod Bennett of Wonder Magazine writes:
I think we need to clear something up. The current scandal in the American Church isn’t an abuse, it’s a heresy.
First of all, let me define my terms. The “current scandal” isn’t pedophilia (since almost none of the victims are prepubescent children) and it isn’t mere homosexuality. It’s nothing more or less than a modern outbreak of good old-fashioned Greek pederasty. Ever since the days of Plato, deep-thinking, sensitive, artistic, and especially “spiritual” men (like our modern priests) have been wont to turn their teenage disciples into catamites. It’s the oldest story in the world-a recognized institution, almost. Far from being a baffling, unexpected phenomenon, it’s a state of affairs that ALWAYS crops up in all-male spiritual societies unless it is specially and vigilantly guarded against.
Secondly, “abuse” in the Church means the failure of the Church to live up to her own ideals.not an alteration of the ideals themselves. The late Middle Ages, for instance, were, as everyone knows, rotten with abuse; priests and even popes kept mistresses and sired bastard children; absentee bishops got rich by gathering up multiples sees which they had no intention of ever setting foot in; indulgences were sold and all the rest of it. All of these things were tolerated, certainly, even winked at, even mainstreamed-but never justified. There were no doctrinal attacks, in other words, on the virtue of chastity, no theological assaults on priestly celibacy, no attempt to maintain that simony isn’t a sin after all, or that greed is actually good. The real tactics were much more prosaic-just the usual stonewalling and obfuscation we’re familiar with from the Clinton era (“I’m only human like everyone else–let’s move on”). So abuse and heresy are two different and (usually) quite unrelated things.
And now my point. The vast majority of the people involved in these current scandals aren’t abusers, they’re heretics. A heretic doesn’t fail to live up to the standard, a heretic has been trying to change the standard. And like poor Oscar Wilde, who was tittered at and feted for his sexual libertinism until he actually put it into practice, most of these people have been preaching that there’s no such thing as sexual sin for the last thirty years. (Or, at the very least, that no one’s soul is going to be lost through sexual sin). And most Catholics were perfectly cool with this until it started affecting their own kids. Now I don’t mean, of course, that many of the abusers actually stood up in their pulpits and denied the possibility of eternal damnation or preached a homily in support of pederasty. No, indeed; that might have attracted the attention of those nasty old men in Rome. A far easier approach is to let your people sit under your preaching for years at a time and never once hear a single hint that their souls might be in any danger. Not only easier, but just as effective, if not more so. It’s a heresy of silence-but the expurgated version of Christianity that results is heretical just the same.
Bottom line: Ninety-nine per cent of the so-called “abusive priests” we’re dealing with are actually heretical priests who finally came to the point. They’ve dropped everything that was Catholic in Roman Catholicism and kept only the Roman part. And surprise, surprise! The pederasty has returned along with the paganism.
I think this explanation covers a lot of ground with respect to the abusers themselves. However, it doesn’t explain allegedly orthodox bishops like Law, who covered for these guys instead of doing the obvious thing and calling the cops. There, I think you have to look to a bizarre stew of clericalism, listening to lawyers, and sheer cowardice. Such bishops have come to conceive of their office as “making sure everybody is in the conversation”. So the premium was not on heresy but on making sure everybody went away from the last meeting mollified. Parents upset by rapist priest? Tell ‘em you’re on the case and will take care of it. They go away happy. Mission accomplished. Priest angry because he’s a courageous street priest and will start screaming (and telling tales out of school on others in the hierarchy?). Mollify him too. A little therapy and reassignment. It’s the Era of Good Feelings! Of course, there is the little matter of his continued rapes. But hey! Those parents can be mollified too. Just so nobody is mad at the bishop. That’s the goal. And if they get mad, well, there are threats you can make. That worked too for decades.
That system doesn’t work any more. Thanks be to God.