Some People are Gloating

…because the BBC, which absolutely *loved* the Scandal in the Catholic Church is now confronting its own massive institutional failure in preventing a Beloved Personality from being a predator.

I think that the main thing to do here is to keep the focus on two things: 1) the victims and their need for help and 2) the emerging sociological question of how the same results keep happening across a broad spectrum of human institutions, secular and religious.  In other words, it’s becoming apparent that there wasn’t something peculiarly Catholic about the Church’s response, but rather there was something depressingly human about it.  The problem is not that the Church was more evil that other institutions in its cowardice, coverups and failure to address the problem.  The problem is that the Church was average.

Seen sociologically, that’s to be expected, I suppose.  The average Catholic is average, and the Church is, among other things, full of average people–including among its clergy.  So it’s to be expected that you get an average institutional response to the presence of a grave threat to institutional integrity.

And yet, how depressing to be reminded that we are indeed jars of clay.  Saints remain a rare thing in the Church, and the mystery is, “Why?”  I don’t have an answer for that.  But I am assured by revelation that it does not *have* to be so.  The net catches bad fish as well as good, to be sure.  But we have it available to us to be extraordinary by the grace of God.

One good thing that has come out of this–perhaps a providential thing–is that the Church, by being the first institution to really be confronted in a massive and global way with this phenomenon, has been forced by Providence to pioneer institutional responses that actually seem to be effective.  No, it’s not all perfect yet.  But it’s a lot better.  So perhaps one of the ironies of this tragedy is that other institutions–the Beeb among them–will come to learn from the Church’s experience and profit from it.  It would be humbling work of grace for all involved, not least the Church herself, to truly be in the position Paul says we are always in, of not being able to boast.  If such humility comes of this terrible trial, it will be a redemptive fruit our arrogant culture could certainly stand to display.

  • Sharon

    The Beloved Personality was a Catholic.

    • JoFro

      Was he also a celibate Catholic priest? Becos u know, celibacy causes men to have sex with teens….oh wait!

    • Matt

      so waz hitler omg

      • Marion (Mael Muire)

        Hitler was raised in a Catholic family, but when he grew up, he decided to pick and choose for himself which of the Catholic Church’s teachings he wanted to follow. When the Pope and the German bishops spoke out against the persecution of the Jews, Hitler chose to ignore his spiritual leaders, thus placing putting himself into the category which today some refer to as “Cafeteria Catholic” – I chose to follow this; I don’t choose to follow that.

        • Matt

          I wasn’t being serious. I was just laughing at Sharon.

          • Marion (Mael Muire)

            Fair enough.

            Still stands.

  • Andy

    As part of my job, I teach about child abuse – physical, emotional, sexual and neglect. For the most part abuse especially sexual abuse is based on power and the use of power. To confuse sexual abuse of a child with sexuality is a mistake. The abuse of power is not a Catholic or Protestant thing – it is not due to celibacy or tied to being married. So please lets not tie it to anything other than we are all sinners and can commit grave acts of evil.

    • Ted Seeber

      @Andy: Here’s my private theory, and I’d love a comment on how real you think it is:

      Sexual abuse, of any type, is the outgrowth of recreational sex. It is in fact when one partner is more focused on his/her own short term pleasure, without thinking about the consequences to the other person’s body and soul. It is when we disregard, and objectify, another human being that is the center of the sin of sexual abuse of all forms, divorcing the act from it’s procreative and unitive aspects in exchange for mere stress relief and selfish lust.

      I think a huge part of the reason sex abuse happens, is not understanding that love and lust are two different things; and that love is a virtue (in fact, the greatest of all virtues), but lust is a mortal sin.

  • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

    Saints remain a rare thing in the Church, and the mystery is, “Why?”

    Because, “[w]hen the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

  • Irenist

    ” The problem is that the Church was average.”
    Precisely. With God’s grace, we better be doing a LOT better than that:
    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2234

  • James H, London

    I know a lady, who’s been involved with Charismatic Renewal for decades. She’s quite gifted spiritually, and I had occasion to speak with her some months ago, in company with a priest who advises her. She said, quite frankly, that the church scandal was only the tip of the iceberg, that it affects every institution, and it had to come out. The church was only where the lid was lifted first.

    I wondered how she knew. It seems there’s going to be a lot more of these abuse scandals. Expect the teachers, actors, hospitals, social services and police all to be exposed.

  • Seamus

    If only women could become disc jockeys and television personalities. If only disc jockeys and television personalities could marry.

  • Janet O’Connor

    Regarding the remark that “the Church opened the lid first on sex-abuse” is actually not completely true in my opinion. The Boston Globe first opened the lid with its revelations in early 2002. Before that year it was already know by several people in the Church and the Vatican including the late “Great” John Paul II who as early as 1993 was warned by American Bishops to take action against certain abusive priests. His reply was to keep them on the payroll even if they were not in active ministry. This is in a book every Catholic should read “Man of the Century” It author states facts that the Pope did not act because he did not want any bad publicity for the Church. He told them ” You will get no quick fixes out of me” This latest BBC thing shows this clearly. John Kwitney was Polish himself so he had no axe to grind, he stated the facts on this in the book which was published in 1995 almost a decade before the revelations came out in Boston.

  • Thinkling

    My wife and I had a discussion mirroring Mark’s points quite closely, a few months ago. The piece de resistance of our conversation was Penn State instead of the BBC. I think the universality of these problems is underappreciated (although changing). It looks like the Boy Scouts may soon go through this Purgatory too…

  • Thinkling

    For a more up-to-date appraisal of Blessed John Paul’s role in the scandal, one with slew of material not available for Kwitny (whose book is still worth the read BTW), check “The End and the Beginning”. The reasons for his lack of ambition on this matter are quite a bit more nuanced (and tragic) than Kwitny could ever have known.

  • Dan C

    Aberrant institutions today (or even 10 years ago) were institutions failing to address the predators in their midst. These were outliers among all institutions, and truthfully, the Church was willfully aberrant. Most groups claim to attempt that now or when such leadership failures become known, it is clear such actions are a failure to follow certain procedures. Responses to such failures are also clarified in most institutional protocols, including responses to failures even to the level of the leadership of the institution.

    Several matters currently confront organizations that work with children:

    1. All such organizations face the problems of what to do about the “archives.” This is what is pounding the Boy Scouts of America now. How does it manage its previous bad history of dealing with sexual predators?
    2. In organizations of any type, leaders hold the responsibility of acting justly on such matters. When this is not done, and an incident is willfully ignored or swept under the table, what are the mechanisms for reporting bad conduct of leaders? This is not trivial. Almost all “incidents” are done with many more than merely a few people knowing what happened. Truly, when it comes to sex, there are few secrets. Often many know. Leadership silence or tolerance is problematic (and actually more than that-often retributive to the whistle blowers) and also well-known in the rest of the organization. How does one manage these problems of leadership failure in an organization?
    3. When there is failure, how does one manage the consequences? Leaders often make many serious decisions all day long. The good leader often handles minor and major decisions greatly affecting the lives of his or her employees well. What about the bad decision? How to manage this? I think for the great majority of folks today in the US, we have indicated that the concerns of sexual predation are so high that failures on these matters are among the highest failure a leader could make. Consequently, when a high school principal knows of sex between a student and a teacher (even if the student is 18, for instance), failure to manage this in the difficult and painful, but routine, manner will result in that principal’s loss of employment. This is probably a correct response for today.

    • Dan C

      The challenge the Church faces is on matters of #2 and #3. (The Nebraskan diocese of Fabian Bruskewitz will probably get to relive the abuse crisis as its archives are opened in the next 5 years-this is #1 above.) I think the coddling of the leadership of the Legionnaires of Christ indicate a medieval reticence to punish the annointed lieges too greatly. (Medieval leadership is like chess-the king is never captured; the game ends before the king is “killed.”) The Kansas City debacle illustrates also the consequence of a failed leadership response.
      Within the Church, there developed a somewhat novel attachment to the analogy that bishops were married to their dioceses, which meant, the diocese had to put up with the faults of the “spouse.” (One problem with this analogy is that it is a very one-sided “marriage.” In the hierarchy, the bishop gets to “marry up” to a trophy wife diocese as a promotion.)

    • Dan C

      BBC hopefully will purge some of its leadership. Principals routinely get fired. The Church’s response has been different, and I think it differs from defective reasoning. The question of #3 above has been inadequately addressed in any reasonable proportion by the Church. The leadership structure of the Church distinguishes it from BBC or a public high school, but bishops often get promotions. Demotions need to occur for activities other than questioning the all-male priesthood. Orthodoxy is important, but it is time to take note of the tremendous pastoral failure of a given bishop which fails on the matter of attending to sexual predation.

    • Dan C

      That sexual predators exist has been known throughout history. The sexual revolution has enabled us to talk about the problems, because these tragic predators have existed for centuries. It is in countries without such public empowerment or an easy language of sex that we do not see the discussion or acknowledgement of sexual predation (think Africa or Asia). Predation can be assumed to be present in the Church (and other organizations) on all continents. The next Church focus has to be on the leadership response, how to protect whistle-blowers in the Church clergy, nuns, and lay employees of the Church, and what to do with bishops who actively fail to protect children through willful neglect.


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