Ex-Communicating Oneself for Sins of Others

[Expanding on my thoughts begun here...]:

Surrendering the consolations of the Eucharist, (and access to the sacraments, to the fellowship and to the senses-enlivening liturgy) because of the failings of mortal, passing men, this seems like a heavy burden to afflict upon oneself. Baggott seems to be doing the penance best done by those who need to do it. I wish and pray that she does not encourage her mother in this same outsized penance, as it seems so heavy and counterproductive. The good priests and religious that Baggott knows, the good works of the church, which she admires, they need their prayers.

Baggott’s mother’s faith (and that of many others) has been shaken to the core by a NY Times piece which attempts to lay a charge of negligence and conspiratorial cover-up on the shoulders of then-Cardinal Ratzinger. The blaring headlines and non-stop news coverage, (which serves only to reinforce the Times’ narrative through constant repetition) have certainly cemented a perception.

But there is a chance -a very good chance- that those perceptions are unjust. There is a chance (as much as some would prefer not to admit it) that Pope Benedict may himself be one of those innocent priests in need of some defense. Baggott perhaps does not know -if she listens only to the mainstream media, she cannot know- that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith only gained provenance over the abuse cases in 2001, under then-Cardinal Ratzinger, or that in the case of the warped Fr. Murphy of Wisconsin, the office waived the statute of limitations so that Murphy could be investigated and prosecuted. It is certain that she has not seen this new translation of a key document cited in the Times piece, which -at the very least- brings into question a central premise of their story: that Ratzinger refused to laicize (or “defrock”) Fr. Murphy.

These cases are so extremely disheartening, so shaming for all of us in the pews -who are a “family” of sorts- and the headlines are so insistent, the noise so incessant, that it becomes easy for some to take their eyes off the prize and just throw up their hands, surrendering to the narrative. Modern communication has the means to make a minority seem like a majority with astounding ease. The ubiquitous tv screens all saying the same thing in every public venue have become the equivalent of a public gallows; people’s reputations and life’s work are capable of being put to death so easily -without benefit of a trial- and there is no undoing it.

The public increasingly forms its opinions based upon headlines and soundbites; it is disinclined to do the time-consuming work of reading, and that is reducing the public to mobism. Insta-media has become the sharpest of blades and the world is become a vast multitude of Madame DeFarge’s all sitting there with their knitting, shouting “guillotine! guillotine” as Benedict’s image crosses the screen.

No one is asking further questions and listening to answers; no one is counseling the media or the mob: “if you make a mistake, you cannot take this execution back.” The charges are secondary; the truth is secondary; what matters is the blood. Let us see the blood.

It seems so primal, for such an advanced and enlightened age; a sort of liturgy for those who hate liturgy.

As with their “Obama = God” themes of 2008, the press is already so heavily invested in the “Benedict = evil-monster” narrative that they have no choice but to go all-in, for the sake of its own credibility. I am doubtful that we will see much clarification from the mainstream.

UK Telegraph:Catholic Church is mishandling the Furor
Patrick O’ Hannigan: The Pope, The Scandal and the Crib Notes
Rod Dreher (A troubling but wise Must Read): What it Means to be Catholic also his thoughts on the priest/pastor as spiritual father
Joseph Bottum: Every Catholic is Now Paying
Mark Shea: Thank you, Sir, May I Have Another?
Deacon Greg: Wuerl prays with sex abuse protesters
Lorie Piper: Way of the Cross; Road of the Popes
Jimmy Akin: Smoking Gun
Bookworm: So, THAT’s why they became priests!
Why I Am Catholic: Because Ripples Become Waves
Richard Bastien: Why Attack Benedict?

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • elleblue

    At one time I also felt I could no longer participate in the Church given all the scandals.
    Then I realized that my relationship with Christ as manifested by the Church is critical to my being a Roman Catholic!

    Yes, horrible wrongs and sins have been committed and change has taken place and will continue to take place!

    If every time we didn’t like something we walked away I can imagine some of us would be hermits in a cave some where and how useful would that be to ourselves or the Church?

  • Ismael

    “You cannot be half a sint! You must be a whole saint or not saint at at all!”, said St. Therese…

    I am sure many feel like Ms. Julianna Baggott, many are hurt from what happened… but one must not give up when things get tough!

    Jesus teaches us that true Christians are those who persevere, otherwise we are like the ‘seed that falls on the rock, that blooms into a plant that soon dies because it has no roots’

    I understand Ms. Baggott’s fellings, it is hard for everyone. However, as an educated person and as a writer, she should understand that by far not all priests are bad (as the media so hard tries to show these days) and that there is no catholicism outside the Church.

    Henceher behavior is somewhat ‘Schizophrenic’, since it makes no sense.
    Either be a Catholic or do not, either be a saint or do not.

  • http://www.yumfoodblog.blogspot.com Sandmama

    Are we to the point in the sheer volume of these scandals that we must admit inappropriate sexual relationships between priests and parishioners and even actual pedophilia have become characteristics of the modern Catholic Church?
    And if we are, are we ready to address this problem as Catholics, with a Catholic world view? Namely, we must admit Satan has recruited Bishops and priests by the hundreds to foully physically attack the faithful and that this is the true nature of the problem.
    Until and unless the Church is willing to do this, the faithful will flee, I for one am starting to think its just too scary to stick around.

  • Tom Wilson

    I love you, Sharon, and understand your great frustration. We’ve all got to stop throwing rocks. “Noblesse oblige” – the obligation of nobility such as we who represent the King Of Kings here on earth would suggest that sometimes we’ve simply got to take the beating that the world is so desperate to dish out, and suffer it as brothers and sisters with dignity and in love. Heck, it’s what he told us would happen. Why be scandalized? In good humor, I tell “former” Catholic friends that I agree with them on so many things, it’s just that I’m not a quitter. May Jesus bring us all – myself included – to higher things than vitriol.

  • Ben B

    As one who has been Catholic for 3 days, Is it really that hard for y’all to separate the divinity of the Church from the humanity of the Church?

  • Ben B

    Whoops, I hit submit before I was done. To clarify the above I took confirmation and first communion on Saturday and am filled with the Holy Spirit this moment on the clock. You would abandon the real presence of Christ because someone else committed a sin? This makes no sense to me.

  • Left Coast Conservative

    Welcome Ben – you are a member of the Tiber Swim Team ’10!

  • Jeff

    Obama, the God who throws like a girl.

  • Brian English

    “Are we to the point in the sheer volume of these scandals that we must admit inappropriate sexual relationships between priests and parishioners and even actual pedophilia have become characteristics of the modern Catholic Church?”

    Absolutely not. Even when the abuse was at its worst in the ’75 to ’85 period, you are still talking about a very small percentage of priests.

    Your comment highlights another effect of the recent media coverage — the Church in the minds of many is frozen in 1980. All of the work the Church has done to protect children, specifically under Ratzinger/Benedict, is never mentioned.

    The result is a misrepresentation of the Church, regardless of whether it is intentional or not.

  • Baby Sis

    Sharon, I stopped reading at you #37 entry. I’m just dying to know what happened to you in the pews on Easter morning. As I was at the Saturday Vigil (sadly much to much room at a tremendously beautiful Mass where the people were filled with a palpable anticipation) I missed whatever it was that those people in pews next to you did.

    You do realize that whatever it was that turned you off could have been done by one of those “C & E” Catholics, but that wouldn’t be you, right? ‘cuz you go…er…went every Sunday.

    But really, what happened?

  • cathyf

    …the priesthood literally turned their back to Christ during the Sacrifice of His Mass…

    Wow! You’ve seen priests celebrate Mass with their elbows bending backwards?!? That must be some freaky sight!

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  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    There are two fundamental evils being fought right now in the Catholic Church.

    If you mean two sides of the same coin, both of which constantly tell us how crappy the Church is — as you have done — you are right.

  • Lisa

    Can someone please tell me why there is no mass movement of parents yanking their children from the public (government) school system? In the small mid-Atlantic state in which I live there are roughly 700 +/- sexual abuse incidences of faculty/staff victimizing students reported each year. One state, one year, 700 victims.

  • Rene

    Ms Baggott was taught by “kind feminists nuns”. Kind feminist nuns supported the passage of Obamacare. Is it that surprising that Ms. Baggott left the Church?

  • Mimsy

    ~Someone, Welcome home! Ben B, Welcome home! No doubt, you are sinners like the rest of us and have noticed that the churches are full of them. We’re all trying to get out of here and into Eternal Life with God-Jesus-Holy Spirit. We are holding on to every shred of grace that God bestows upon us and praying like crazy for all sinners to accept God’s Mercy, Christ’s Resurrection, our Redemption, and Gifts of the Holy Spirit. We check into church as often as possible –at least once a week. It’s our “rehab.” It’s always open and completely free. Alleluia!

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Can someone please tell me why there is no mass movement of parents yanking their children from the public (government) school system?

    Welcome to the tyranny of government, now including our healthcare system. They can’t pull them out because they can’t afford to pay tuition to a private school because too much of their money goes to taxes and because the government school teachers’ unions have so increased the cost of education overall that private school tuition is forced to be higher than it once was.

    Back in the 70s and before, even low-moderate income families could afford to send their kids to parochial schools. Not any more.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny L.

    I’m sorry, I found Ms. Baggott’s piece pathetic. You can’t consider yourself Catholic and not be part of the Church. That is silliness and shows fundementally she doesn’t understand Catholicism. Only a priest can consecrate the Eucherest. Frankly I’m in agreement with whoever above said she was just looking for an excuse to leave the Church. What does she think that every priest is a pedophile? Or that the clergy themselves are not angry over this?

    And to leave the church over problems of human failings shows a lack of faith. I can see being critical of the church over this; I can see being angry; I cannot see leaving one’s connection with God.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny L.

    “As one who has been Catholic for 3 days, Is it really that hard for y’all to separate the divinity of the Church from the humanity of the Church?

    Whoops, I hit submit before I was done. To clarify the above I took confirmation and first communion on Saturday and am filled with the Holy Spirit this moment on the clock. You would abandon the real presence of Christ because someone else committed a sin? This makes no sense to me.” -Ben B.

    Bingo. Perfectly said. I was striving for those very words. Sometimes it takes a newbie to see it perfectly clear. Welcome to the Catholic Church. God bless.

  • Bob C.

    What a tragedy…. Ms. Baggot seems to reference Flannery O’Connor as one of her great Catholic influences. I’d encourage her to go back and listen to Flannery on this point: “the operation of the Church is entirely set up for the sake of the sinner, which creates much misunderstanding among the smug.”

    I hope that Miss Baggot succeeds in finding a Church without sinners, but I suspect that she won’t.

  • J.

    This much is clear — the controversy is NOT about actually protecting children, it is NOT about actual cases of abuse. This is ENTIRELY about attacking the Church for the sake of seeking to destroy her. If not this, then they attack the Pope over condoms in Africa, or over seeking reconciliation with some of our separated brothers and sisters, or over the truthful observation he made about Islam at Regensburg. And if not this Pope, then any other pope who might succeed him.

    Bender is so right. When I want to judge the persecution of the Roman Church (I am an Anglican Catholic, hoping some day to be a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Rite) I check the BBC World News—the Beeb has a lovely way of pointing out that no matter how secular they have become they are still absolutely positive the Pope is the embodiment of the Anti-Christ…ok, I am exaggerating but it true you can read the web pages at BBC and just hear the venom dripping from the page. I don’t think they actually realize they do it; it’s a subtle thing taught to English schoolchildren without them realizing it—like racism used to be “taught” (by example) in the 50′s in the US.

    Monty Python does a skit about the BBC reporting of great catastrophes, that goes this way: “Tsunami in Asia, 3 Britons killed among the millions dead.” Kind of a way of saying that Britons were more important because well–it was the British news. The BBC reports on religion go somewhat similarly: “Pope the center of Pedophilia controversy probably stemming from the support for the Spanish Inquisition” Again, I exaggerate for effect.

    Interestingly the BBC has been rather reasonable of late. As in this article on whether there is link between celibacy and pedophilia:


    The church theologian they quote has some quite good points–but of course the real issue: the Beeb is making a link in people’s minds…it is devious and perhaps a prejudice that they don’t ever realize they have but it is meant to put in the mind of the reader how “truly unenlightened the Roman Church can be”. What it always says to me is, “….well we can’t attack them any other way so let’s just smear them and see what sticks…” and then I know to look deeper because the truth isn’t in the web pages of the BBC ….:-) Thanks, Anchoress. I enjoyed your Washington Post article and found it refreshingly faith-filled.

  • Mrs. B

    I appreciate this discourse as I try to return to an outward expression of my inner faith and Catholicism. Thanks to Bender for reminding me that the Church is not a social club. The very discordant and cliquish behaviors of the social club (any social club) have alienated myself and many others trying to return – while also trying make sense of this all. I take full responsibility for being hesitant to jump back in the pool when the water is choppy, and the swimmers are fighting amongst themselves.
    I will pray for the ‘metanoia’ mentioned by Patrick – within myself and with the cultures of and surrounding the Church.
    There has to be some peace within this chaos.

  • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com Tony Layne

    “Are we to the point in the sheer volume of these scandals that we must admit inappropriate sexual relationships between priests and parishioners and even actual pedophilia have become characteristics of the modern Catholic Church?”

    Actually, that’s the true tragedy of this whole mess. Because the MSM is so focused on Catholic scandals past and present, and determined to foist the blame squarely on the actions—or inactions—of then-Cdl. Ratzinger, the thousands of young people who have been assaulted by men (and, I fear, some women) who have no connection with the Catholic Church are almost completely ignored. Because it’s “the Catholic Church’s problem”, it’s seemingly nobody else’s concern. And if we try to point that invitation to hypocrisy out, others simply accuse us of trying to shift focus away from ourselves … which in one sense is true, albeit unfair.

    The fact remains that the current media storm is not about the victims. It was never about the victims. The victims are important only so far as they are bat to beat the Church with; once the story becomes stale—as all media stories do, no matter how outrageous—the MSM will quietly discard them. And while the Church is suffering in shame and remorse, and while it becomes the safest place for kids to go to schools, the children in non-Catholic schools will continue to be oppressed by sexual predators. But they don’t count, because they’re not being abused by priests.

  • Jeff

    The dramatic gesture of leaving the Church must be temporarily satisfying on an emotional level for some. But it’s kind of like jumping off the airplane because you are disgusted with the behavior of some of the passengers or crew. Or you don’t like the food. Enjoy that freefall.

  • http://NewAdvent.com mary escamilla

    Matthew16v13-20,The New Jerusalem Bible
    When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to hisdisciples,Who do people say the Son of man is ?And they said some say John the Baptist,some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. ‘But you,’ he said,’ who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up and said,’You are the Christ, the son of the living God.’Jesus replied,’ Simon son of Jonah,you are a blessed man! Because it was no human agency that revealed this to you but my father in heaven. So now I say to you:You are Peter and on this rock I will build my community.And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it.I will give you the Keys of th kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven;whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to say to any one that he was the Christ.
    This says it all. Have courage and believe God knows all this would happen.Jesus Will Help all those victims to heal and those guilty priests will answer to God .Pray for the church,the Pope ,victims of Sexual abuse and their perpetrators and those that persecute the church.

  • J

    Right now, I am a catholic without a church. Here in my small town in MA, we have a priest, the parish only seems to have one, who is a milder model of Rev. Wright and Pfegler(sp?). When you leave mass, you feel angry and unclean. The priest misses NO opportunity to attack and denigrate the USA. And misses no opportunity to praise the most pro-choice president we have ever had. My last attempt at Mass in a building, was Christmas and I was forced to leave because of the hatred spewing from this man. There are other things wrong with our catholic church here in the USA, and faith in God and love of our fellow man, is high up in the quality lacking, at least here in MA.

  • Ben B

    Mimsy and Left coast, Thank You :)

  • J. Bob

    It was a puzzle why the Catholic Church is singled out for condemnation while other denominations, or government, are given a pass. My thoughts are that it must be the Church closest to the true teaching of Christ that so much effort is given to discredit it. if the Devil can weaken the Church, the rest are easy pickings. “And the gates of Hell shall not prevail”, even with its faults.

  • jill e

    Wow…I’ll most certainly stick with the Catholic Church—the holy mystical Body of Christ that understands the weakness of human beings and loves them any way. The hatefulness of the “opposition” is incredible. They need our prayers.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Shame on yourself, Sharon! Shame!

    You, and not the Anchoress, are the slob! A mean-spirited, angry, self-indulgent, self-righteous harpy. You dare come here, and scold us for intolerance? You, who are obviously filled with nothing hate, and malice?

    You’re disgustingly insulting because you can’t control your inner hate, and bile, long enough to present a rational argument, or do anything other than shriek insults.

    You may be physically beautiful, slender, in good shape, whatever, but, inside, you’re a repulsive monster, gobbling hate, malice and anger as if it were ambrosia, then vomiting it up. You are ugly, Sharon; deep, down, right to the bone, ugly.

    Again, you should be ashamed of yourself. Is your little rant supposed to make us agree with you? Honestly, it makes me sorry for the members of your church who’ve had to put up with you, not to mention your family and friends—assuming you have any.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    jill, yes, that hate is incredible. I now believe it’s demonic in origin. Sharon, for the record, you are most definitely not okay; you need help. Get it.

    Also for the record, the Anchoress is not ugly, and is an excellent writer.

  • vitae

    Last week, I emailed The Anchoress asking how she handled the venom against the Church seen in so many of the comments on various websites — I was having a hard time dealing with it, it was almost physically painful. She kindly emailed me back and said, “I never worry about the haters and the bigots. I feel sorry for them, and I ask Mary to pray for them, and I move on. The Holy Spirit will do what he will. I simply try to keep my cool and my sense of humor and give the best example I can give.” I pasted that on my computer screen, as I need to remind myself of this advice constantly — particularly when reading comments such as Sharon’s. Sharon, your comments say so much more about you and the pain in your soul than they do about your fellow Catholics and the Church. I will continue to pray for you, as I did during my time before the Blessed Sacrament last night.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    vitae, you’re a much nicer person than I am. All I can bring myself to do for Sharon, at this point, is say—”Babe, you need help! Do you think God doesn’t see the hate boiling inside you?”

    Holy God, holy mighty, holy immortal, have mercy upon us all, and defend us against all evil.

  • Mary

    Your hatred and anger will kill your soul, Sharon, and I will pray that you find the help you need. There ARE many, many good priests. Find one, talk to him. If you don’t like all of the evil people surrounding you at Mass, find a quiet time for adoration to be alone with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. If you don’t believe He is truly present there and can help, then I don’t believe you are Catholic.

  • M. L. Martin

    Anchoress, is there a way to check that posts #86 and #87 are really from the same ‘Sharon’ as has been posting on this thread? It reads almost like an attempt at character assassination by over-the-top imitation.

    [No, it's the same Sharon. I had not been around this morning and have only just seen the comments. I'd say that this "conversation" is exhausted; we'll close the thread. -admin]

  • Mary

    I agree with M.L.Martin – the whole thing is just a bit much.