Douthat, JPII and B-16 -UPDATED

Over the past week, in correspondences with friends, I’ve wondered how Pope John Paul II -whom I revere for a holy man- was such a poor judge of character? He named so many weak bishops, and seemed to believe people he should not have. When this story broke about Fr. Maciel, I had to wonder again: was JPII a deplorable judge of character?

After reading that, I wrote to someone, “It seems like JPII was the charismatic hero, leading the parade, and Cardinal Ratzinger was the homely little guy with the shovel and broom at the end.”

My plan was to explore the notion further in a blog post. But Ross Douthat has done it, and better than I would have:

The world didn’t always agree with Pope John Paul II, but it always seemed to love him. . . .

But there’s another story to be told about John Paul II and his besieged successor. The last pope was a great man, but he was also a weak administrator, a poor delegator, and sometimes a dreadful judge of character.

The church’s dilatory response to the sex abuse scandals was a testament to these weaknesses. So was John Paul’s friendship with the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The last pope loved him and defended him. But we know now that Father Maciel was a sexually voracious sociopath. And thanks to a recent exposé by The National Catholic Reporter’s Jason Berry, we know the secret of Maciel’s Vatican success: He was an extraordinary fund-raiser, and those funds often flowed to members of John Paul’s inner circle.

Only one churchman comes out of Berry’s story looking good: Joseph Ratzinger. Berry recounts how Ratzinger lectured to a group of Legionary priests, and was subsequently handed an envelope of money “for his charitable use.” The cardinal “was tough as nails in a very cordial way,” a witness said, and turned the money down.

This isn’t an isolated case. In the 1990s, it was Ratzinger who pushed for a full investigation of Hans Hermann Groer, the Vienna cardinal accused of pedophilia, only to have his efforts blocked in the Vatican. It was Ratzinger who persuaded John Paul, in 2001, to centralize the church’s haphazard system for handling sex abuse allegations in his office. It was Ratzinger who re-opened the long-dormant investigation into Maciel’s conduct in 2004, just days after John Paul II had honored the Legionaries in a Vatican ceremony. It was Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict, who banished Maciel to a monastery and ordered a comprehensive inquiry into his order.

So the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up.

You’ll want to read the whole thing. Douthat is everything Maureen Dowd is not.

In fact, if one reads Dowd’s myopic hysteria and then Douthat’s measured thoughtfulness, you can’t help but think, that Dowd does her cause more harm than good every time she gets near a keyboard.

UPDATE:
George Weigel also writes thoughtfully about the long, long Lent of 2010:

Reasonable people whose perceptions are not warped by the toxin of anti-Catholicism or who are not pursuing other (often financially-driven) agendas now recognize that the Church in the U.S. and Canada has bent enormous efforts towards cleaning up what Cardinal Ratzinger called in 2005 its “filth,” to the point where the Catholic Church today can be empirically shown to be the safest environment for young people and children in North America. The paralyzing drumbeat of one ghastly new story after another that went on all during 2002 has not been repeated. What we now have is, largely, the recycling of old material, usually provided to the press by contingent-fee attorneys whose strategic goal is to build a public “narrative” of conspiracy that will shape American courts’ decisions as to whether the Vatican and its resources can be brought within range of U.S. liability law.

The realization among serious Catholics that this is not 2002 and that things have changed dramatically since 2002, has led to a far more confident effort to fight back against misrepresentations such as those the Times perpetrated on March 25. There is a danger here: to recognize that this is not 2002 cannot blind us to the fact that there are wounds that remain to be healed, reforms of priestly formation that remain to be completed, bishops whose failures remain to be recognized and dealt with, new norms for the selection of bishops to be implemented, and accounts rendered as to why the Vatican, prior to Ratzinger’s taking control of the issue of clerical sexual abuse in the late 1990s, was sometimes sluggish in its response to scandalous behavior by priests and deficient leadership by bishops.

Assuming, however, that Benedict XVI has set in motion processes that will lead to all those lingering issues being forcefully addressed, a serious question can now be credibly posed: Are those most vigorously agitating these abuse/misgovernance issues today genuinely interested in the safety of young people and children, or are they using the failures of the past to cripple the moral credibility of the Catholic Church in the present and future? That question would have rightly struck many people as a dodge in 2002. It cannot be credibly regarded as a dodge today, because of what the Church has done since 2002 (and, indeed, since the 1990s, when the plague of abuse within the Church began to recede)

Weigel discusses improvements made and the lingering/glaring weaknesses that remain. He writes, though:

Despite these [recent media] missteps, however, the truth seems to have gotten out, if slowly and incompletely: the single most influential figure in reshaping the Roman Curia’s attitude toward these scandals and the Church’s legal practice in dealing with them, was Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI.

The plaintiff’s bar cannot concede this, for to do so would be to destroy the narrative it has been selling to the world media; Ratzinger’s enemies cannot concede this, for they have never been able to find good in him; and European secularists cannot concede this, for in their minds the Church is, in principle, irreformably corrupt—Voltaire’s L’infame. But those willing to look at facts and evidence have begun to understand just how crucial a role Ratzinger played in ensuring that 2010 did not automatically become 2002 redivivus.

It seems to me that Benedict needs to speak directly to people, not through the Vatican and not via the filters of media who often do not understand what they are looking at. I think it would be a very good thing if Benedict made a public statement that conveyed his own thoughts -I’m sure he would be both apologetic and direct- about the abuse scandals, where mistakes were made, what has changed and what is still to be done, it would be helpful both to the victims who need reassurances that others will never have to deal with what they’ve experienced (and who are being ill-served by the reluctance of some to credit the church with its successes) and to the general public. I think he needs to do it, soon. As Weigel writes:

[Benedict needs to put out] a comprehensive and documented narrative of the case of a predatory Munich priest which was mishandled during Ratzinger’s tenure as archbishop there—the revelation of which was the European ground zero for the latest set of explosions—would be published. It would also be helpful if the Holy See would provide a user-friendly explanation of how abusive priests are laicized, and how this process has been streamlined and accelerated, again under Ratzinger’s leadership. There is no harm in acknowledging that, like just about everyone else, Joseph Ratzinger was on a learning curve in dealing with abusive clergy and malfeasant bishops; the point to be stressed, however, is that he learned faster, and acted more decisively on what he had learned, than just about anyone else.

And then, of course, more needs to be done.

This is not a matter of appeasing the media pack and its baying for blood; it is a matter of self-respect and the integrity of the Church’s institutional life.

As with Douthat’s piece, Weigel is a must-read

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://eastofedentoo.blogspot.com Anne Marie

    I’ve been wondering about this for quite some time myself. The lousy Bishops did not get appointed in a vacuum, somebody, somewhere knew these men personally, and still they were put into positions of authority.

  • ria

    I think that ‘wondering if the pope was such a bad judge of character” is like wondering if Stalin was really just insensitive. The manner of the pope’s failure to adequately and quickly address priests praying on children does not matter. To indulge in ruminations about the pope’s shortcomings is…..well, like taking time to ponder Marie Antoinette’s personality quirks as her subjects’ sense of injustice begins to overflow.

    At certain levels of leadership, one is judged only by their behavior, and rightly so.

    [And yet it seems Benedict is not being judged on his behavior, or -perhaps it may be said- his behavior is being judged without genuine understanding or perspective. -admin]

  • Juan C. Marrero

    Benedict has an advantage in addressing this matter directly and clearly, as suggested in this article, because there is no cult of personality around him, far from it. Fair-minded people could accept a transparent explanation of his role in this mess without feeling hood-winked somehow. It is also time for the church to doff some of its monarchical trappings. Must Cardinals be “princes of the church”? Princes need stuffed envelopes, a la Maciel, if they are to live accordingly. Can’t instead we have papal electors made up of religious (priests, nuns and brothers) as well a the laity instead of the Cardinals? We need basic reforms.

  • http://www.dymphnaswell.blogspot.com Dymphna

    I am glad you posted this. Things need to continue to change. The Holy Father needs to explain clearly what has happened and what is being done to make amends.

  • EJHill

    How much can one person know? Presidents unknowingly appoint tax cheats, employers of illegal aliens and suicidal depressives. And they all live in the same country!

    How can a Pope be personally engaged in these personnel decisions? There are 400,000 priests world wide. Approximately 260,000 of those are Parish Priests assigned to shepherd 1 billion Catholics on a local level.

    And while each case is a tragedy, the 300 abuse cases charged in the United States represent .7% of the priesthood in this country. Consider the secular world and its problems. Try Googling™ “USA Swimming Scandal.”

  • AvantiBev

    As a Roman Catholic and an actress, I can say here what I cannot say outloud since it would imperil my career: this is a crisis NOT of pedophilia but of homosexual ephebophilia. This is a crisis whose foundation was laid (no pun intended) within the seminary takeovers by men who never intended to leave a gay agenda behind (no further pun intended) when entering the seminaries.

    The fact that million dollar studies have been frantically commissioned to prove that sexual orientation has nothing to do with it is an infuriating waste of money. Overwhelmingly the predators were men interested in sexual relations with boys aged 12 to 16, i.e., ephebophilia. What these self-same predators later claim as their orientation is of no consequence. Their actions were homosexual, their interests were in sexual acts with the pubescent and early post-pubescent of their same gender.

    In short, the cover up continues and it is the cover-up by, for and on behalf of the gay community. A large segment of our modern day press make sure that they NEVER ask the right follow up questions.

    [Well, I don't disagree that in some respects homosexual priests get a pass from journalists -after all, Rembert Weakland was NY Times' "credible source" for its reverberating March 25th piece, even though he stole from church coffers to pay off his male lover. However, I am not convinced that homosexual priests "as a rule" are the problem here. Abuse is generally rooted in power and control issues. The problem is priests vowed to celibacy who are a) abusing their perceived power and trust and b) emphatically breaking their vows, and using mostly adolescents to do it. That the victims are 80% male may well have to do with the fact that (during the period where the abuse was at its height) these priests simply had more access to males than to females. -admin]

  • http://www.opinionatedcatholic.blogspot.com jh

    I think Pope Benedict acted as he did because he was the first to recognize the scope of the problem. Reading those 3000 files must have been devastating for him. John Paul the II to his credit I think did back him most of the time. Of course as to John Paul the II the fact that well he last stages of his life when he realized the scope of the problem comes into play.

    I do agree that John Paul could have put better Bishops in (some were very good) and that goes for matters beyond the child abuse scandal. How many times were we wondering what John Paul the II was saying was different from what we were hearing in our own Diocese.

    Still the Pope is not a dictator and I know in the Church there are factions with different beliefs that have to be placated.

    Further I guess in all things when do massive change you have so much political capital. Capital that I think the Pope largely expended in his fight against Communism, bad theology that was causing a practical schism and other matters

    The fact is the Vatican is, as Douthat pointed out, the Vatican has never been the all powerful and all-seeing Instituion that many people think it is. We are a Church though we have a High profile Spokesman has to rely again on the Bishops to run it right.

    As to Pope Benedict speaking I think he will. However to me honest it will mean nothing to the Press that has ignored all the things you talked about in the above article.

    The Liturgy of Hate will continue. The Only good thing about the Supreme Court nomination is the sooner it happens the sooner there is something else the Press can turn their attention too

  • cathyf

    What we now have is, largely, the recycling of old material, usually provided to the press by contingent-fee attorneys whose strategic goal is to build a public “narrative” of conspiracy that will shape American courts’ decisions as to whether the Vatican and its resources can be brought within range of U.S. liability law.

    Maybe. That’s the US-centric view of things. Or maybe what we are seeing is that the Legion of Christ is attempting to intimidate Benedict, who received the report of the Legion visitation on March 15 and is expected to announce a decision on the order’s survival by the end of this month. As they say, the timing is interesting.

    Carlos Slim, richest man in the world and heavy contributor to Legion schools, saved the New York Times from going out of business last year. Perhaps he called in his marker? The Legion is fighting for its survival, and if the organization has been sufficiently corrupted by the perverted evil of their founder, why would they hesitate to use every means possible to destroy the pope and the church that threatens them?

  • AvantiBev

    Anchoress, I wish you could overhear what I have overheard the past 20 years of being on set or backstage. They may not be winning toaster ovens for each “convert” but there is a delight in young male flesh sometimes freely discussed and revelled in assuming us dumb “breeders” don’t have ears, I guess.

    The transition of some seminaries into lavender bathhouses, has cost us a lot of good vocations and given us a lot of priests who make God in their own image giving us flaky liturgies, touchyfeely theology and a Breck girl Jesus. Manly men and strong women prefer a muscular, masculine priesthood.

  • http://www.opinionatedcatholic.blogspot.com jh

    ” The lousy Bishops did not get appointed in a vacuum, somebody, somewhere knew these men personally, and still they were put into positions of authority”

    Anne Marie as to that I think it is important to recall we can’t put all that at John Paul the II’s feet. There was Paul the VI. From what we can tell from the rather exhaustive John Jay report and audit these incidents of abuse seemed to have peaked in the late 70′s That is one reason why we have seen a pretty dramatic to say the least drop off in cases that are reported that are several decades old. So needless to say the Bishops back then dropped the ball.

    Now I understand why. I understand that scandal was treated differently by all levels of society and such. I know we should not be so quick to hold people accountable to the views we hold today after a lot of 20 20 hindsight.
    Still I do think it appears to John Pauls credit and a good many of his Bishops that it seemed that at least we were seeing a dramtic drop off of new cases around the mid 80′s

    Of course poor Paul the VI had a Church that was in full revolt

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

    sometimes a dreadful judge of character

    Or maybe he simply did not believe it was his place to judge. Maybe he believed it was his place to presume the best of people. I know it is a rather quaint and naive notion these days, but I will not fault him for it. Rather, I will ask him to pray for me.

  • Momma K

    Dear Anchoress,
    It is so important to remember that John Paul spent a good part of his life behind the iron curtin. Two things are important to reflect on:
    1. John Paul had spent his life watching priests risks their lives during WWII and after to defend innocents. The idea of a priest harming a child was incomprehensible to him.
    2. Calling all priests pedophiles was an old communist slur against priests. This was a charge made constantly against the Catholic clergy and consequently, he didn’t take it seriously.

    [I understand both of those things. None of that explains his many woeful appointments or his support of Maciel. As I say, perhaps he was too trusting. Or perhaps he just was incapable of thinking ill of priests. -admin]

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

    It seems to me that Benedict needs to speak directly to people

    Arrgghh!

    He does. He has. He will continue to do so.

    At least twice a week — more than your typical parish priest — Pope Benedict speaks in public directly to people. Many more times a week, he personally gives public statements in private to various groups, dignitaries, etc., and quite often he gives homilies directly to people in public. In these countless public statements, the Pope has frequently spoken on the abuse scandals.

    But for those who are bent on destroying him, like the gleefully hate-filled over at Commonweal, nothing will ever be enough. Nothing he ever says will suffice. Thus, it is pointless to try to appease them.

    Viva il Papa!

    [Yes, all well and good, Bender, but it doesn't matter how much Benedict speaks when his words are being filtered through the media. He needs to go into a studio somewhere, and talk to a journalist who understands Catholicism (doesn't necessarily have to be John Allen; there are a number of journalists who could do this) and do a live interview that will not be edited or sound-bited, before anyone sees it. You may not like it, but the truth is, you have to deal with the world, as it is. And that is not my opinion, it's JPII's. -admin]

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

    Douthat spends almost all his column trashing both JP2 and B16. It is slime.

    [I don't see it -admin]

  • Roz Smith

    What the Anchoress says about it not being mostly about sex -hetro or homo- strikes me as right on target.

    The boy who grew up two doors down the block from me in the 1950s and 60s became a priest. About 15 years ago he left amid a sex scandal. The irony is that for two decades his old neighborhood had joked about him in a sex scandal. In fact, we thought it was a good thing father mostly rotated between the Newman Centers at area colleges and the diocese’s youth programs instead of being assiged as a parish priest. That’s because our neighbor had grown up to be Father Hunk. We are talking Richard Chamberlain in the Thornbirds dark, handsome and athletic. We easily imagined him as the target of some unstable female parishioner caught up in a rocky marriage. We never once imagined such an incredibly attractive man would prey upon teenage girls at the CYC.

    The line the women in the neighborhood used to sigh in jest sums it up. Father Hunk. What a waste.

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

    He needs to go into a studio somewhere, and talk to a journalist who understands Catholicism . . .

    You know I love you, but you really are naive. IT WON’T MATTER ONE BIT.

    I don’t see it

    I won’t go through the whole thing, suffice to say that Teresa Benedetta does a good job on it.

  • a lurker

    AvantiBev: I salute you for having the courage to report this. Most (straight) people have no idea at all of the malevolence of the homosexual demi-monde. I, too, have seen it first-hand.

  • Annie

    While I agree with many Douhat’s conclusions, I must say that I found some of the color commentary to be excessive. While Benedict does not have the cult of personality that JP II had (which is a good thing), he does have an unique type of charisma that exudes humility and sincerity and is very effective. Contrary to the writer’s implications, he is loved and appreciated by many faithful…especially those who have actually paid attention to his pontificate.

  • Pax tibi

    AvantiBev is exactly right. I have lived the last fifty some years between San Francisco and Palm Springs, where we are just over with the two largest homosexual events held annually in this country, Dinah Shore Weekend and the more infamous White Party. You really don’t understand the aggressive nature of the homosexual agenda unless you must live and work in the middle of it for a while. The perversity must be experienced to be believed.

  • http://greatspiritualbattle.com simeon

    Back in the ’90s, when my wife and I would give presentations, we would speak of the great spiritual gift of John Paul, for he truly was “Mary’s Pope.” But as Californians who have had to deal with Cardinal “Hollywood,” as John Paul called Roger Mahony, we would talk of his failure in reigning in his disobedient and liberal bishops. Man, did we get flack! JP’s biggest problem was that he was interested in the Big Picture (and as most Catholics today do not comprehend, his consecration of the 3rd Millennium to the Immaculata is his greatest achievement), while he left his bishops to their own devices. AmChurch, with people like Weakland, were not dealt with and are the cause of today’s scandal that scourges Benedict (for the “pope will have much to suffer”). We believe the ultimate reason for the news today goes back to the vision of Leo XIII and the final battle for our Church. For all of this has been prophesied, even within our lifetimes: link

    If we want to believe that these prophecies, such as the ones given to St. Faustina, in which the Lord speaks of his anger with those in charge of His Church, are not real, then we are not living and comprehending the reality of today. Therefore, the answer lies not in another vicar, bishop, or a rebellion amongst the laity. It lies in the Words of Christ the King who will, as He spoke, return as the Just Judge and restore to Glory that which is His (the reason for the consecration). May we all pray for this.

  • cathyf

    One of the things that I find endearing about Benedict is that in a certain way he is totally oblivious to how smart he is. How many times in one of his talks or writings he will quote someone else on whatever the topic is. The construct will be illogical, in that “appeal to authority” is a logical fallacy. And superfluous, because Benedict surrounds it with his own tightly reasoned and well-presented argument. But what’s funny is that the appeal will be to some utterly obscure figure (and usually quite justifiably obscure!) who isn’t even making a very persuasive argument. I often find myself smiling and saying to myself, “Dude! An appeal to authority is kinda silly when you are appealing to an authority way less authoritative than you!”

  • http://greatspiritualbattle.com simeon

    We have just celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday. Why is it that most do not understand that all of this is in prophecy from St. Faustina link
    to the Marian Movement link let alone the vision of Leo XIII for the “final battle” for the Church.

  • Judith L

    I had a great deal of respect and admiration for Pope John-Paul II. But I have deep love of Benedict. Why? I’m an Anglican, not a Roman Catholic, so, in a sense, I come to this as an outsider. But, from the beginning–J-P II’s funeral Mass, and his first Mass and homily as Pope, Benedict seemed to be so clear about his duty to God and the Church, in spite of the perfectly awful and undeserved slander in the press about him.

  • Annie

    I also didn’t appreciate Douhat’s comment that an abusive priest was “returned to ministry in Munich by then-Archbishop Ratzinger’s subordinates, and PERHAPS WITH HIS KNOWLEDGE.”
    The pope and the Vatican maintain that the cardinal was not aware it happened. While we might say that he SHOULD have known, Douhat goes much further and implies that the pope might be lying. That is a very big charge.
    With everything that I know of Joseph Ratzinger, I find it very hard to accept that he would lie and then let someone else take the rap for it…it just goes entirely against his personal history.

    [I'm with you on that. The "pwhk" line grated, and I think it is in error. But overall, I find the piece to be pretty sound. -admin]

  • Annie

    …and one more thing…
    Douhat’s concluding paragraph…

    “Has Benedict done enough to clean house and show contrition? Alas, no. Has his Vatican responded to the latest swirl of scandal with retrenchment, resentment, and an un-Christian dose of self-pity? Absolutely. Can this pontiff regain the kind of trust and admiration, for himself and for his office, that John Paul II enjoyed? Not a chance.”

    I find that last bit to be presumptious, arrogant and frankly obnoxious, especially considering the treatment his own newspaper has given the man! The more times I reread the article, the more irritated I become!

  • Peter from MN

    Avanti Bev: What you say rings true with me. I remember a classmate at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. He was an acquaintance of mine. I always sensed he was troubled about something. I knew he had attended a nearby Catholic seminary before transferring to Evergreen. One morning the campus was plastered with homoerotic pictures with the caption: “This is what’s happening at your local Catholic seminary.” I never saw him again from that day on.

  • cathyf

    …returned to ministry in Munich by then-Archbishop Ratzinger’s subordinates…

    I have seen the assertion that this is simply incorrect. The first decision was to allow the priest to live in the diocese while he was in therapy. That decision was approved by the then-archbishop. The decision to allow him to return to ministry was made after Ratzinger had already departed, in the interim before the new archbishop was named, when the diocese was being run by the chancellor.

  • Doc

    AvantiBev, I also thank you for your contribution. Please continue. For those who doubt the aggressive nature of the homosexual movement, I recommend Jack Cashill’s “What’s the Matter With California” and David Horowitz’ “Radical Son”, both of which contain depictions of the gay movement in California at different stages of the movement’s capture of political power.

    Anchoress and Roz, a great deal of evidence has been gathered and presented on the high percentage of abuse directed at young men, rather than children. That is a homosexual problem more than a pedophilia problem. Furthermore, you seem to dismiss the fact that homosexuality is deviant behavior. Sexual deviants do not belong in the priesthood, even if they are merely “predisposed” to this deviancy. One does not place a normal man among women to encourage celibacy. The church should not place a homosexual man among men and expect him to be in the best position to adhere to his vows.

  • cathyf

    One does not place a normal man among women to encourage celibacy. The church should not place a homosexual man among men and expect him to be in the best position to adhere to his vows.

    That’s just nonsense. The vast majority of priests are parish priests. Where they are “among” Catholics of all ages, both genders, every state of life. And we damn well expect them to live upright and moral lives. Period.

  • Doc

    Among meant living quarters. Of course a priest will interact with all his parishoners. That’s his job. Since priests must live upright and moral lives, sexual deviants should be excluded, as they are far less likely to remain upright and moral.

  • AvantiBev

    4/14/10 For those who doubt what Doc, I and other commenters here have called the “aggressive nature” of the gay agenda (not ALL homosexuals just those that buy into the agenda), check out the hysterics going on in Italy and France among gays, lesbians, the press and intelligentsia over Cardinal Bertone’s comment that 2/3 of the cases involve pubescent boys and admitted homosexual priests. First off the press keeps on using the “pedophilia” term and it gives them cover to claim that the stats on “pedophilia” do not show a homosexual connection. Of course the stats on ephebophilia most assuredly do. Hence the deliberate attempt to obfuscate.

  • cathyf

    When it comes to my personal welfare and the welfare of my family, I myself am less concerned by “sexual deviants” than by people who seem to believe that the rules do not apply to them.

    So, for example, long ago I was a system administrator for a small company, and I would need to sit with computer repair guys who could only do their work when the office was otherwise empty on weekends and evenings. After one repair guy told me the story of getting stopped by the cops when he was driving stoned with his 3-yr-old in the car, I made arrangements to always have a co-worker there when that particular FE was going to come in after hours.

    Or one time a co-worker wanted to learn how to do some sysadmin work that could only be done with no one logged on. As we sat there on a Saturday afternoon chatting waiting for the tape drive, he told me that the previous weekend at a fraternity party a girl had called the police and accused him and 2 other guys of raping her, and he was almost positive it hadn’t happened but he had been so drunk he wasn’t totally sure — again, I talked to my boss and we made sure that nobody was ever left alone with this guy.

    At my previous parish, a new pastor came in who did all sorts of things and always refused to justify himself. Some of it was financial — he took money that came from a will for a particular purpose and spent it on something else. Fired the long-time parish bookkeeper within the first few months he was there. Fired the school principal mid-term, with no explanations to anyone. Some of it was just petty — the president of the woman’s guild didn’t like him, so he appointed a “co-president” just to make the group rancorous. Finally, he was transferred after the deacon happened to be driving down the busy street in front of the town’s gay bar and noticed the pastor’s (extremely unusual) car parked in the parking lot. A few years later he was sued by young man claiming sexual abuse. The main thing that linked all of this guy’s behaviors was recklessness and an attitude of impunity.

    The co-worker, the neighbor, the in-law, and yes, the priest, who don’t care what other people think of them and always have to have things their own way are the people I consider dangerous. These people have nothing but their own internal moral compass, and when life is, as it inevitably is, a series of occasions of sin, one person’s moral compass seems rather small and inadequate. Whether the temptations being faced are sexually deviant or normal is just a detail.

  • Paolo

    I disagree with some perceptions and evaluations – evident in Douthat’s piece and shared by many Catholics as well, even here – regarding the current situation and JPII’s pontificate.

    First of all, JPII was definitely *not* loved by the world, especially in Europe (I’m Italian): it is a false memory, he was routinely derided, accused of bigotry and insulted. His papacy – which has been Cardinal Ratzinger’s papacy almost from the start – was able to steer the Church in the right direction after many years of confusion, and this caused a lot of annoyance both in the “world” and in some Christian environments.

    My second point is that it is unfair to look at JPII’s office in the light of the present scandal: we are all living in a media bubble which shapes our minds and cast its own emergencies in the past, we all desire to find an explanation or even a scapegoat. But the fact is that no one in the ’80s and ’90s was aware of anything serious: not the media, not the Pope, not Ratzinger, not you and I. Worrisome (or patently heretic or disfunctional) bishops and priests were all around, but if you dared to criticize them – as long as they were fashionable – you could be sure to be called a reactionary, oppressive authoritarian. Pedophilia was not perceived as totally bad (I remember some acclaimed avant-garde comics and books…) and was routinely managed exactly as in the Church or even more sloppily. The Legionaries were regarded as a traditionalist movement and nothing more, from a Catholic point of view even a sound path with many sincerely pious followers (as indeed is the case for many of them) – I don’t believe for a second that JPII was attracted by their money. I find Douthat’s sentence “the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic [???] Ratzinger was left to clean them up” a total idiocy: Ratzinger was there as well as John Paul. In the meantime abortions, drugs, wars, predatory sexual travels and every possible perversion spread beneath *our* feet.

    In fact, third, Pope Wojtyla and his right hand Ratzinger always worked together: the latter has always been the main supporter of the former’s canonization. So far I know, what Ratzinger did in 1990 against Groer and the centralization of abuse management in 2001, both happened under JPII’s pontificate, not after.

    Fourth: I’m disturbed that the Church is accused of being self-pitying when defending herself against a fake charge: there is no right of defaming anyone for a false reason, even in the most despicable context.

    Fifth and last, do anyone believe that the media cares about the victims? I don’t, but this must be the Church’s first and main concern, being Christ himself wounded in and with his children: not the publicity or the world’s “admiration”. The world will never appreciate a Pope’s Christian contribute, as such.


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