When you are dealing with an international organization that has a proven record of corruption that runs from the top to the bottom of the organization and has continued for decades in every organizational location around the globe, you are not dealing with an organization with a few corrupt individuals. You are dealing with a corrupt organization. Rebecca Hamilton
The “organization” I’m talking about is the Catholic Church, and the corruption is the generational, endemic, world-wide, systematically supported, aided, abetted and defended clergy sex abuse scandal.
Church leaders’ first reaction when, back in 2002, the Boston Globe began reporting what amounted to institutional sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Massachusetts Catholicism, was huffy indignation. As the scandal began to spread, bishops reacted with the puffy pomposity of an embarrassed cat. Then, as the thing grew, they started talking about how they’d made a “mistake,” an “error in judgement.” Since this “mistake” involved thousands of abused children, years of dealing with lawyers, complicated off-the-record cash settlements, and decades of transferring priests from one parish to another so that they could continue to abuse, rape, molest and destroy children at their leisure, that didn’t hold up too well.
Then, they began saying idiotic things like they didn’t know what celibacy meant. There was also a lot of talk about how we were supposed to forgive the child molester, which, of course, begged the question entirely of putting the molester back where he could molest again, and doing that repeatedly.
The scandal has now moved to the point that bishops will admit that their predecessors botched things, but they follow that with the claim that things are all better now. Members of the laity are put through extensive background checks before they can work with kids, and the pope has begun kicking out an occasional child molester, including a few bishops. In Chile, all the bishops in the whole country had to be busted because of their extensive support for child molesting.
Of course, the bishops are also calling for those of us in the pews to engage in fasting and penance for … what? Being so stupid that we believed them?
Frankly, I view the bishops’ call for the laity to engage in fasting and penance for the fact that their bishops and priests have preyed upon the laity’s children as just another manifestation of the sexual predator’s usual blame-the-victim defense.
This business of blaming the victims of sexual predation for the predator’s crimes is rife in Catholic teaching and practice where women are concerned. I’m going to write about that a lot in the future. But for now I’ll just say that I view the bishops’ call for the laity to engage in fasting and penance because the laity was victimized by those same bishops reeks of priestly arrogance and victim blaming. It’s also more than a little bit daft that so many lay Catholics accept this bogus reasoning from their bishops without question.
I think there is something approaching consensus in the pews that the bishops were wrong to support the sex abuse and rape of the children in their churches. I also think there’s almost the same level of consensus that bishops who engage in this kind of behavior themselves need to be tried and sent to prison like any other sexual predator.
Where the consensus breaks down is how Catholics can deal with this monstrosity of sin and failure, this clear and undeniable proof that this is not a question of a few bad apples, either in the priesthood or the episcopate. Sexual predators who rape, molest, abuse and prey upon the laity honeycomb our Church, and they have been encouraged, protected and allowed to continue destroying people by the Church as an institution as far back as we have gone in our search of the records. This corruption extends throughout the Church, from top to bottom, from pope to priest, and all around the globe.
How do we deal with the fact — and at this point, it certainly appears to be a fact and not conjecture — that, while the sacraments are conduits of grace that we have all experienced, the priesthood that brings us those sacraments is, on some fundamental and essential level, corrupt to the core?
I am going to posit that this corruption is not a sealed-off thing, that it pervades the Church’s teaching about sexuality, in particular its teachings about women, and that it clearly affects the way that the Church deals with powerful men in the worlds of politics and commerce who are themselves predators.
I think the Church’s amoral and corrupt practice of cosseting sexual predation in its ranks extends beyond the boundaries of the Church and into the way it interacts with men of power in our larger society. More than that, it affects what the Church teaches us — in fact, what it demands of us on what it tells us is the peril of our souls — concerning how we respond to the tyrants and predators in high places in our society.
Corruption as extensive and pervasive as the sexual corruption within the Catholic Church can not be limited to one sphere of activity. It will inevitably pervade its thinking in all areas.
The Catholic Church is corrupt. And that corruption affects how it relates to people and what it teaches us about politics, power and other corrupt areas of power in our larger society.
If you want to understand why the Church dismisses the sexual predation of power politicians with a wave of its clerical hand, why it has no shame about telling people they are going to hell if they don’t vote to empower woman-hating, racist, corrupt monsters, all you have to do is look at the way the Church has treated its own children. Consider the depth and breadth of corruption that it takes for an institution the size and scope of the Catholic Church to engage in sexual predation against a trusting and innocent laity all around the globe for decades and decades, then stop being surprised that it is so easily corrupted by the money and power of power politics.
You don’t have to think very hard to see why the bishops weren’t bothered by the sexual predations of a Roy Moore or a Donald Trump; why the lying, cheating, stealing, insurrection and death that Trump brought didn’t bother them.
The bishops have been systematically covering for and empowering collar-wearing men like Trump as far back as we can research. As it turns out, quite a few of the bishops and heads of orders are men like Trump themselves.
The question that has bedeviled me is not whether or not my church is corrupt. The facts saying that it is are piled up to the heavens.
I am also not bedeviled by any temptation to allow these corrupt men to bamboozle me into supporting a sexual predator for high office. The bishops don’t vote me. I vote me.
But that other question, that half-caught misery of loving the Church for its good and knowing that the sacraments are real, that God still consents to come to us through these fallen men; that’s what beats at me.
I can’t work out how to stay and go, both at once. I’m an all-in kind of person.
I tried, as hard as anyone could try, to slide past all this. I wanted to do the Catholic thing and put on my Catholic blinders and just slide through the eye of the needle by la-la-la-ing my way past the lies. But that ended at Kavanaugh.
I can not take on the Catholic cloak of passivity in the face of clerical abuse, and I am convinced absolutely and without question that the behavior of the bishops regarding sexual predation, both inside the Church and outside of it, is abusive in the extreme. I am also convinced that the heavy-handed politicization of the Gospels and the Eucharist in order to carry political water for an increasingly violent fascist American political right wing is both abusive and anti-Christ.