Yes, I Know Others Cover Up Assault Too. No, That’s Not a Comfort

Yes, I Know Others Cover Up Assault Too. No, That’s Not a Comfort February 17, 2019

Recently it was brought to light that leaders in the Southern Baptist church have also engaged in sexual misconduct, with over 700 victims – that we are aware of – in a period of twenty years.

Right-wing catholic media personality Matt Walsh Tweeted about this:

A new report finds that over 300 Southern Baptist church leaders have been accused of sexual misconduct since 1998. To put that in perspective, the Catholic sex scandal in Pennsylvania implicated 300 Catholic clergy — over a period of 70 years.

Responders to Walsh were quick to point out that he was doing the Roman Catholic Church no favors here. First, once you do the math, you realize that the comparison does not in fact make the Catholic church look any better. Three hundred Baptist leaders in twenty years, versus three hundred Catholic leaders in seventy years? Fine, except that’s the entire Southern Baptist denomination, as compared with the Catholic leaders in only one state.

As one Twitter commenter responded:

So an entire baptist denomination v. a single RC state locale? Both are terrible but (beside this being a terrible dunk-contest) you honestly think you’re winning this?

And another pointed out:

It’s not a competition, but if you’re going to draw comparisons to make the point that the Catholic church isn’t as bad as SBC, the facts should be right. The 1,000 Catholic victims-in PA alone-were all *children.* SBC study shows all “sexual misconduct”- not even just abuse.

So, no, in the dubious contest to see which religious organization manages to be slightly less rape-enabling, the Church is not coming off especially well. And unfortunately, this is unsurprising, since – as I pointed out in my last piece – Catholic clergy enjoy a level of authority which is unparalleled in most other Christian denominations.

 

But suppose it were to turn out that some other group were even worse that ours. Would that be some comfort?

No. If one is a practicing and believing Catholic, being reminded that “it’s everywhere” or “those guys do it even more than we do” is no comfort at all. There’s nothing comforting in knowing that there’s even more suffering out there. And it’s not only that we seem to be especially, monstrously, and consistently bad. It’s that this level of atrocity undercuts everything we’ve been told to believe about the church, why to remain in it, and what it has to offer.

Our own scandals seem especially revolting juxtaposed against our constant reiterations of specialness: the one true Church, the Church that Jesus founded, the fulness of revealed truth. Only here can we find the sacraments through which divine grace is guaranteed to flow. And, most bleakly ironically of all, only here do we supposedly receive the truth about men, women, sex, bodies, and reproduction.

As it turns out, we are no better than anyone else – no better than those Protestants deprived of the sacraments, those progressive Christians with their permission of contraception, those Anglicans with their ordination of women. We are apparently not even better than those secular agnostics we’ve been told we must evangelize, for the sake of their immortal souls.

This is absolutely not a time when I feel inclined to invite anyone into this mess of a church.

Many of my friends are leaving, and I can’t blame them. I struggle with the temptation to bail, myself. The only kind of believable witness I feel I can be, at this point, is the kind who speaks out against the violence and injustice within my own faith community, and does anything in my power to help shine light on the truth, to give a voice to victims. But it would be facile and disingenuous for me to argue that I am able to do this by any unique grace vouchsafed through special Catholic powers. Other people in other communities are doing the same. It’s just a matter of trying to be a decent human.

I could make the usual blithe poetic statements about how “the church is a hospital for the sick,” and that’s why there’s so much moral evil here. But if it’s a hospital, it seems to be a very poorly operated one – in which the doctors, rather than healing, spread more disease.

I could fumble around and try to end this piece on a note of apologetics, even existential apologetics, to remind everyone to have faith, that what we’ve been told me must believe about the church is true. But I’m not going to do that. This is not the time for making excuses, but the time for facing facts. And whatever the solution to the problem is, we won’t reach it until we’ve acknowledged fully just how dire our case is.

image credit: pixabay.com/en/st-crispins-asylum-hospital-2780100/

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