Mar 30, 2010

Pope's Homily Finds its Mark

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

While I was sickened by the self-serving rhetoric used by his Holiness on Palm Sunday, his remarks seem to have hit home with Archbishop Timothy Dolan. It's the Pope who's the victim to pitied and protected. In fact, he's now a martyr to the cause of harboring pedophiles... just like Jesus!

In remarks following Palm Sunday Mass, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York urged Catholics “to express our love and solidarity” for Pope Benedict, who, given the recent media onslaught over sex abuse allegations, is “now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.”

. . .

“No one has been more vigorous in cleansing the Church of the effects of this sickening sin than the man we now call Pope Benedict XVI,” Archbishop Dolan stressed. “The dramatic progress that the Catholic Church in the United States has made – documented again just last week by the report made by independent forensic auditors – could never have happened without the insistence and support of the very man now being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo.”

A glance at Matt Taibbi's blog this morning reminds me that this isn't Archbishop Dolan's first attempt at such tortured apologia.

One expects professional slimeballs like the public relations department of Goldman Sachs to pull out the “Well, we weren’t the only thieves!” argument when accused of financial malfeasance. But I almost couldn’t believe my eyes as I read through Dolan’s retort and it dawned on me that he was actually going to use the “We weren’t the only child molesters!” excuse. Dolan must have very roomy man-robes, because it seems to me you’d need a set of balls like two moons of Jupiter to say such a thing in public and expect it to fly. But this is exactly what Dolan does; he bases his entire defense of the Church on the idea that others are equally culpable.

. . .

The most revolting part of this response is the last bit about how “no one knew… back then” the depth of the scourge of abuse, or the fact that child molesters cannot be allowed near children ever again once caught. Dolan is trying to get us to focus on the 1962 case, but the truth is that as recently as this last decade, the Church’s doctrinal office elected to proceed with church trials for less than 10% of the 3000 cases of abuse reported to them between the years of 2000 and 2010.

And just a few days after this blog entry of Dolan’s, the Times would come out with another story indicating that the current Pope, then a Cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger, seems to have quashed an effort to bring a serial child abuser named Lawrence Murphy to a church trial. The inaction of Ratzinger’s office resulted in Murphy being allowed to die “in the dignity of the priesthood,” which was his wish as expressed in a letter to then-Cardinal Ratzinger in January 1998.

So while schools, parole officers, judges, lawyers and therapists may have been deficient in their understanding of child abuse back in 1962 (although I’m sorry — it could have been 1562, if someone molested my child and was allowed back in the priesthood, I’d be reaching for an axe), the Catholic church is alone among all of them in continuing to not get it since then. Despite massive public scandal over the course of what now is decades, they continue to deflect and shield child molesters as a matter of institutional routine.

From Archbishop Dalton's blog:

What causes us Catholics to bristle is not only the latest revelations of sickening sexual abuse by priests, and blindness on the part of some who wrongly reassigned them — such stories, unending though they appear to be, are fair enough, — but also that the sexual abuse of minors is presented as a tragedy unique to the Church alone.

That, of course, is malarkey.

Okay. It's malarkey. It's also a straw man, because no one has ever said it. I would defy Archbishop Dolan to find a single example anywhere of anyone claiming that sex abuse is the exclusive province of the Catholic Church. But it does fit the narrative of Catholic Church as unfairly persecuted victim very well.

What Archbishop Dolan and the Pontiff are bristling at is the media storm, which continues to gather momentum. There is a unique scrutiny of the Catholic Church, largely due to the scope of the problem, the church's role as a moral arbiter, but increasingly to its remarkable tone-deafness. The more the church deflects criticism, erects straw men, and blames others for its woes, the worse it will get. Pope Benedict signaled on Palm Sunday that he and his church are resorting to a siege mentality. Unless and until he shows more willingness to listen to critics, genuine contrition, and interest in meaningful reform, the siege will continue.

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