Thursday, March 25, 2010

Saints, the Catholic Church, and Pedophile Priests

Catholics, particularly priests, are perfect people. Flawless. Perfectly reasonable, perfectly ethical, perfectly dutiful, and - most important - perfectly holy.

Sort of like Kung Fu's Kwai Chang Caine, except without that character's gritty character flaws and rough language.1


News flash: Every one of us, priests included, are human beings.

Well, the saints are perfect people, right?


Catholic Saints

A Catholic saint is "a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord". (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2156) That's "exemplary fidelity to the Lord" - not "had a well-balanced personality," "led a placidly boring life," or "never did anything wrong."

One of the saints, when asked if he knew this Jesus, replied: "Woman, I do not know him." A little later came these exchanges: "You too are one of them", "My friend, I am not"; "Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.", "My friend, I do not know what you are talking about." (Luke 22:56-60)

And this man "lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord"?! In the end, yes. From the looks of it, he had impulse control issues, and there was that three-fold denial: but he came back, asking forgiveness.

I haven't quite made up my mind, whether putting Peter in charge of the church ("And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,13 and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)) was a reward: or penance. Or something else. (I know what I am and what Jesus is: and my self-esteem isn't that strong.)

Pedophile Priests

Actually, quite a few of the lot in this week's news aren't, strictly speaking, pedophiles. Their victims were, apparently, underage and/or in vulnerable positions. Since "pedophile" is, sadly, a rather familiar term these days, and it's close to the issue these priests seem to have had, I'm using that word. I don't know what the technical term is for a disordered inclination which leads some adults to lust after teenagers of the opposite sex. Or, occasionally, their own.

The priests here in America who made the news were mostly interested in young boys: but that's not the only disorder people can have. By a long shot. Necrophilia, for example. If you don't know what that is: you may want to keep it that way.

Actually, I rather doubt that sexual predators tend to target people who aren't in vulnerable positions. Rapists, at least, seem to prefer victims who aren't likely to fight back. Understandably, as the Romans learned after they mistreated Queen Boudicca and her daughters.

Naughty Priests! Naughty Priests! Oh, Those Naughty Priests!!

Some American news services, actually, are doing a fairly good job of covering the scandals involving priests in Europe:
"A Catholic bishop in Waterford, Ireland, apologized Thursday for his "inadequate" response to complaints that a priest in his diocese had sexually abused children.

"William Lee, the bishop of Waterford and Lismore in the southeast of Ireland, said in 1994 he allowed the priest to continue in his ministry after he was evaluated by a clinician who had been told in detail about the allegations.

"Lee later concluded his actions had been 'inadequate' and reported the allegations to the police, but the complainants declined to make a criminal complaint, he said...."
That article could have been a lot worse, and still been strictly accurate. For example, that last paragraph could have been written this way:
"Lee later admitted his actions had been 'inadequate' and he and finally reported the allegations to the police, but the by then complainants declined to make a criminal complaint, he said.
[alterations in bold or struck out]
That CNN article could have been a lot worse.

It focuses, by the way, on the 'Murphy Report' meltdown in the Irish Catholic Church.

I'm sad to see what's happening over there. It looks like a variation on the theme that played out here in America, not too many years back. Is still playing out: we'll be dealing with fallout from what that handful of priests did for generations.

Priests Misbehaving: Here We Go Again

Of course, the Irish situation isn't exactly the same as the one in America. Demographics of the victims seems to be a bit different, for starters. Here in America, the priests who enjoyed seducing boys seemed to come from a fairly narrow cadre of seminarians. But that's another topic.

What's going on in Ireland is reflected in continental Europe, apparently.

If you haven't heard about it, you aren't following the news. At all.

I know that newspapers and news services are, for the most part, businesses. As such, they have to select topics that will attract readers. That's where the old 'if it bleeds, it leads' principle came from. And another batch of misbehaving priests is certainly an attention-getting topic.

I wonder, though, if there would be quite the same sort of attention given to, say, a group of scientists who were caught destroying data that they may - or may not - have been truthful about? 'That's different,' of course.

What's going on now upsets me - a lot. But what I wrote in another post still applies. I'm disappointed, but not disheartened.

Partly because this is, as far as I can tell, nowhere near the biggest crisis the Church has faced. For example, about a thousand years ago, we had men who said they were the Pope, and weren't. Problem was, they weren't regarded as crazy. Quite a few people believed them. Compared to that, a handful of priests with disordered sexual desires and an apparent lack of self-control is small change.

That's the big-picture situation. On the individual level, what happened is a terrible violation of trust, which must be - and is being - dealt with. That's another topic.

Making Excuses, Making Sense

I think that the priests in America who raped boys and the priests in Europe who took advantage of vulnerable people are human beings, not wild animals. Where it might make sense to simply shoot a dog that's not behaving correctly, people shouldn't be killed simply because they've behaved badly.

Maybe that sounds like I'm 'one of those people' who is soft on crime and feels sorry for criminals and wants rapists to go free and doesn't respect apple pie and the flag. I can't help that. I am convinced that human life is precious, and should be preserved. (November 2, 2008)

I also think that adult men who like to have sex with boys, or with other adult men, or animals, or dead bodies, have disordered inclinations.

Maybe that sounds like I'm 'one of those people' who hates homosexuals and blacks and women and doesn't respect the environment and animals. I can't help that, either. I'm Catholic, and I have to have some standards. I also am commanded to love people whose behavior I can't condone. (March 13, 2009)

Nobody said this was going to be easy. Just necessary.

Related posts:In the news:
1 "Kung Fu" is a seventies television series. IMDB describes it this way: After avenging the death of his teacher, a Shaolin monk flees China to the American West and helps people while being pursued by bounty hunters."

Sounds like just one more yell-scream-punch martial arts show, but it isn't. A sample of Cain's dialog:

"I seek not to know the answers, but to understand the questions."

That's how the character talked, and that was how he lived.

Fast-paced the show wasn't. I liked it - and still do, when it shows up as re-runs.

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.