Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Jesus Doesn't Need Your Lie

Today is the feast of St. John the Baptist, the "voice of one crying out in the wilderness", executed for crying out against the sexual immorality of Herod. The essential element of his sanctity, though, is not that he spoke truth to power, or made himself the face of a movement, or that he was radical and attracted crowds. What makes him a great saint is that he saw and recognized Jesus and testified to him in word and action: "He must increase; I must decrease." (John 3:30) Acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah means acknowledging his preeminence. Everything is that is not of him or from him -- everything that is "I", that is willful or selfish or domineering -- must give way to him.

For John, this doesn't mean joining forces with Jesus to create a mega-ministry, or divvying up the territory around the Jordan so that he gets one crowd and Jesus gets another. It doesn't mean becoming Jesus's right-hand man and running part of his show. It means that John knew his task and his mission, and always pointed those who came to him to Jesus. He must increase; I must decrease.

This week brings a terrible reckoning for the Catholic Church in America: the removal from public ministry of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, late of the archdiocese of Washington, D.C. The specific verified allegation against him is of molesting a teenager 47 years ago, but that was simply was he was finally nabbed on. Apparently, rumors and more than rumors have circulated for years about McCarrick's sexual predations against seminarians and priests in his charge. Theodore McCarrick was not just any Joe Schmoe perpetuating a cycle of abuse. He was (eventually) a cardinal of the Catholic Church, one well aware of the moral strictures of his religion, one who understood how to manipulate public opinion and how to lie to cover up his misdeeds. He knew he could get away with it, and he created an atmosphere that enabled his behavior. He may not have thought that the ordinary rules applied to him, but he certainly knew that he was doing something wrong.

Rod Dreher recounts how he tried to bring this story to light in 2002 at the same time as the news story of the Boston coverup broke, only to be blocked again and again by Catholics "protecting" the church's image.

Julia Duin of GetReligion writes about how reporters, including her, have tried to cover the story for years, only to have sources clam up and refuse to go on record. Newspapers have quashed articles ready for publication.

How is this kind of coverup managed? Some people cover for the misdeeds of others to protect their guilt; some out of a false sense of loyalty to the Church; some from mistaken idea that Jesus needs us to lie for him to keep the bad guys from winning. Some make everything about politics. Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia turns the horrible account of McCarrick's abuse of power into a non-story about political positioning and PR releases. In his reporting you'll find lots of background on McCarrick's rise through the hierarchy and his public profile, without a hint of what the allegations entail or the extent of "Uncle Ted's" predations.
Given the allegation's cited timeframe of 47 years, in 1971 then-Msgr McCarrick would have been freshly named as priest-secretary to New York's Cardinal Terence Cooke after a stint as rector of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. 
By tradition the most powerful post in the Gotham Chancery after the archbishop himself, the future cardinal remained at the helm of Cooke's office even after his appointment as an auxiliary bishop in 1977 at the age of 46. 
Notably, while a push for the beatification of Cooke has been a passionate cause among many since the cardinal's death from leukemia in 1983, the momentum for the project has stalled in recent years amid reports that Cardinal Timothy Dolan was concerned over his late predecessor's perceived mishandling of abuse cases during his 15-year tenure, fearing that the Roman investigation into Cooke's life would resurface the issue. At the time, a source close to McCarrick relayed to Whispers that the DC cardinal was irate over the blocking of his mentor's cause. 
This is an example of some oddly selective reporting from a blog whose raison d'etre is to cover juicy Church gossip from "sources", and it's a prime example of how this kind of cover-up thrives.

Ross Douthat writes about how when those who are charged with revealing truth turn to "protecting" it instead, they cooperate in allowing corruption to fester.
For reporters who pursued the story, it was a case where “everyone knew” but nobody would go on the record — so stories were pursued and then evaporated. And the cardinal was protected, in part, because his targets were mostly younger men under his authority rather than teenagers (it was a teenage victim who finally made the story break), which didn’t fit the pedophile-priest narrative, and liberal journalists who didn’t want to appear somehow homophobic and conservatives who wanted to protect the church’s reputation had an excuse to keep his secrets safe. 
Once I learned all this, I was in the same position as the “everyone” who knew about Harvey Weinstein or any other powerful man with a history of pressuring subordinates into sex. And in that position you become accustomed to the idea that the story will never come out no matter what — so that, for instance, when the respected psychologist and sociologist of the priesthood Richard Sipe publicly quoted documents from a legal settlement with one of McCarrick’s targets (“He put his arms around me and wrapped his legs around mine … The Archbishop kept saying, ‘Pray for your poor uncle’ ”), it was like a tree falling in an empty forest, and no one heard the sound. 
Now the question is whether the at-long-last coverage of McCarrick’s sins will shake similar stories loose. With the exposure of systemic abuse in so many different institutions lately, it’s become possible for Catholics to regard this as a general purgation that our church just went through first. But the grim truth is that the Catholic purgation was incomplete, because it was not quite #MeToo enough. We learned awful things beyond counting, about child abuse by priests and cover-ups by bishops. But we only found out about a few Weinsteins of the church — high-ranking clerics who used the power of their offices to effectively force sex upon men to whom they were supposed to be spiritual fathers. And while I don’t know about others in quite the way I knew about Cardinal McCarrick, everyone with inside knowledge knows that there are many more like him.
The always-thoughful Jen Fitz has a compendium of posts she's written this past week reflecting on the scandal, full of links to sources covering the story directly.
What are our weapons [referencing Eph. 6:11-16]?  Truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith, salvation, and the word of God. 
Covering up for sexual predators does not fit on that list. 
If the allegations against Cardinal McCarrick are true, the man should have been removed from pastoral ministry decades ago.  By all means, when you see a priest, or anyone, doing what they ought not be doing, if no laws are being broken, begin by confronting the sinner privately.  We all sin.  Would that we were all given the chance to quietly confront our own failings and rectify them. 
But when you have evidence of decades of predatory behavior, with untold hundreds of clerics at every level of the hierarchy complicit in silence and cover-up, and how many lives of young men ruined by the crimes inflicted upon them . . . there is no quietly cleaning this up.  “Discretion” does nothing to help the Church.  There is a time for genuine public penance, and now is that time.
He must increase; I must decrease. Our job is not to shield the Church, to sweep sin under the rug lest it make us all look bad. Jesus does not need my lie. If the truth exposes the Church to the deserved scorn and contempt of the world, so be it; Jesus himself was stripped naked as he hung on the cross. John the Baptist understood this. He knew that his humiliation and death were no defeat, because Jesus was increasing. His death, Stephen's death, Peter's and Paul's deaths, were no hindrance to Christ working through his Church. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5). We cannot witness to Jesus unless we are allowing him to increase by dying to ourselves.

Covering up sin to shield the Church only damages the Church. When will this lesson finally be learned?

1 comment:

Agnes said...

I am so very sorry to hear about this scandal and that so many people still seem to think the problem is the scandal, not the terrible sin. How horrible that people were protecting this destructiv bishop/archbishop for decades. It's not only that it ultimately lads to damaging the Church's standing as the truth comes inevitably out. It's the thought of all those threatened and abused young men who were forced to disgusting and humiliating acts and situations, the eventual future priests who had to support and defend the apostolic authority of the bishop as the pastor of the diocese, to pretend to the faithful people that the authority of the Church is something good and trustworthy, who had to convey to them the idea of chastity, the idea of the moral imperative, the idea of resisting temptation...
Mt 18:6 comes to mind - the Hungarian translation has also the connotation of "scandalizing" the little ones which fits this situation, but this sort of thing does cause them to stumble, to lose faith, to fall, to sin - pic your translation. How we have to pray for the Church as a whole beyond our little community!