Formerly Ad Orientem

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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Irish Elk - Blogged


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Irish Elk
Thursday, August 22, 2002  
"Good Catholic mothers and fathers will not sacrifice their children upon the altar of clericalism."

Rod Dreher writes at Thrown Back: I ask you to consider that you cannot have the kind of stories that we've had for the past eight months, and which we are going to be getting for the foreseeable future, without calling up a terrible reaction from good Catholics. Invoking mystical abstractions to counter revelations of priests committing grotesquely cruel forms of sexual abuse will mean less than nothing…I commend to you and St. Blogs the final analysis historian Barbara Tuchman gave, in The March of Folly, summing up why the folly of six Renaissance popes led to the Reformation. I think there are lessons there for us all:

The folly of the popes was not pursuit of counter-productive policy so much as rejection of any steady or coherent policy either political or religious that would have improved their situation or arrested the rising discontent. Disregard of the movements and sentiments developing around them was a primary folly. They were deaf to disaffeciton, blind to the alternative ideas it gave rise to, blandly impervious to challenge, unconcerned by the dismay at their misconduct and the rising wrath at their misgovernment, fixed in refusal to change, almost stupidly stubborn in maintaining a corrupt existing system. They could not change it because they were part of it, grew out of it, depended on it. ...Their [the six popes] three outstanding attitudes -- obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents, primacy of self-aggrandizement, illusion of invulnerable status -- are persistent aspects of folly.

Dreher makes another point that particularly resonates here.

I tell you…if y'all keep this business up of talking down loyal orthodox Catholics who protest in good faith the way the Pope and the bishops have handled this, by saying that we're "not thinking with Tradition," and so forth, you're going to convince people that you're right. They will think: Does Catholic tradition require my silence and acquiescence in the face of evil like child rape? How could the Church of Jesus Christ make such a wicked demand of me? Maybe the Catholic Church isn't what it claims to be at all. Maybe the Orthodox, or the Protestants, are right. And then we lose them.

He's right.

Meantime, Amy Welborn adds to the Dreher debate her own eloquent manifesto. An excerpt:

Here’s what I want to know: What if sexual abuse weren’t the issue here? What if it were…say…abortion.

Let’s say that over the past half century, a shocking number of priests had gotten women pregnant and paid for their abortions – some many times over. Let’s say that some bishops, upon learning of these abortions, had called in the priests in question, given them a talking to, sent them to counseling, and then sent them back to parishes. Let’s say that these same bishops, when confronted with grieving women concerned that the priests were continuing these activities had given them money, made them promise to be quiet, impugned their motives and then promptly elevated and promoted the priests in question. Let’s say that some bishops, upon learning about these abortion-providing priests among them, had been properly horrified and sought to have the unrepentant accessories to murder defrocked, only to be rebuffed by the Vatican.

Would you be so sanguine? Would you be telling us all to calm down and trust that these bishops are really, despite all appearances, on top of this, and that the media is simply overinflating the issue and using it for its own purposes?

Or you would you not be outraged, dismayed and appalled that Church authorities could meet the news of even one priest who paid for the destruction of one life with a promise of lifetime support and a letter of gratitude for his good service to the Church?

Why does not the attempted murder of innocent souls provoke the same outrage?

She concludes:

How are we supposed to impress upon our children the truth of the Catholic faith when that truth is so rarely preached and taught by those called and supported by the Church to engage in that very task? And most painfully, we just don’t understand why, when a child has been victimized by an adult, those called by Christ to lead – which means to be Christ to the world – and place the needs and hurt of the child first – absolutely first – every single time.


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