October 19, 2006

"The whole idea is . . . that I did something that he did not like, but at the time he did not say anything."

Says the priest who admits to what ex-Congressman Mark Foley said he did.
"We had some kind of friendship. I was very friendly with him and his family," said [Anthony] Mercieca. "Then almost forty years passed without him saying anything. . . . And now because he got caught he recited these things."

In Brazil "they skinny dip all the time and no one gets scandalized. It is part of the culture. It is natural," Mercieca said. "They don't make an issue out of a skinny dip in the park or a massage."

"It was not what you call intercourse. . . . There was no rape or anything. . . . Maybe light touches here or there," said Mercieca.
Oh, those priests, with their subtle reasoning.

60 comments:

Stephen B. said...

Subtle reasoning, maybe. But he speaks the truth: "...because he got caught he recited these things."

This reminds me of when I was a small child and my sister would rat me out for something. When confronted by my mother, I would immediately recall some past trespass by my sister that I didn't so much care about when it happened.

Stephen B. said...

And my, my, we're bloggy today. Seven posts before noon? Don't run out of steam before Bloggingheads.

Simon said...

Yesterday, I resisted the urge to post about the "revelation" that Foley would "out" the priest, but I have to say -- why would we care? Are we caring about that now? Does it somehow make what Foley did okay if he may or may not have been abused as a child? Every criminal and malcontent has an excuse, but one thing I've learned as I've gotten older is that everyone is damaged, to one extent or another, for one reason or another, and yet millions of damaged people manage to get through life without killing / raping / maiming people or attempting to bugger teenage boys. I'm sorry for him if Foley was abused, but that's not an excuse for what he did.

Dave said...

Does anyone really take Catholicism seriously any more?

Stephen B. said...

I think that outing/blaming the priest was just part of Foley's penance, a requirement of the Church of Oprah that our Prof. Althouse posted about when the story first broke.

Ann Althouse said...

I think bringing up the priest is lame as Stephen B. indicates, but I don't think a priest ought to be saying things like oh, he's only blaming me because he got caught. He should be taking full responsibility for what he did wrong... and more. I'm not a Catholic, but that's how I read the Gospels.

ShadyCharacter said...

Does anyone really take Dave seriously any more, at least when the topic is religion?

Simon said...

Dave said...
"Does anyone really take Catholicism seriously any more?"

Well, there are 1,098,366,000 catholics in the world, but as for how many of them take it seriously is hard to say. John Kerry claims to be a catholic, so I'm betting it's at most 1,098,368,999 people. At aminimum, it's still a lot more than take the Democratic party seriously.

NSC said...

I think most Catholics take it very seriously - I know I do - far more seriously than secular humanism or Scientology for example.

The fact that the priest was - is - a lowlife doesn't exempt Foley for his actions no matter how much he wants us to believe it does. Of course the same goes for alcoholism and most other excuses for not exercising some personal responsibility.

amba said...

The bozo from Gozo.

Stephen B. said...

I completely agree with Ann--that the priest should take full responsibility. But nobody does that anymore, do they?

This incident is particularly sad, though. Foley blames the priest, then the priest blames Foley. Neither of these grown men will accept full responsibility. Instead they blame each other in this ridiculous circular manner.

Dave said...

Well, I'm glad to hear that Catholics take it seriously, even if people don't take my comments about the matter seriously.

But I still don't understand how an organized religion can be so replete with clueless leaders. One wants to compare them to Congress.

dklittl said...

I don't think any of this has a baring on the Foley matter. But as a seperate matter, the Catholic Church has shown itself to be a corrupt institution. This Hastert-Reynolds cover-up is small potatoes to these repeated excuses and qualifiers of the molestation of young people. I have great respect for Catholics but the institution has some serious issues to deal with.

Edward said...

I agree with Dave in wondering who takes the Catholic Church seriously anymore, especially on issues of human sexuality, in light of the huge number of abuse cases committed by priests.

If you read the most complete news articles concerning the priest who molested Marc Foley as an adolescent, you will discover what a tremendously screwed-up individual he was then and still is today.

I lay the responsibility for this priest’s twisted notions on sex right on the doorstep of the Catholic Church’s absurdly repressive doctrine on human sexuality, starting with the ridiculous requirement of lifelong priestly celibacy, but by no means stopping there.

Those of you here who rush to defend the Catholic Church, saying, “Oh, that was just one bad-apple priest in an otherwise healthy and holy institution” really need to reconsider.

Much of the American public connected the dots long ago, realizing that there is something fundamentally wrong both with Catholic doctrine and with the administration of the Catholic Church at the highest level. The huge number of sexual predator cases involving priests reveals a systemic problem in the Church, just as the Foley scandal does for the Republican Party.

I would add a new question to Dave’s: Who takes the Republican Party seriously anymore as a “defender of moral values,” particularly in light of the huge number of scandals emanating from this Republican-controlled Congress?

Revenant said...

Well I'll be damned -- I thought for sure Foley had made the whole thing up.

Dave said...

"I would add a new question to Dave’s: Who takes the Republican Party seriously anymore as a “defender of moral values,” particularly in light of the huge number of scandals emanating from this Republican-controlled Congress? "

Well, I wouldn't go that far. Anyone who seriously thinks the Republican Party leadership is or was a "defender of moral values" is clueless about how politics works. Republican Party officials allied themselves with religious/moral "leaders" under the hope--well vindicated--that their organizational power would elevate Republicans to national leadership. I'm not too convinced that the Karl Rove's or Grover Norquist's of the world care one iota about whether marriage is "saved" or made available to gays. All they care about is getting their candidates elected, much as a baseball coach cares only about winning the World Series, not his players' religious values. Religion is a means to an end.

The same thing could be said of the Democrats, except with them, perhaps, the hook is unions. I much doubt Hillary Clinton cares a whit about whether or not longshoremen's jobs are obviated by technology, but, so long as she needs their union in her pocket, she might as well pretend to care.

Jeremy said...

Are there any institutions that are not corrupt?

That's not rhetorical.

Leland said...

Ann: He should be taking full responsibility for what he did wrong... and more. I'm not a Catholic, but that's how I read the Gospels.

Can you imagine the Sodomites using the Priest's tactic in Genesis?

I also agree that Foley is trying to share his responsibility, and I don't buy it. In fact, Foley damaged his defense by doing this, because the initial accounts that he was molesting minors seems exaggerated. Yet his "it happened to me too" approach rather damns him.

Juliet said...

I lay the responsibility for this priest’s twisted notions on sex right on the doorstep of the Catholic Church’s absurdly repressive doctrine on human sexuality...

Is it possible that individuals are accountable for their own actions? That might explain why it isn't just Catholics who are perverts.

Goesh said...

-at least the rigid fundamenatlist right wingers can blame it on the Catholic Church now and keep on voting the GOP ticket. There'll be a priest in that 'outed' Senator's closet too, in their minds. They'll say we get rid of our pervs, the Dems applaud theirs who have sex with 17 yr. olds and let them keep their jobs. That business has yet to play out and rack up its political mileage.

T. More said...

David and Edward,

Perhaps you could try taking social science seriously. My own biases up front, I am a Catholic Priest. I'm under 40, Ivy-league educated, never been molested.

The idea that the church is "replete" with abusive leaders is simply unsupported by evidence. It is not even "replete" with leaders like Cardinal Law, whose coverup of crimes was abominable.

But as a confessor, I can assure you, sadly (and social science confirms this as well) that marriage is no cure for child molestation. The vast majority of abuse among Catholics and non-Catholics has nothing whatever to do with priests or celibates.

People who take a calm look at what has gone on in the Church have plenty to be angry about, and I join them in that anger. But many of us are also able to maintain a sense of perspective, look at the numbers, and realize that the number of abusive priests is not out of line with the number of abuse people in general; obviously, we don't want any abusive priests, like we don't want any abusive husbands, fathers, or grade school teachers.

But Catholics who are believing place their faith in God, not in me or my religious superiors. That does not let me off the hook for bad behavior, but it explains why rational people can keep the faith even when their shepherds betray their trust.

Freeman Hunt said...

But I still don't understand how an organized religion [the Catholic Church] can be so replete with clueless leaders.

Have you read the Bible? The Jews in the OT, the Christians in the NT, plenty of cluelessness. Heck, you even have Judas, one of the apostles, betraying Jesus.

Human frailty is nothing new inside or outside of religion. It doesn't bear on the Deposit of Faith.

Dave said...

BTW, if anyone doubts the thesis that Republican political operatives could care less about your religious values, this (free) article @ Economist.com explains a lot.

ShadyCharacter said...

Dave, are you going to respond to the good priest or was you ad hominem attack on the Church an end in itself?

Dave said...

Shady--not sure what there is to respond to. He has his opinion, to which he is entitled.

I will note, however, that no comment I have made is ad hominem in nature. The ad hominem fallacy has the following general syntax:

Person A makes an argument.
There is something objectionable about person A.
Therefore the argument is without merit.

No comment I made on this blog post was directed to an individual. Ergo, no ad hominem attacks by me.

Chevyiii said...

Simon said...

"Well, there are 1,098,366,000 catholics in the world, but as for how many of them take it seriously is hard to say. John Kerry claims to be a catholic, so I'm betting it's at most 1,098,368,999 people."

John Kerry created 2,999 Catholics?

Does anyone really take math anymore? Seriously!

Jim said...

While it is certainly true that Brazilians are not hung up on sex as are Amerikans, skinny dipping and nudism in general are NOT common in Brazil. Indeed, there are only 5 official nudist beaches and a few where nudism is tolerated.

The machismo of the Brazilian male is the main impediment, as he cannot stand the idea of his girl's being seen naked by other men. The result is that Brazilian men, who prefer to hang out fully clothed and stare, are barred from the woman-and-couples-only parts of nudist beaches, such as Praia do Pinho in Santa Catarina. We who are still waiting for the liberation of the Brazilian male consider Mercieca to be feinting with damn praise.

Finn Kristiansen said...

Simon says

...one thing I've learned as I've gotten older is that everyone is damaged, to one extent or another, for one reason or another...


That is so true. Distorting his point a bit, it reminds me of how Native Americans lament that Europeans came here and took the land and infected the population and I think, "Well has not happened the world over, since day one? Who has not suffered in history? The abuse is constant."

The thing then, is to not add to the suffering, as the cycle tends to go on and on unless people actually opt to do something different, or do something right.

Christianity, including Catholicism, is supposed to function as a little inflection point in the mind and hearts of man, helping them to actually "do something different."

The priest is dead right when he points out Foley's hypocrisy in bringing up the issue. But isn't it sad that a priest was even part of the cycle of suffering, and rather justifies it.

This is not merely a Catholic problem (bad priests) or a Christian one, but carries over into all parts of life (As in the massive option backdating scandal in our "Corporate Church" that is causing CEO after CEO to step down in the face of escalating government investigations).

Abuse.

Dave said...

"feinting with damn praise."

Wow, that's a good phrase!

Joan said...

The huge number of sexual predator cases involving priests reveals a systemic problem in the Church...

No, it shows what a juicy target the Catholic Church is. It is the single largest provider of child-related services in this country, and in the world.

We don't hear so much about children abused by public school teachers or by clergy members of other faiths because there's no upside to suing. (Is it even possible to sue the public school system if your kid is abused by a public school employee? I don't think so.) I can't speak to criminal prosecutions of these cases because I don't know how much of that actually goes on... because it's rarely reported.

As Fr. More said, we Catholics have plenty to be angry about. But people who think that the corruption is widespread and complete lack perspective on just how big the Catholic Church is.

And on the flip side, the Church is now instituting policies that are hyper-vigilant to prevent a culture of abuse from ever flourishing again. I recently participated in my parish's "Called to Protect" training which was excellent, if horrifying at times in the discussion of how child molesters typically operate. This program stresses that it is the responsibility of every parish staff member -- whether volunteer or paid -- to be alert to the signs that predation is taking place, and to never allow it. It was, above all, useful information, and not the "CYA" training that typified previous programs. This year, in our parish, every single volunteer in every single ministry, even those not directly working with minors, has to take this training, and they will be screened and their references checked. This is a huge (and expensive) undertaking but it's necessary to make sure that predators don't use the Church to find new victims. (Why would they use the Church? Because that's where the kids are.)

Oh, those priests, with their subtle reasoning.
As if priestly training includes how to be a weasel and avoid taking responsibility for your own actions. I won't blame the priesthood for this man's lack of character, but I will blame the authorities who allowed him to become a priest in the first place.

Fitz said...

There is so much misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the quote “priest pedophile” controversy. Many would love to blame the hierarchy and the Church's understanding of human sexuality. Neither washes given the facts.

#1. Most cases were not pedophilia (pre-pubescent) but rather pederasty. (post pubescent young people) what is sometimes called ephebophile . Yes, pederasty is much more common then pedophilia. Its an important distinction. Although both are heinous, pedophilia is more so, and much more rare. Pederasty is much more common and has greater cultural sway- with the sexualizing of youth. I would think a pederast to be deviant and perverted but not monstrous like a pedophile.

#2 Over 80% of the incidents were of Priest Pederasty of young males.


#3. Its important to note that the overall numbers sighted are over a 40 year period. The worst abuse (shear #’s) occurred in the late 70’s and early 80’s. After that the Bishops started to get a handle on the problem.

#4. Context is important. The overall problem of Pederasty is quite common. The most incidents occur between young women and their mothers boyfriends/live in lovers (as apposed to natural Fathers) The incidents occur in equally high numbers in any field were adults have close contact with minors. This includes other denominations (that have always had a Married Priesthood) like Episcopalians & Lutherans. Evangelicals have had the same problem with choir directors and youth ministers. Indeed the problem persists in organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Boy Scouts, Athletic Coaches (especially wrestling) and so forth.

#5. For varying reasons the media chose to present this as an institutional problem, rather than separate incidents; and blur the distinction between Pedophilia and Pederasty.
This can best be illustrated when compared with the (by far) greatest number of incidents of Pederasty within a given organization. (or outside the home)

#6.Public Schools by sheer numbers have vastly larger incidents of Pederasty within the ranks of Teachers, Administrators & Coaches. Yet the media always portrays it as a individual/isolated problem and not as an institutional wide phenomena (like they did the Church incidents)
When the stories of the attractive women seducing young men made the news it was…

A) Not called “Pedophile Teachers”
B) Not presented as a problem with our Public Schools


The comparison is even more glaring because (for a number of reason) Like the Catholic Church, the Public Schools can be said to be both “covering it up” & “moving pederasts from school to school.”
The reasons for this are multiple – The seriousness of the charge makes leveling it at an individual difficult/momentous – Both Victim, Perpetrator, & Victims family have an interest in not prosecuting/following through, and getting on with their lives – Sexual crimes are notoriously underreported – they are also hard to prove, becoming one person word against another, Union Rules make firing teachers difficult, & burdens of proof require substantial evidence. People look out for their own & protect adults & their carrers/reputations (this is hopefully changing)

Fitz said...

Dave

“BTW, if anyone doubts the thesis that Republican political operatives could care less about your religious values,”

I’m sure they “disparage” Christian leaders in private, & business leaders, and anti-immigration leaders, and fiscal conservatives, and Libertarians… When you work at the White House everybody has their hand out. Its easy to resent them.

The Democrats have the same Hostility/Resentment to members of their own base.

Religious conservatives know that the Republican party is neither a bastion of conservative morality nor a den of true believers. They are sophisticated individuals however and won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. They know they are better represented by republicans and have a greater chance of geeting their agenda through Republican politicians.

The Exalted said...

jim,

i'm not sure what brazil you've been too, but the beaches i was on were full of topless women.

unless you're constraining your argument purely to full nudity? obviously that is not common, that would be gross.

cheers.

Simon said...

"Is it even possible to sue the public school system if your kid is abused by a public school employee? I don't think so."

Well, I'm not so sure that you can't. Sovereign immunity "does not extend to suits prosecuted against a municipal corporation or other governmental entity which is not an arm of the State," Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 756 (1999), so I suppose the question would turn on whether a public school is a creature of county government (because schools are usually organized by counties) or state government (because schools are usually organized by counties at the non-negotiable behest of states). And in fact, there may not actually be one, single right answer: "[t]he issue [of whether a school board is immune from suit] ... turns on whether the Mt. Healthy Board of Education is to be treated as an arm of the State partaking of the State's Eleventh Amendment immunity, or is instead to be treated as a municipal corporation or other political subdivision to which the Eleventh Amendment does not extend. The answer depends, at least in part, upon the nature of the entity created by state law." Mt. Healthy City Board of Ed. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 280 (1977). If there was anything to the argument that a school district can't be sued, I would think that would have been thrown against Michael Newdow in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1 (2004).

Kirby Olson said...

Fitz makes good distinctions. I was talking with my Lutheran pastor about how it all happened that so many peds (since it's not clear whether they are pederasts or pedophiles but the shortened term neatly includes both) and he said that back then lesbian nuns had been put in charge of hiring, and they tended to prefer gay men.

Fitz mentions that there are Lutheran priests who have done similar things.

I think this must be very rare. OF course it happens, but it's not a church-wide problem.

We had a problem with a pastor in Texas. After that it was difficult to find insurance for that church, so that eventually it was closed.

But it's not a church-wide problem insofar as I know.

Our pastors are allowed to be married and have normal sexual lives and to have children.

We don't know what the percentage of priests with a non-heterosexual orientation is inside of the American Catholic church. Some have suggested that it is well over 80%, others less than half.

But Lutherans are nowhere near that number.

Fitz said...

Simon

I think Joan’s point was in the spirit of “you can’t fight city hall”.
Sovereign immunity presents a great enough hurdle to discourage massive litigation like the Church suits. The media environment (as stated above) helps prime juries and judges toward bigger/easier suits as compared with public schools.

The amount and expectations of awards are also greatly diminished when suing a public school. Judges routinely knock down excessive awards on the theory that the taxpayers cannot be held responsible. Functionally public institutions have never been a rich target for lawsuits.

Smilin' Jack said...

Most Biblical exegesis places Mary's age at between 13 and 16 when Christ was born.

So lighten up on pedophile priests...they're just following the example of Our Father.

jeff_d said...

Simon:

I may be a little rusty on sovereign immunity, but I don't know that it prevents suits for injunctive relief, nor would it prevent a suit that is technically against an individual administrator rather a school district. Either or both of those exceptions may apply to Newdow.

However, in addition to possible sovereign immunity protection, many states have tort immunity statutes on the books that make it difficult to recover damages against school districts. While these laws don't generally provide complete immunity, their practical effect is to make the prospect of going after a public entity less appealing and dramatically to reduce damage awards.

Fitz said...

Kirby Olsen

“Fitz mentions that there are Lutheran priests who have done similar things. I think this must be very rare. Of course it happens, but it's not a church-wide problem.

I know it was a wide problem for the Episcopalians, (who have married Priests) but did not get anywhere near the coverage. Part of this is acceptable given the much smaller number of Lutherans and Episcopalians plus less institutions like schools & hospitals with access to children.

“Our pastors are allowed to be married and have normal sexual lives and to have children.”

There is nothing to indicate that the practice of celibacy itself “causes” pederasty. As stated most happens within the home & is male on female. Incest is rare however, its mostly Boyfriends of unmarried women and their daughters.

“We don't know what the percentage of priests with a non-heterosexual orientation is inside of the American Catholic church. Some have suggested that it is well over 80%, others less than half.”

I have only heard numbers that high from alarmists who would go on a witch hunt. Given their numbers in the population I would say its more like 10-20%. (that is way too high and needs to be dealt with & is)
One factoid (unlike your lesbian nuns doing the hiring, one I had not heard) was the dramatic flight from the priesthood in the 60-70’s after Vatican II and all the confusion. The overwhelming number of Priests left to get married. The idea is that the ones who remained during that period were gay. This took the Church off guard and explains the fact that most abuse occurred in that period. By the Early eighties we had a handle on seminary reform & a new generation of young priests started coming on board not infused with the loose morality of the 60’s.

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cedarford said...

T. More - Thank you for serving your Christian community and the Lord. Priesthood is one of the high callings of mankind. Perservere and never forget that the people who sneer at Christians are a minority. (and a minority getting smaller since they fail to reproduce). Those who do priest-bash, or tout secular progressivism are victims of a long secular humanist crusade to tear them away from an enriching spiritual side to their lives and trying to substitute some transitory political activism, quest of materialism, instead.

*******************
I seem to be getting a serious squicky feeling about how homosexual pederasty creates new cycles of future pederasts from the smooth young boys that homosexual chickenhawks crave so..The numbers of adolescents a typical chickenhawk "bags" in one way or another is disturbing.

If pederasty does indeed set up a cycle of victims being more inclined to be pederasts themselves when they get older, it is another reason why society should crack down hard on the pervs. Not just for punishment - but for prevention of future predatory homosexuals.

And gay men do have a unique ability to sniff out which boys are homosexual or conflicted about their sexuality. Not just the priest cases where the homosexual adult preferences of past victims were noted in media. But from teachers who state that homosexual children can be "picked out" more readily and more accurately than the general public expects by teachers with a "good eye to pick up early behavioral differences, even at a very early, pre-puberty age". And guided into GLBT programs and their apparant homosexuality discussed with parents.

Pogo said...

Aw, screw it. I withdraw my stupid question.

Fenrisulven said...

But to suggest that imperfection and sin among the clergy reflects badly on belief itself is moronic. That all humans sin does not mean that standards themselves are hypocritical or pointless

Agreed. Religion is our interpretation of God, and we are imperfect creatures.

George said...

NPR just ran a piece on this. It, I think, said that neither party said that sexual activity took place. Wha-?

Most of the story was one of NPR's government process bits wherein an NPR reporter sits in a hallway all day long talking to other reporters while waiting for the Congress's Ethics Committee to adjourn. Apparently, hearings will continue until the crack of doom, and you can bet NPR will bring us every detail it learns from the AP.

TMink said...

Ann: He should be taking full responsibility for what he did wrong... and more.

Agreed, but that is not how the sexual abusers tick. I work with sexual abuse survivors, and have learned about their abusers throught the survivor's stories and reading the professional literature on them. They are slimey, slippery people. They deny, feign, manipulate, and lie. Personal responsibility it not in their makeup. As such, they are dangerous and should be locked up.

As to the Catholic Church and pedophile priests, some diocese became a haven for a cult of pedophiles who nurtured each other and passed around victims. They created a "normalized" sub-culture in which they operated with relative impunity. It was (and perhaps is) a secretive group, and is separate and distinct from the fine men and women of true faith and moral behavior. These pedophile priests molested scores of victims, so it is easy to over estimate their numbers. Part of the problem is that the hierarchy chose to deny and coverup rather than prosecute and remove the cancer. This too makes it easy to overestimate their numbers.

Trey

Harry Eagar said...

Father More and Fitz, there's a big difference between a priest who tries to get into the pants of a child (or an adult, which doesn't get much coverage but presents exactly the same problem) and a soccer coach:

The soccer coach doesn't get to claim divine sanction for his pass.

Bocaccio wrote about this in the story Putting the Devil Back in Hell about 600 years ago.

No priest ever made a pass at me -- I think I'm getting a complex about it now; wasn't I cute? -- but all of them denigrated the married state. That was why I quit. I was fond of my parents and got tired of hearing them called second-class spiritual citizens.

The church filed for spiritual bankruptcy a long time ago.

T. More said...

Dear Harry,

I cannot speak to your own experiences of the Church, which seem to have involved some pain. But of course we cannot have it both ways: if your parents' married state is of equal dignity as a Christian vocation to that of the priest, then it is equally tragic when a lay person commits the sin of abuse to when a priest does.

You seem to want a double standard, whereby you rightly reject the notion that a priest has a higher calling than you, but want the priest held to a higher standard than yourself.

Priests who abuse do not deserve to be in the priesthood, because the risks are too great; but I think the same does go for coaches and teachers. We do not stand in judgment over the souls of any of them, but objectively they must be kept from doing harm.

But you do no service to the dignity of the laity--or the universal call to holiness--by claiming that their sins are less serious. And no priest has ever had a legitimate claim to divine sanction for his behavior, however some may have wished to claim it.

Finally, as to the "spiritual bankruptcy" of the Church, this too trades on the very clerical understanding of the Church that you purport to reject.

To wit, assume for the moment that I am utterly spiritually bankrupt when I preside at the Mass; I can assure you that the assembled Church praying with me, the several hundred lay people in the pews, are not. I am not individually the Church, collectively we are. And that gathering is symbolic of the larger picture. So even if all the Church hierarchy were corrupt and spiritually barren, that would not make the Church--the People of God--bankrupt. To hold otherwise is to claim that the holy married people, the holy widows, the holy single people, count for less then the clergy.

Edward said...

T. More: I’m very familiar with the idea that Catholics should be able to separate their faith from the undeniable misbehavior and mismanagement by the Catholic hierarchy.

This idea, which is not at all new, seems to sum up your entire argument.

I simply don’t accept it, and here’s why.

I said in my first post that there is something fundamentally wrong both with the Catholic Church’s administrative structure and with its doctrine on human sexuality.

When I said fundamental, I meant fundamental. You ignore the substance of my critique and evade the most important issues by escaping into some airy, ethereal realm of spirituality, saying that “the faith” makes remaining a Catholic worthwhile.

I’m sorry, but in my opinion, that’s a cop out. I also think that there’s something immoral in evading the important issues by escaping into some airy, spiritual realm, as people like you are so fond of doing.

No one is forced to be Catholic. No matter how long someone has been a Catholic or how devoted they are to the Catholic faith, they are perfectly free to leave the Catholic Church and to become some other kind of Christian. They are perfectly free to join another Christian denomination that does not have the many, amply demonstrated flaws of the real-world Catholic Church.

The root problem of the Catholic Church’s structure is the utter lack of accountability of its hierarchy. The Catholic Church (even the Catholic faith) is, in reality, nothing more that what the pope wakes up one morning and decides that it is.

I don’t think it’s moral, holy, or spiritual to subscribe to a faith that is completely in the control of one very human, very fallible human being.

I already know how you’re going to respond to this. You’re going to say that I’m grossly exaggerating the doctrine of papal infallibility and that you’re so much better educated on these issues than I am…blah, blah, blah.

FYI, I’m just as well educated as you, with degrees from universities just as prestigious as the ones where you earned yours. I’m also an ex-Catholic, and believe me, I’ve given lots of serious thought to all these issues.

Yes, I will admit that I’m slightly simplifying some of the issues here, but this is a blog thread, for goodness sake. We can’t write entire dissertations here. The fact is that there’s a lot more truth to what I’m saying about the Catholic Church than to what you’re saying.

As for the Catholic Church’s ridiculously repressive doctrine on human sexuality, I specifically said in my earlier post that this is a fundamental problem that begins with the celibacy requirement, but which extends far beyond just that.

You choose to address the celibacy issue, but neglect to mention that there are serious problems with Catholic doctrine on almost all the topics of sex and sexuality.

Freeman Hunt said...

FYI, I’m just as well educated as you, with degrees from universities just as prestigious as the ones where you earned yours. I’m also an ex-Catholic, and believe me, I’ve given lots of serious thought to all these issues.

The fact that you graduated from school, however nice the school, and once called yourself Catholic doesn't indicate that you know what you're talking about. You have to actually make an argument. Asserting over and over that the Church's doctrine is wrong is not an argument.

T. More said...

Golly, Edward, I believe I actually responded to all your arguments on the Church's "repressive" view of sexuality, which in two lengthy posts do not go beyond celibacy. The Church's "repressive" view of human sexuality is that it is a beautiful gift from God that is ordered toward the intimate union of married people and toward reproduction.

The Church's view of human sexuality is that it is the most sacred expression of human loving and sharing in God's creative love. As such, it is coarsened to the detriment of those to whom it is given when engaged in outside of marriage. The very act of sex is iconic of the total self-giving that is marriage; outside of marriage, it is a lie. "You may have all of me, but only for tonight;" or "You may have all of me, but not my capacity to reproduce;" or "Let's make ourselves totally vulnerable, but not to the consequences of what we do." The Church believes that sex which is outside of marriage or closed to the possibility of reproduction is sex unacceptably befreft of the nature and context for which it is given.

I realize that contemporary thought regards these teachings as quaint and repressive. I realize that the contraceptive mentality of modern culture was meant to make marriages stronger, women more respected, teenaged pregnancy less common, STDs more rare, and sexual health more common. How's that workin' out for ya?

I was not parading my credentials to make an argument from authority, but to say that religious observers do not have to tolerate the implication that we have not sufficiently thought about who we are and what we believe. You and David repeat bromides about the "ridiculously" repressive nature of the Church's sexual teaching or a hierarchy "replete" with corruption but provide neither facts nor reasons, then get upset when the one argument you raise, as to celibacy, is replied to.

Juliet said...

Edward:

Yes, I will admit that I’m slightly simplifying some of the issues here, but this is a blog thread, for goodness sake. We can’t write entire dissertations here.

It's possible to be concise without distorting your opponent's position.

Harry Eagar said...

Father More, you're going to blow your profession's reputation for subtlety with clumsy responses like that.

I didn't say priests HAVE divine authority. I said they CLAIM it and use the claim to reinforce their rapes.

Nice try, though.

T. More said...

Harry,

Here's a refresher on our exchange. You wrote:

"The soccer coach doesn't get to claim divine sanction for his pass."

You implied, by claiming that this was a difference between the soccer coach and the priest, that the priest doest "get to claim" divine sanction.

My reply: "And no priest has ever had a legitimate claim to divine sanction for his behavior, however some may have wished to claim it."

Now, I took you to be implying that the Church sanctioned those claims. I guess you were not.

In any event, it appears that in my clumsiness I have stumbled into agreement with you on this point, as I see no daylight between your clarification and my original reply. Grace in action.

Harry Eagar said...

Well, if priests have no legitimate claim to divine connections, are you going to stop pretending to do so (personally or institutionally) in your sermons?

You are weaseling around. They cannot have an illegitimate claim when they are committing crimes and legitimate ones when they are not.

Perhaps they don't read Bocaccio in the seminary. Wouldn't surprise me.

Joan said...

You are weaseling around. They cannot have an illegitimate claim when they are committing crimes and legitimate ones when they are not.

It's not weaseling to assert that no one can ever rightfully claim divine sanction for heinous acts like child molestation. Any such claim is obviously an abuse of power.

Catholics believe that priests, through ordination, can perform other sacraments by the grace of God. Obviously you don't believe that, but it's absurd to say that because priests can't claim divine sanction as a cover for child abuse, their ability to administer sacraments is also illegimate.

I will say that any priest that commits child abuse is so far removed from communion with the Church that any sacrament he administered must be questioned also, because a man who does such things can not, by definition, be a priest. But this does not extend to all priests.

All priests are human and all humans are fallible. But there is a difference between a sinner who repents and confesses and receives absolution, and a sinner who uses his position in the Church to find new victims. The fallibility of human priests does not disqualify them from fulfilling the responsibilities of priests (including administering sacraments and delivering sermons), as long as they remain in a state of grace.

Harry Eagar said...

I guess you didn't go to Catholic school for 14 years like I did.

Your description of priestly power is not what the church teaches, which is that the power, once endowed, can never be revoked. It's one of those logical imbecilities that the Scholastics were forced to accept because their initial premises were wrong.

Besides you and Father More have it backward. The argument is not that priests have the power unless they abuse it. The argument is that they never have had the power but they falsely claim to have it.

On a mundane level, no self-respecting person could remain in such an organization. Like Groucho Marx saying he wouldn't belong to any club that would have him. Where's your gag reflex?

Joan said...

Harry: apparently your 14 years of education didn't make much of an impression on you. I attended a Catholic school for 6 years as a kid. But more importantly, my husband went through RCIA a few years ago, and now I'm helping catechize my three children. I've learned more about Catholicism in the last 4 years than I had in my entire life before, because it was the first time as an adult that I explored the issues that were most important to me.

The argument is not that priests have the power unless they abuse it. The argument is that they never have had the power but they falsely claim to have it.
The power to do what? No one and nothing gives a priest the power to abuse children or commit any crime. Or are you saying they don't have the power to administer the sacraments? Are you saying that there's no difference between committing a crime and performing a sacrament? That seems to be where you're headed. You've lost me.

Millions of self-respecting, intelligent people are Catholics. It's too bad that your anger or arrogance (or whatever it is) blinds you to that fact.

Harry Eagar said...

The power to mediate for the Big Spook, of course and convey messages that are beyond the right of the laity to doubt.

Perhaps Father More will come back and explain to you that the Church was forced to proclaim that priestly rituals are valid even if the priest himself is not in a state of grace, because, otherwise, how would the laity ever know whether, say, the Last Rites has been validly imposed?

If Catholics had any self-respect, they would demand that their bishops turn over rapist-priests to the civil arm for condign punishment (as the Church used so blandly to say during the Inquisitions) and liquidate all their property to make restitution to victims, instead of filing for bankruptcy.

Instead, they run their religion like a grocery store.

T. More said...

Harry,

This has been so much fun. I hope you will forgive my perhaps not optimal charity in remarking that debating you is great, because if we want to win all we need to do is let you talk some more.

Blessings!

Harry Eagar said...

So I was right. I used to know the Baltimore Catechism by heart, but it's been decades since I could recite it.