The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Beat Goes On....

Further and better particulars on the Roman Catholic Church's 40 year cover-up of systematic and pervasive child abuse on the part of the Archdiocese of Dublin. The Times (London) has the quick summary:

The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland connived with the authorities in a cover-up spanning decades to shield paedophile priests from prosecution, an official report concluded yesterday. Hundreds of crimes against children were not reported as the four archbishops of the Archdiocese of Dublin remained wedded to the “maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church and the preservation of its assets”.

Instead, the church hierarchy shuffled the sex offenders from parish to parish, allowing them to continue to prey on victims. In some cases paedophile priests were even promoted. The 750-page report by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse on the Dublin archdiocese — the second significant inquiry this year to expose appalling levels of sexual abuse of minors in Ireland under the aegis of the Roman Catholic Church — said that it had uncovered a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy throughout the period that it investigated between 1975 and 2004.

It said that the State had helped to create the culture of cover-up and that senior police officers regarded priests as “outside their remit”.

“The State authorities facilitated that cover-up by not fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure that the law was applied equally to all and allowing the Church institutions to be beyond the reach of the normal law enforcement processes,” it concluded.

When considered in conjunction with the evidence of Vatican condoning of such cover-ups even in papal statements on the issue from John XXIII to Benedict XVI (pre-papacy for him), one must ask finally, what does this tell us about the Roman Catholic Church?

This, I think: That its ecclesiology is fundamentally flawed in it's agoraphobically top-down model, one which prizes the interests of the institution so highly, and which cannot ever admit error or failure--individuals fail the Church, the Church itself cannot err. By identifying itself completely with the Body of Christ, the Church heavily disincentivizes itself from acknowledging systemic problems--the "rogue priest" model is the only one that the Church can bear to recognize, because to do otherwise sets up a cognitive dissonance between its theological claims and its behavior. That gap, perceived outside the Church as the rankest hypocrisy, is in fact denial of the most psychologically necessary kind. To believe it, one must shift the topic from the cover up to the offense itself, perpetrated by a number of priests not much greater than that percentage of abusers in society at large, a defense the Church has made at the highest levels. But it is, of course, the concerted cover up over decades by men widely deemed holy and even heroic within Christendom--John XXIII, a hero to liberal Catholics, and John Paul II, a hero to conservatives, to name but two. Or, one can, as did British MP Ann Widdicombe in the Intelligence Squared Debate I linked previously, de-emphasize the cover up, and the sex abuse, and spin it as overly authoritarian discipline typical of the time, and even (as did Widdicombe) accuse Church critics of a double standard, by unfairly demanding that the RCC know better than the times. (This of course set her up for the deadly riposte of Stephen Fry: if the Church cannot be expected to better than secular institutions, he asked, his voice rising for the first time in the debate, then "What are you for?").

The fact is, having one man, and a small circle of princes, responsible for the preservation of a 2,000 year institution which it believes to be the true incarnation if Christ's Body on Earth is to put an insupportable burden on that man and that circle of men. It cannot be maintained, because it attributes perfection to the necessarily imperfect. And that leads to covering up the gap between the Heavenly Image and the Earthly Reality.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

C.S. Lewis and The Four Loves

Today is the anniversary of C.S. Lewis's death, and a good opportunity to remember him. I first encountered his writings in high school, under the tutleage of the Marianist Order. We read The Four Loves, and I knew I was in the presence of great writing--clear thought, fluently expressed, delivering the material in an accessible, but not condescending way. Lewis's work is one of the great treasures of Anglicanism, and The Four Loves is thought-provoking as well as meditative.

But Lewis was above all a superb scholar. Here he is talking about his friend Charles Williams:

His death, on the same day as John F. Kennedy's murder, and the death of Aldous Huxley, received very little coverage. His life and work, however, continue to fascinate.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gore Redux

A recent comment on an older post reminds me to recommend heartily Charles Gore's two volume commentary on Paul's Letter to the Romans. For those who (like me) have struggled with Paul's more, er, Calvinist overtones, Gore does an exceedingly useful job of putting him in his historical context, and elucidating this rich, sometimes contradictory, and occasionally daunting text. He is particularly good with Romans 8, one of my favorite Biblical texts, but one which springs from the paean to hope, to the introduction into Christian thought of predestination. Gore:
There is, I think, no point on which St. Paul has been more misrepresented than on his teaching about predestination. He teaches plainly that it is God's purpose to ' have mercy upon all': that He 'willeth that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth....The election of this catholic body to be the heirs of salvation and to bear the name of God in the world was, it would have been held, a selfevident fact. St. Paul reasons not up to this fact but from it. He uses the admitted fact to strengthen its individual members under stress of trial. They must bear earthly troubles because they form the appointed discipline for the individuals who form the select body. Let men but love God, and then all outward things whatsoever work together for good for them. The fact that they love God is the sufficient evidence of their election. Those who love God are also those who are ' called according to His purpose.' But, we ask, Have none received the call and rejected it? were none called, who do not love God? is it not true, that ' Many are called and few chosen' ? St. Paul says not a word to the contrary. But that is not the question he is considering. The members of the Christian Church, devoted to God, to whom he is writing have been called. This call of which they have become the subject is, St. Paul assures them, no afterthought, no momentary act of God, which as it came into being in a moment so may pass away. It is not a being taken up by God and then perhaps dropped again. His gifts and calling are without repentance on His side, because they represent an eternal will.
In other words, Paul is urging boldness and confidence upon the Christian community--be sure that you are loved, and will always be loved--and not claiming that others are excluded from that same love. This brings Paul into consistency with Jesus's declaration, judge not, that ye be not judged.

A first rate work of exposition by one of he finest minds in Anglicanism. Well worth your time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mark Twain Tonigh!

Here is Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain on Man: the Reasoning (?) and Religious (?) animal:

And a glimpse of the genuine article:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ah, to be in England...

when Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens team up:

Intellectual demolition derby, with manners.

From Intelligence Squared; hat tip: Andrew Sullivan, himself a Catholic, who writes:
You can forgive the pro-Catholic side for losing the debate in Britain on whether the Catholic church is a force for good in the world. Ann Widdecombe and Archbishop John Onaiyekan were up against Hitch and Fry. What you cannot forgive is the sheer intellectual shallowness of the defense. Just listen to the small speech above, I mean: really, this is the best we've got?

The problem with the theoconservative take-over in the Catholic priesthood is not so much its extremism as its mediocrity. And it is mediocre because it has been trained not to think, not to argue, and not to engage the modern world. It has been trained solely for obedience - blind, dumb, unquestioning, intellectually moribund obedience.
Actually, I think the extremism and the mediocrity are both problematic.

God's Work?

The head of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, says that he and his firm are "doing God's work." As Washington's Blog asks, however, is this true?
There have been widespread, credible allegations that Goldman Sachs and other giant banks have broken the law (see this, for example).

Indeed, one of the first things God asks of us is to do justice:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

While many churches and synagogues have become obsessed with other issues, many have arguably ignored this most important of God’s demands of us. As pointed out by a leading Christian ministry, which rescues underage girls trapped as sex slaves in third world countries:

In Scripture there is a constant call to seek justice. Jesus got upset at the Pharisees because they neglected the weightier matters of the law, which He defined as justice and the love of God . . . Isaiah 58 complains about the fact that while the people of God are praying and praying and praying, they are not doing anything about the injustice.

God demands that we do everything in our power to act as “God’s hands” in bringing justice. And as Saint Augustine reminds us, “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.”

Moreover, there have been credible allegations that Goldman Sachs and other giant banks manipulate the currency and other markets....Proverbs 11:1 also provides:

Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight.

So to the extent that the giant banks have engaged in any dishonest acts or the manipulation of currencies, they are violating scripture.

Of course, any bankers who charge usurious interest rates should remember the little story about Jesus turning over the money changers’ tables
The whole essay is worth a read, and a thought. One needn't go all Matt ("Goldman is a giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money") Taibbi to ask, as this essay does, what the connection between our faith and our economic system--or, worse, the disconnect between them. How many of us (including me!) can truly claim to be loving justice, doing mercy, and walking humbly with our God?

(Hat tip: Naked Capitalism

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Your GOP at Work

Here is Rep. John Shadegg putting his own stupidity into the mouth of a baby, from whom he thinks we should take policy advice:

Here's Shadegg a few years ago, when he had thoughts of higher office:

Some guys never learn...

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Bitter Taste of Kool-Aid

Let me see if I've got this crystal clear:

1. Dede Scozzafava, who lives in the District and has previously served in the State Assembly, wins the Republican nomination for NY's 23rd District, a traditional Republican stronghold.

2. Conservative Republican launch a more conservative candidate against her, denouncing her as a "RINO," a "leftist" and seeking to tie her to ACORN. GOP Celebrities such as Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson and Tim Pawlenty supported her conservative rival, Bill Hoffman. Although nominally supporting her, Meanwhile, the RNC formally supports her, but provides no financial support. Money pours into the district in support of Hoffman. Even Newt Gingrich called it a "purge."

3. Outspent by both Bills, Scozzafava withdrew from the election, a move Steele praised as "unselfish," allowing the NRC to join the roster of its luminaries officially embracing Hoffman.

4. Yesterday, Scozzafava, a lifelong Republican endorses Owen. The GOP's response? State Party Chair Edward Cox:“Dede Scozzafava’s endorsement today represents a betrayal of the people of the North Country and the people of her party." Similarly, Dick Armey (who supported Hoffman, by the way), “She basically put aside any pretensions and threw in with the Democrats.”

Now, isn't this rather like saying that Julius Caesar betrayed Brutus with his dying words?

And isn't this the fate of moderate Republicans in the modern era? To serve as a reassurance to the less extreme elements of the party, to be used by the dominant, increasingly, er, frothy, hard right, and then discarded and dismissed as traitors when they have the temerity to resent being cast aside? (Remember my Whitty Awards? Named after Chriistie "It's My Party, Too" Whitman, it's gone not only to Colin Powell, and Matthew Dowd, but even to George W. Bush).

Like all good cults, conservatism needs its scapegoats.