The Cardinal and the Chancellor

In the continuing media blitz on sex abuse and cover-up, two items of note today:

First, the former archbishop of San Francisco in a PBS interview at Rock’s website. The video is embedded there. It will be interesting to see if the bishops, complaining that the media doesn’t promote the positives of the Church, will compliment secular journalists when they do ask the right questions:

MARGARET WARNER: So you don’t think it’s appropriate that people hold the church to a higher standard? There is more focus on the church?

CARDINAL WILLIAM LEVADA: That’s a fair question. I think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard in the sense that this is not something that one would have expected that a bishop or anybody in the church, parents none of us would have expected this but I think the causes we will see go back to changes in society that the church and priests were not prepared for, particularly changes involving how to be a celibate person in a time of the sexual revolution, that’s one of the causes I’d say.

Fair question indeed, and interesting response, if a somewhat evasive one. The cardinal doesn’t allude to the nature of the Church as a holy society, or its leaders as dedicated to a higher moral standard than the Boy Scouts or the town high school. As for the sexual revolution, I wonder how the cardinal might have improved on the blame game were he a student of history. Other ages have known sexual promiscuity in society and among the hierarchy. How did they cope?

That said, note the concession that bishops were wholly unprepared from the 70’s on.

A lay man and father of three asked for help in 2002. He asked his bishop to take the cover-up seriously.

The truth is that our bishops are not doing all they can to stop the sexual abuse of minors by their brother priests; they’re each doing all they care to. Like most Catholics I’m stunned and horrified that there’s a distinction, but after the disclosures of the past few weeks you can’t deny there still is.

Clearly, most of the rest of the Catholic Church is where Bishop Gregory and his colleagues were eight years ago. The link to David Spotanski’s memo is here. Worth a read. Definitely worth a read.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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9 Responses to The Cardinal and the Chancellor

  1. Jim McK says:

    Quite an admission if you ask me:
    I think the causes we will see go back to changes in society that the church and priests were not prepared for

    Whose responsibility was it to be prepared for these things, if not the hierarchy? It is not society’s fault that there was a sexual revolution; it is the bishop’s fault that they were unprepared for it. And it suggests a question: Do the bishops today know what to do about the sexual revolution?

    I think V2 was called to address this unpreparedness (which is broader than the sexual revolution. But the problem has been around at least since the French Revolution, with the Second Vatican Council the only collective effort to face it responsibly.

  2. Sam Schmitt says:

    The Church should be held to a higher standard, but that doesn’t mean the press gets a free pass for basically ignoring almost all of the other sexual abuse that happens out there.

    That is, if their reporting is really about helping victims . . .

  3. Liam says:

    My papers cover abuse by teachers, coaches and ministers of other denominations as avidly as Catholic parishes, and up the reporting chain to the school/YMCA administration or church administration as applicable where there is a coverup or shuffling at that level (my local YMCA went through this very thing for most of 2009). But these organizations are not as large, and the administrative levels not worldwide, so the news stories are just not on the same scale. But bleating that the non-Catholic stuff is being ignored is twaddle.

  4. Bruce in Kansas says:

    @Liam:

    So it is the size of the organization and administrative level are what makes the stories of abuse in the Catholic Church front-page new? Even forty-year-old stories?

    It’s not the Church’s outrageous claim to represent Almighty God?

    Twaddle is a nice, strong word.

    Consider it for your post.

  5. Todd says:

    Bruce,

    I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt on both your tone and that you may have drastically misread Liam’s comment.

    It is a reality, like it or not, that the Church is what it is.

    It is also a reality that child sexual abuse and its institutional cover-up, understandably, generates numerous strong feelings.

    Keep your aim straight, my friend, and your comments civil and you can dissent as much as you like on this site.

  6. Bruce in Kansas says:

    Todd,

    Fair enough.

    I don’t know your regulars here, and apologize if I stepped on anyone’s toes, but to characterize the citing of facts pointing out the majority of sexual abuse is not in the Church as “twaddle” seems less than civil.

    My point is the reason the Church gets the lion’s share (by far) of coverage of sexual abuse is NOT because of the level of adminstration, but because the Church stands as a witness to Jesus Christ, infallibly teaching on faith and morals, ordaining only men, promoting the discipline of celibacy, and promoting the dignity of the human person.

    The fact that she still exists after 2,000 years and still continues to do and teach as she does makes certain people upset. The cases of sinful clergy and sinful cover-ups, even decades old, renew the targeting of the Church because of her association with Christ.

    Even after strict policies are emplaced to address causes and prevent future cover-ups, the Church is singularly targeted because of her claims to preach, teach and sanctify.

    Maybe that is what Liam meant by organization and level of adminsitration?

    If so, then I agree.

    But if we are supposed to buy into some media impartiality in this treatment of our Church, count me out.

  7. Sam Schmitt says:

    Liam,

    Sounds like your local papers are far better than average. I don’t recall any “investigative reporting” on the front page about the horrendous problem of sexual abuse in the NYC schools in the NYT (only 1 percent of teachers who *admitted* to sexual abuse of a student lost their license to teach, etc, etc.)

    But heck, even Kenneth Woodard, hardly a knee-jerk conservative, calls the NYT coverage unfair – along with the likes of Ed Koch and Alan Dershowitz –

    http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/church-%E2%80%98times%E2%80%99

    And Bruce, no need to posit any conspiracies – just look to where the money is.

  8. Mike says:

    My point is the reason the Church gets the lion’s share (by far) of coverage of sexual abuse is NOT because of the level of adminstration, but because the Church stands as a witness to Jesus Christ, infallibly teaching on faith and morals, ordaining only men, promoting the discipline of celibacy, and promoting the dignity of the human person.

    I would say you’re right in one respect: it is because the Church represents itself that way that so much attention is paid to its transgressions. Hold yourself up as representing God and the evil you commit becomes all the more noticeable.

  9. Tim says:

    I do not understand the position of those who feel that the media unfairly singles out the Roman Catholic Church regarding sexual abuse by the clergy. Doesn’t it simply matter that the truth be told no matter how many stories we have to read in the press? The media isn’t going to cause Roman Catholicism to come to an end. If anything I believe that this horrible reality will bring about goodness, change and renewal in ways we have yet to understand. The Spirit will blow where it wishes.

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