(This is Neil)
I’m looking for a word. Perhaps there isn’t such a word. Maybe there is. I think that there should be such a word. But let me clarify: I’m not looking for this word because I want to repeat it endlessly, as part of a marketing strategy, to try to gradually shape your view of reality. I’m interested in precision.
As part of a Liturgy of Repentance at Dublin’s St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Cardinal Séan O’Malley of Boston just said the following (my emphasis):
Jesus is always on the side of the victim, bringing compassion and mercy. Jesus is not just the healer in the Gospel. He identifies with the sick, suffering, homeless, all innocent victims of violence and abuse and all survivors of sexual abuse. The Parable ends with injunction; ‘Go and do likewise!’; just as Jesus turns His love and compassion to those who have been violently attacked or sexually abused. We want to be part of a Church that puts survivors, the victims of abuse first, ahead of self-interest, reputation and institutional needs.
Others have pointed out the disastrous consequences of focusing on “self-interest, reputation and institutional needs.” For instance, in Russell Shorto’s recent story about the Irish Church in the New York Times Magazine, the Murphy Commission is quoted as saying that the “interests of church officials ‘were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church, and the preservation of its assets.’” All other considerations were “subordinated to these priorities.”
And, of course, Pope Benedict’s Pastoral Letter to the Catholics in Ireland mentioned “a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person.”
Do we have a word for this sort of “misplaced concern” for the appearance of the church? I refer to a superficial fascination with the church as universal, timeless, free from contamination, with a hierarchy immune to any possible confusion coming from undifferentiation – perhaps all to better serve as a system of control over its own members and the wider society.
This “misplaced concern” seems to be theologically problematic. Obviously, it has prevented us from recognizing that “Jesus is always on the side of the victim.” (Cardinal Schönborn: “When the victims now speak, then God speaks to us …”) And it seems quite possible that it is rooted in a desire to escape from vulnerability and mortality.
But do we have a specific word for it? Again, it really seems like we should …
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