A prominent Catholic–not a bishop–is the target of accusations. Sex. Drugs. I hope it will all get sorted out.
While I don’t care for the person’s cultivated style (I prefer friendship to hero-worship), I feel a degree of empathy. In my very first full-time parish assignment, I was the target of vicious gossip. So when a person claims she or he has been wrongly maligned, unless I know the facts, I tend to side with the underdog.
Unfortunately, my pastor was a bumbler on it all. Probably an active participant on the gossip end of things. My learned distrust of people in authority was reinforced by it. Most of the priests I’ve worked with don’t have a clear head about dealing with gossip in their parishes or in treating employees fairly. Maybe their lack of real-world management. Things tend to look like bishops fumbling the management of sex abusers instead of issues being aired and questions being asked. So when people get suspended, I have my own thoughts about it, but I have to try harder to suspend my inner judgment against management.
The defense of the accused is in full internet flower. While I appreciated the loyalty of my friends I did not need them to start rallies on my behalf or suggest that the accuser or the pastor were the spawn of somebody with red skin and a tail. I went on my planned driving vacation. I spent time with my friends. I let them kid around with me and poke fun at the whole sorry event. Humor helped a lot. Angry simmering did not.
I dismiss the whole idea than the blame can be placed on someone other than a direct participant. Wasn’t that Adam and Eve’s schtick? The serpent made me do it. The woman made me eat it. Can we take responsibility for our own sins and encourage others to do likewise?
I remember Cardinal Bernardin’s episode with false witness. One friend of mine was practically falling over with glee that the whole post-conciliar liberal hierarchy was tumbling down before his very eyes. The false accusation didn’t scar the cardinal’s reputation. At first, it only hardened battle lines in the culture war. And when it all shook out, his political opponents went skulking off to invent the Catholic internet. So everybody was happy (sort of) in the end.
This is an accusation of serious misbehavior. It is not a supernatural event. None of us are so holy that a fall, even a big fall, should be an earth-shaking surprise. I was innocent in the episode I mentioned above. But I certainly have committed serious sin in my 52 years of life on other occasions. The devil didn’t make me do it. Nor did my flawed parental upbringing. Nor was it poor diet, television, the internet, or pressure at work. I alone am responsible for my sins. That is true of every player in this latest accusation.
I’m also concerned–but not surprised–about the cult of personality as it rears its head in all this. Blame the devil. Blame the accuser. Blame a medical condition of the accused. Start a facebook page. Attack those who do not ascribe to the group-think. Criticize one’s favorite boogeymen anew: bishops, feminists, liberals, Muslims, used car dealers, etc.. Feel better amongst one’s deepest insecurities.
There is a word to be received in all this, perhaps. But the culture war is so much more fun than a searching examination of conscience.