Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fintan O'Toole on Vatican Bullying of Irish Priests: "Loud on Liberals, but Silent on Abuse"

Writing in the Irish Times, Fintan O'Toole laments the unbelievable cruelty (the "sadistic humiliation," he calls it) that top Catholic officials are now dishing out to a whole generation of post-Vatican II Irish priests (and, I'd add, nuns in the U.S.) who have served the church with their whole hearts, minds, and souls.  And who now become the enemy, to be hounded, hunted into the ground, whipped and cowed--as a demonstration of the power of the little, threatened men on top of the system.

And he reminds us of how incapable those little, threatened men have long professed to be when it comes to dealing with priests abusing minors and bishops protecting those priests.  In that case, top church officials have always claimed that every bishop and priest is an independent contractor doing his own thing, and what can the boys on top do to change any of this?

But now:

When priests were raping children, the institutional hierarchy was wringing its hands and pleading “what can we do?” The Vatican was very busy and very far away. But when a priest makes some mild suggestions that women might be entitled to equality, the church is suddenly an efficient police state that can whip that priest into line. The Vatican, which apparently couldn’t read any of the published material pointing to horrific abuse in church-run institutions, can pore over the Sunday World with a magnifying glass, looking for the minutest speck of heresy.   
An institution so stupid that it thinks its Irish faithful is more scandalised by Brian D’Arcy than by Brendan Smyth is not worth anyone’s anger. It is doing a far better job of destroying itself than its worst enemies could dream of.

This is what the top leaders of the Catholic church are now working double-time to do: slap into shape aging priests and nuns who did nothing except believe that the promise of Vatican II was a valid promise, and act on that promise.  In the process, the leaders of the church are creating the image of a church led by men so venal, so vile, that they will gladly bully a group of nuns whose median age is over 70, and on whose labor the American Catholic church has significantly depended for its stability and for the accomplishment of its mission.  And a set of Irish priests who have done nothing more than try to keep theological conversations alive in their local church.

While those doing the slapping have been protecting and defending child rapists.  And all of the bullying is being done to demonstrate their power to control others, and to divert attention from their obscene failure to protect children in danger, over and over again.

Jesus or the church?  If the church in question is this church led by men of this character, that question is not difficult for me to answer--and I doubt it's difficult for increasing numbers of other Catholics to answer.

(O'Toole's piece brings to mind for me Colman McCarthy's wonderful article in Salon several years ago about the roots of the bullying in the papal regime of John Paul II.  The picture of JPII Salon and McCarthy use to illustrate this article speaks volumes to me about what our church has become--and whom some of us now admire as the "good pope," to the consternation of many of the rest of us, who remember vividly how he and his right-hand man Ratzinger made one theologian after another, whose voices the church has sorely needed, suffer.  And how they deliberately destroyed a theological movement working to lift people in developing nations from poverty and oppression.)

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