Thursday, July 26, 2012

In Catholic News: Reaction to Lynn Sentence, AIDS, and Scottish Catholic Leaders

Having a Conversation

*In Catholic news today (I'm shoehorning a lot of material into my postings today in anticipation of our upcoming trip and my blogging hiatus next week):

Good responses all over the place to the sentencing of Msgr. Lynn in Philadelphia for his role in placing children in danger by protecting pedophile priests.  Two that catch my eye this morning are this Irish Times editorial which maintains that Msgr. Lynn's sentence "marks an important first and a watershed moment for the Catholic Church, not only in the US but internationally," and Susan Matthews's outraged (and rightfully so) response to the press statement that the archdiocese of Philadelphia issued after Lynn was sentenced.

The Irish Times editorial thinks that Lynn's sentence will "reverberate through the church" at a global level, encouraging closer and more proactive scrutiny by legal and criminal systems of the hierarchical coverup of clerical child sex abuse in countries outside the U.S.  Susan Matthews is shocked at the "arrogance" of the Philadelphia archdiocesan response (which she includes in her posting).  She compares it with Penn State's response to the Freeh report: 

Two institutions are faced with the same horrible issue. One handled it with compassion – the other with continued callousness.

I'll leave it to you to work out which of the two institutions earns the badge of compassion, in Matthews's estimation.

At the Bondings blog of New Ways Ministry, Francis DeBernardo echoes Susan Matthews's assessment of Catholic hierarchical obtuseness and arrogance, though his focus is whether the leaders of the Catholic church in the U.S. may be in danger of causing the church to lose tax-exempt status through their overt politicking in the 2012 elections.  DeBernardo summarizes an article discussing this possibility by Nicholas Cafardi at America magazine. 

DeBernardo concludes (and here's where I find echoes of Susan Matthews),

What is even more troubling has been that the response of many bishops to such questions about their tax-exempt status has been to grandstand that their religious liberty is being attacked.  As the statistics Cafardi notes show, it’s time that bishops worry less about religious liberty and more about the crumbling faith of the next generation.

What the bishops care about these days strikes many "ordinary" American Catholics as more than a little astray from the concerns of Jesus and the gospels.  Or so I gather.

In the National Catholic Reporter, Alice Popovici offers a good report re: a Catholic pre-conference that preceded the recent International AIDS Conference in D.C.  Popovici links to two statements of Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, special advisor on HIV and AIDS for Caritas International.  The statements are here and here.  

And here's what strikes me as I read Vitillo's statements and think about this Catholic pre-conference: While Vitillo rightly points to the many wonderful things Catholic groups are doing around the world to provide care for people living with HIV and AIDS, his reports and Catholic statements in general about the AIDS pandemic do not do nearly enough to address the issue of prevention.

It's nice--it's holy and good--to care for people living with and in some cases dying of AIDS.  But it would be nicer still--holier and even better--to do everything possible to prevent people contracting HIV infection in the first place.

Catholic groups shy away from stating the obvious: condoms prevent the spread of HIV.  Condoms prevent men infecting women with the virus, and then transmitting the virus to children.  Though, as Jon O'Brien reminds us recently at Religion Dispatches, Pope Benedict himself has made a praiseworthy statement about the moral licitness of condom use to prevent transmission of HIV, and though South African Bishop Kevin Dowling, who is in the epicenter of the epidemic, has long argued that encouraging people to use condoms to prevent the spread of this deadly disease is the morally right thing to do, Catholic groups continue to talk all too faintly and fearfully about prevention.

This is morally insupportable.  And the choice to have a special all-Catholic "pre-conference" prior to the International AIDS Conference may reinforce, in some people's minds, the judgment that the Catholic church intends to keep addressing HIV-AIDS concerns from within a religious-cultural bubble that prevents Catholics from responding to this crisis in the most morally responsible--and merciful and compassionate--way possible: by assuring that people don't need those heroic ministries of end-of-life care for which we Catholic folks continue to pride ourselves.

It's nice to love people while they're living.  Not only when they're dying.

And speaking of this, in response to my muddled posting a few days ago mixing up Ms. Palin and Ms. Bachmann, Joe O'Leary asked for my thoughts about the newly appointed archbishop of Glasgow, Phillip Tartaglia.  As it happened, just before I read Joe O'Leary's comment, I had gotten via email a copy of a BBC news article reporting that Tartaglia made the following remark to a conference at Oxford last year, re: Scottish MP David Cairns, who died in May 2011 of pancreatitis at the age of 44:

If what I have heard is true about the relationship between physical and mental health of gay men, if it is true, then society has been very quiet about it.

Recently in Scotland there was a gay Catholic MP who died at the age of 44 or so and nobody said anything and why his body should just shut down at that age, obviously he could have had a disease which would have killed anyone, but you seem to hear so many stories about this kind of thing.

But society won't address it.  

Now that he has been made archbishop of Glasgow, Tartaglia is trying to walk back those statements and claim he didn't intend to hurt and his words have been taken out of context. And here's what I said to the email group in which this article was being circulated a day ago:

The archbishop says his words have been taken out of context? In what context does a decent human being ever make a remark suggesting that the death of another human being was somehow merited and deserves scrutiny by the public as an example of what happens to a certain sort of people?

What's wrong with these people? They don't even have basic human decency, let alone the dignity of their cloth and religious profession.

And when called to accountability for their downright tackiness and cruelty, they want to claim they have been taken out of context?!

The hierarchical leaders of the Catholic church in Scotland have been in the business lately of branding themselves as hate-mongers, as Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who has made one inflammatory and outrageously anti-gay statement after another for several years, calls for a national referendum on marriage equality.  The cardinal wants people to vote on whether a minority group should have or deserve basic human rights--not recognizing, apparently, that there have been many points in Scottish history when, if asked to vote on whether Catholics should have rights, the population of the heavily Presbyterian nation would almost certainly have chosen to vote second-class citizenship for the Catholic minority.

Decent people don't urge communities to vote on whether minorities should have human rights.  Nor do decent human beings use the death of other human beings to score moral points and to castigate minorities.  

The Catholic leaders of Scotland, as with their brother bishops in the U.S., have not been behaving like decent human beings.  People who lack basic human decency but claim the right to issue moral diktats often lose credibility.  And that appears to be what's happening to Catholic leaders in Scotland right now.

*I apologize for the glitch that has appeared in my postings just in the past two days.  For reasons unfathomable to me, text in inset quotations is now often appearing with a white highlighting, and the same sometimes happens to text after the inset quotations.  I have tried various ways to overcome the problem, but nothing seems to work.  Will report this to Blogger and see if there's a fix--and meanwhile, my apologies.  The highlighting signifies nothing--nothing other than that there's some bug in the system right now.

No comments: