Friday, February 11, 2011

Philadelphia Catholic Official Arrested: Survivors to Catholics--Get Educated!

Some readers may know that yesterday, Philadelphia's district attorney announced the indictment of three priests on charges of rape, indecent sexual assault, and other criminal charges.  Also arrested was Monsignor William Lynn, the Secretary for Clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under Cardinal Bevilacqua. Msgr. Lynn is charged with endangering the welfare of a child due to his handling of cases of abuse and allegations about abuse.  (Here's the DA's presentment.)

As I read about this story, I'm struck by a point made in today's editorial of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC): get educated.  Catholics need to get educated.  Stop cooperating with evil.  Stop giving money to any organization that uses your money to work evil.  Do what Catholics should always do: demand justice, work for justice, and follow the path of justice no matter where it leads:  

Today’s events in Philadelphia cry out for all Catholics in the pews in Philadelphia no matter how shocked they may be by today’s arrests to drop their blindfolds and educate themselves about sexual abuse in the Church. Go to the primary source: the victims. Hear their stories. Listen to them. Act as Catholics should act: demand justice no matter where the journey to justice leads.

And as I read the response to this story by some frequent contributors to threads at America's "In All Things" blog, I have to conclude all the more decisively that NSAC is right on target: Catholics desperately need to get educated.  Drop the blinders.  Stop the defensive, belligerent, knee-jerk reaction of special pleading on behalf of church officials.  Listen to the testimony of survivors of clerical sexual abuse.  Learn something, for God's sake.  Something about truth-telling and justice--core Catholic values.  And about love.

What strikes me, too, as I read through the thread to which I've just directed readers is this: the two gentlemen whose immediate response is to engage in defensive, knee-jerk, belligerent special pleading on behalf of the indicted priests have an interesting and clearly apparent track record on the America threads.  Their pitch re: yesterday's indictments: don't leap to conclusions.  Don't judge these priests.

But their track record on other threads at America?  Anytime anything is posted on these threads about their brother and sister Catholics who happen to be gay or lesbian, these same two gentlemen leap into the conversation immediately to spread judgment and condemnation all around.  Their brother and sister Catholics who happen to be gay or lesbian are judged and dismissed from the outset of any conversation.

Interesting, isn't it?  Some Catholics who bend over backwards to make excuses for priests credibly accused of abusing children, and who tell us not to judge those priests, are also ferociously intent to accuse gay and lesbian persons of every crime in the book.  To prejudge gay and lesbian human beings without ever even hearing the stories of those human beings. 

Don't judge the men of God.  But please do judge the gays.  It's almost as if these two agendas are correlated, isn't it?

It's almost as if those who defend an all male old boys' club in which males are given exceeding power and privilege, and have long been allowed to skirt the law as they exercise that power and privilege, are also predisposed to defend male heterosexual power and privilege in general, anywhere it appears to be under critical scrutiny.  It's as if one of the driving forces in the life of the Catholic church for some time now has been the boys' club dynamic--a dynamic that is all about turning the institution into a bastion of power and privilege for heterosexual males (or, in quite a few cases, males who posture as heterosexual and uphold the power and privilege of heterosexual males).

This is why I argued yesterday that far more fundamental and more far-reaching changes have to be made in the way the priesthood functions, if the church expects to become sound again.  Opening the door to married priests and ordaining women will not be magic fixes for the systemic problems of the Catholic church.  Those problems are rooted in the misallocation of power, in the assumption that some human beings are, by virtue of gender and sexual orientation, of a higher worth than other human beings.

Until those beliefs are addressed--until Catholics educate themselves about issues of gender and sexual orientation and start demanding real, meaningful justice in their institutions, particularly re: issues of gender and sexual orientation--the underlying dynamics that have resulted in the horrendous abuse of minors by Catholic clergy will remain in place, and won't shift, even with married priests and women priests.  Until the Catholic church begins to face the injustice it has done to many people as it has turned itself into a bastion of power and privilege for heterosexual males, it is not going to move forward to any effective solution to the abuse crisis.

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