Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Right-Wing Catholics Continue Blaming Liberalism, Sexual Revolution, and Eclipse of Machismo for Abuse Crisis

Apologists for the current Catholic regime continue to work hard to pin the blame for the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church on Vatican II and the shifting sexual mores of the 1960s and 1970s.  Mark Judge's meme: in the last 40 years, "liberal Catholics" have undermined orthodoxy, and the predictable result is rot in the priesthood.  Rot most apparent in the abuse crisis.

The only problem with this elegantly neat explanatory schema: the facts continue stubbornly to resist the schema.  To take one case among many: Father Ryan Erickson, who hanged himself in 2004 after having abused minors and having murdered two men, was ordained in 2000--in the last 40 years.  When, per Judge's schema, the priesthood was full of liberal rot.

And far from being a liberal, Erickson was a strong, committed crusader for conservative Catholicism and conservative political views, who sought to impose reactionary liturgical practices on his parish.  He was also precisely the kind of conservative man's-man priest that Michael Rose's Goodbye, Good Men, recommended by Mark Judge at the end of his analysis of sixties liberalism as the problem, imagines we need in order to clear the rot from the priesthood.  Erickson could hunt, shoot, smoke cigars (and torture cats and dogs) with the best of them.  And those wonderful right-wing liturgies at which he presided?  He presided with a revolver strapped to his waist under his vestments.

If the case of Erickson teaches us anything, what it teaches us is how fatuous is the attempt to blame liberalism or the sexual revolution for the problems that a rigid, patriarchal, autocratic, and homophobic Catholic leadership has created within the Catholic church by hiding abusive priests and blocking attempts of lay Catholics and others to know the full scope of the problem and its cover-up.  The Erickson case teaches us, too, how plain dumb is the ongoing infatuation of conservative Catholics like Bill O'Reilly with machismo as a sane model for healthy males and a healthy society.  O'Reilly has recently criticized fellow Catholic John Boehner for his lack of "tough" stoicism and his "sissy" way of crying.  (Yes, that John Boehner, and no, I am not making this up.)

Ryan Erickson was a tough man's man who attended a Catholic seminary in the heyday of the "liberal" post-Vatican II period, when Catholics of the ilk of Judge want us to think the seminaries were inundated with limp-wristed liberal sissies who had bought into the anything-goes mentality of sexual freedom of the 1960s.  Once ordained, Erickson exerted tough masculine authoritarian control over his parish and did everything possible to demonstrate to his parishioners that the priesthood is a vocation for tough manly men--not for limp-wristed, sobbing liberal sissies.

And all the while, even as he was hunting and shooting, ruling his parish with a man's iron fist, imposing conservative rubrics on his parish's liturgical life, he was molesting minors.  And he went on to murder two men and commit suicide.

Liberalism, or the lack of manly men in the priesthood, is clearly not the problem here.  To understand what's creating the rot in the Catholic church today, rot that has led to the abuse situation and its cover-up, we need to look elsewhere--beyond the simplistic liberalism-as-problem schema and the wretchedly stupid bring-back-manly-men solution to the problem.

H/t to Bishop Accountability's Abuse Tracker site for the link to Mark Judge's article.

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