Saturday, September 8, 2012

News Roundup: Dolan at DNC, More on Finn Conviction, Eric Erickson and Michael Sean Winters

Some end-of-week commentary that touches on issues I've discussed here of late:

1. At Salon, Sarah Posner looks at the Democrats' decision to have His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan bless the proceedings of their convention, and wonders why Democrats still have such difficulty speaking truth to power.  As she argues, Dolan's real role at the DNC--a role the party handed him by inviting him on stage--wasn't to bless the convention but to signal to conservatives his condemnation of the DNC platform.

And then she adds:  

This all happened on the same day that Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City was convicted of failing to report to authorities the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who had a “pornography problem.” The conviction was the first of its kind in the ongoing church sex abuse scandal, with the case offering damning evidence that Finn failed to take any meaningful action to prevent Ratigan from taking lewd photographs of young girls on playgrounds and at church functions. Recently the New York Times reported that Dolan himself, while archbishop of Milwaukee, authorized payments to abusive priests so they would agree to be defrocked without a protracted internal church process. The report prompted the advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests to protest, “In what other occupation, especially one working with families and operating schools and youth programs, is an employee given a cash bonus for raping and sexually assaulting children?”

2. In an editorial today, the New York Times finds the criminal conviction of Bishop Robert Finn this week "a setback to the hierarchy’s efforts to repair the church’s reputation."  As the editorial notes, what is dismaying about the Finn case is that it involved cover-up of deeds committed in the last several years--years after the hierarchy began assuring us they had the abuse situation under control.

But the editorial finds glimmers of hope in a U.S. bishop's criminal conviction:

The conviction was evidence of the growing resolve of secular authorities, however belated, to venture up the hierarchical ladder in their search for accountability. The scandal has led to the dismissal and criminal investigation of more than 700 priests, even as their superiors have been spared — despite years of diocesan scheming to buy off victims and rotate rogue priests to new parishes.

For a summary of why the editorial notes how recent the events of the Finn case were, and of precisely what has happened in the Finn-Ratigan case, see Laurie Goodstein in the Times today and the very valuable detailed timeline embedded in Joshua McElwee's National Catholic Reporter report about the Finn conviction.

3.  And the cost to the Catholic faithful of the hierarchy's obstruction of justice, subterfuges, and lies?  It goes beyond the loss of the church's moral credibility, though that loss is incalculably grave.  It's a dollars-and-cents loss as well: in a subsequent article about the Finn case, Josuha McElwee reports that, according to the Kansas City diocese's own calculations, the price tag of defending the diocese and bishop in court has been, up to now, $1.39 million.

As a reader of the McElwee article, Austin, notes, if you add up all the figures reported by the diocese to deal with the mess Finn created by shielding Ratigan and failing to comply with criminal law requirements in reporting him to the police after child pornography was found on the priest's computer, the price tag comes to $2.6 million.

The millions on millions of dollars that the leaders of the Catholic church and organizations like the Knights of Columbus which work hand-and-glove with them on these initiatives have spent in recent years to deal with their misuse of pastoral authority in the abuse crisis and to make gay and lesbian human beings miserable: deeply sinful.  We will answer to God at the end of our lives for this misuse of resources given to us by divine goodness.

4. Finally, Jillian Rayfield reported at Salon yesterday that a petition by the group UltraViolet calling for CNN to fire Eric Erickson for calling the opening night of the DNC the Vagina Monologues garnered over 100,000 signatures in two days.  

And I repeat: it was on the very same day on which the news about Erickson and his juvenile misogynistic tweet broke that Michael Sean Winters of NCR hopped over to CNN to write a posting at its religion blog maintaining that the Democrats have made the "disastrous" decision to listen to women's groups and not conservative Catholic voters in swing states re: women's issues. Like the provision for contraception in health care plans, as mandated by HHS. . . . 

Not only does Winters stand side by side with the less than admirable Eric Erickson in his misogynistic attacks on women and women's rights.  He also communicates to the American public that we American Catholics, on whose behalf he claims to speak, stand with him and Erickson.

And this angers and appalls me.  I don't stand with Mr. Winters on issues of women's rights and contraception.  And as an American Catholic, I resent having myself and my church represented in the public square by misogynists.

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