Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In News: Maciel Legacy and Papacy, Vatican and Violence Against Women, Regnerus Study

In news not unrelated to the papal conclave and the future direction of the Catholic church:

In a hard-hitting article at the Daily Beast site, Jason Berry rehearses the filthy legacy of Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, noting the deep stains it has left on the papacies of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. I like the fact that Berry reminds those tempted to forget that "a glittering chorus of professional Catholics" rose to defend Maciel when the full parameters of his filthy story began to be known--and that several members of this glittering chorus who continue to hold forth in media outlets to interpret Catholicism for the world have never admitted that they were dead wrong about Maciel.

These include George Weigel, whose NBC commentary on the papal transition Frank Cocozzelli discusses in an essay to which I linked yesterday, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, Mary Ann Glendon, and Richard John Neuhaus, now deceased.  Berry: "To this day, not one of the celebrities has apologized to the victims" for defending Maciel.

In this article Berry repeats something he said in an article in National Catholic Reporter several weeks ago that I discussed in February: this is that Pope Benedict, who long knew the full truth about Maciel from Benedict's time heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, sat on vital information about Maciel's story for years because Benedict's overriding concern was to protect John Paul II from the taint of Maciel as Benedict rushed John Paul to canonization: 

Why didn’t the Vatican release all the information on Maciel in 2006, when Benedict sent him off to a life of penance? Barba, who filed a 1998 case seeking Maciel’s ouster and has become a news celebrity in Mexico with his forceful analysis of breaking information, is convinced that Ratzinger, after becoming pope, wanted to minimize the damage done by John Paul’s failure, knowing Rome would push to make John Paul a saint. In spring 2011 Benedict beatified John Paul, the step before sainthood. It would be a dicey move for the next pope to take the final step. 

I think Berry is absolutely correct on this point. I also wonder whether, dicey as it may be to move John Paul to the final point of canonization, the next pope will hesitate to take that step. Something tells me that no matter who is elevated to the papal throne, he'll be eager to show his continuity with John Paul and Benedict precisely by seeing John Paul's canonization through to the end.

In an equally hard-hitting statement, the New York Times today decries the Vatican's obstruction of a U.N. document condemning violence against women around the world. The Times editorial says that both U.N. delegates and observers are reporting that, in alliance with Russia and Iran, the Vatican has been blocking a communiqué of the Commission on the Status of Women that would push governments in various places to take more proactive stances against violence done to women. Among the Vatican's concerns, it appears, is that the proposed statement includes in its definition of rape sexual assault by husbands and partners.

How not to read this report in continuity with the report several days ago that the U.S. Catholic bishops are opposing reauthorization (and see here) of the Violence Against Women Act in the U.S.? Catholic moral theologian Lisa Fullam has a good statement about that issue at Commonweal right now.

But, as always, I'm mystified by the arguments of some of the Commonweal regulars responding to Fullam's statement, who appear to think that opposing acts against violence done to women is thinkable among Catholics as long as there are "political" reasons for such opposition--in the case of the VAWA, the political reason being to slap the uppity gays down and keep them in their place. That's the gist of the argument being made by several Commonweal regulars in response to Lisa Fullam.

Violence against women and gay folks is clearly thinkable for some Catholic centrists, since the full inclusion of gay and lesbian human beings in the Catholic community--as fully human members of that community--is still unthinkable for these same folks. I find this tenor of thinking more than a little disturbing, since it seems to me so spectacularly to miss what Catholicism is all about at its most fundamental levels. And disturbing because one of the highly regarded Commonweal regulars pushing this argument is the same person who once invited me to have an email conversation with him about why gay folks feel excluded from the church, and who then refused to answer the email I sent him in response to that invitation. 

Finally, I highly recommend this important article by Sofia Resnick about what internal emails released by the University of Texas in response to a Freedom of Information request from American Independent are revealing about the deeply flawed Regnerus study, which claims to have proven that same-sex parents are inferior parents (and see Jim Burroway's valuable summary at Box Turtle Bulletin). As Resnick explains, the emails being released prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that, just as critics said from the moment Regnerus's botched study was released, 1) it was bought and paid for by the right-wing Witherspoon Institute and Bradley Foundation, who 2) predetermined its outcome, 3) helped rush the study to publication without adequate peer review, and 4) timed the publication of the study to coincide with the Supreme Court cases now considering the fate of proposition 8 and DOMA.

And who's in the very thick of this mess, colluding with these wealthy right-wing groups to try to sway the Supreme Court with unscientific "evidence" that gay parents are inferior parents via a study that didn't even research gay parents? As Resnick notes, 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently filed a “friend of the court” brief in Perry, arguing that, “A mother and father each bring something unique and irreplaceable to child-rearing that the other cannot.” The brief said that Regnerus’ study found “that children raised by married biological parents fared better in a range of significant outcomes than children raised in same-sex households.” 
But the term “same-sex households” is misleading. The study effectively compared families with two always-married straight parents to some families who only had one parent but were characterized as households headed by gay fathers or lesbian mothers.

Defending violence against women; bashing gay and lesbian human beings: the U.S. Catholic bishops these days are leaving quite a legacy for American Catholics, aren't they? Much to be ashamed of for Catholics with sound consciences . . . .

(My gratitude to Kathy Hughes for mentioning the Jason Berry article to me.)

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