Tuesday, November 6, 2018

With the Catholic Bishops, It's Always Someone Else's Sin That's Responsible for the Abuse Crisis: A Response to the Bishops' Prayer-and-Fasting Regime


The preceding announcement is a prelude to the gathering of the U.S. Catholic bishops that will occur next week in Baltimore. Catholic News Service editor Julie Asher tweeted the following yesterday on behalf of the bishops:

In my view, this showy announcement about prayer, fasting, reptentance, and conversion is diversionary. As I said recently, when it comes to the abuse horror show, it's always someone else's sin — never the sin of the bishops. It's always someone else's sin, when the leaders of the Catholic church address that horror show.  

The statement that "we pray for … the conversion and just punishment of perpetrators and concealers of sexual abuse” does not own their responsibility for protecting and concealing sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people by Catholic clergy. It rhetorically disguises the bishops' responsibility.

"We pray for their conversion" is a different statement from, "We pray for our conversion."

With the Catholic bishops, the implication is repeatedly that someone else's sin is responsible for the abuse horror show — not the bishops' sin, as they have lied and covered up abuse.

Back towards the end of September, as I was commenting on the burning of a rainbow flag by Chicago priest Paul Kalchik, I noted that on the weekend before Kalchik organized his stunt, presenting it as an "exorcism" and purification by fire of the church he pastored, a Catholic group in Malta held a rosary rally for reparation against the LGBTQ agenda. I noted this event as I was discussing the weaponization of Catholic religious symbols that is central to the story of Father Kalchik's burning of the rainbow flag. 

I noted, in particular, how central Catholic symbols — the rosary, processions, public shows of prayer and fasting — have been repeatedly used over the course of Catholic history to target demonized others in scapegoating attempts to transfer the sins of the church community to those hapless others. I told you that we could expect to see much more of the kind of thing anti-LGBTQ Catholics in Malta organized during pride weekend this year — a rosary procession demonizing LGBTQ people and implying that Catholic symbols are weapons meant to be turned against the queer community. 

I said that we'd be seeing more public processions featuring the rosary in which Catholics are led by bishops to assert the need to "purify" the church, as had just happened in the diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, at the time I wrote that potsting — a diocese with a dismal track record when it comes to LGBTQ rights and LGBTQ people, so that we'd be naive to imagine that the rhetoric about purification and the weaponized rosary procession that took place there several weeks back do not have a loud, strong anti-LGBTQ subtext.

With the bishops, it's always someone else's sin that's responsible for the abuse horror show — not their own. All the talk of reparation, penance, purification, prayer and fasting now: it's about shifting blame for the sinful cover-up of clerical abuse of minors from the bishops themselves, and, quite specifically, I fear, to the LGBTQ community. 

Will the diversion work? Well, just have a gander at the thread of responses to the USCCB announcement at the head of the posting, or to the USCCB's recent tweet asking Catholics to give to the Campaign for Human Development, and decide for yourself whether they have much moral capital left. Gay bashing may play well for them, but standing on the street corners and praying in loud voices so others can see them — perhaps not so well.

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