Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sometimes, Conspiracy is No Theory

You've probably read the bad news from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  If not, brace yourself.

Documents disclosed recently demonstrate clearly that Roger Cardinal Mahony and his assistant, Father Thomas Curry (now Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese), actively conspired to protect pedophile priests from prosecution.  As late as 1987, they were shuffling from parish to parish and diocese to diocese priests whom they knew to be abusive felons; in one case, they discussed sending one to a psychiatrist who was also an attorney, specifically to use attorney-client privilege as a way around the reporting required of health-care professionals.

The story is sickening.  (Read it here, or anywhere else on the net).  Perhaps the most frustrating parts of it are the public apologies that both men have offered.  As Catholic Culture reports:
 “I wish to acknowledge and apologize for those instances when I made decisions regarding the treatment and disposition of clergy accused of sexual abuse that in retrospect appear inadequate or mistaken,” said Bishop Curry. “Most especially, I wish to express my sympathy to all the victims of sexual abuse by clergy. Like many others, I have come to a clearer understanding over the years of the causes and treatment of sexual abuse.” 
What is this nonsense?  Does this man seriously expect us to believe that, as late as the 1980s, he didn't have a "clear understanding" that sexually abusing minors was not just bad pastoral care but a serious crime?  That it had the potential -- indeed, the likelihood -- to do permanent and lasting psychological damage?  Because if he didn't understand those things, then it is simply because he wasn't paying attention.  The rest of us sure as hell did.

And even if he didn't understand, well, so what? The criminal code was clear as Waterford crystal.  All he had to do was obey the freaking law, and see to it that priests who couldn't do likewise were properly punished.  His "understanding" wasn't relevant then and it isn't relevant now.

Mahony does no better.  He says he is sorry, and that he prays for the victims.  That is, literally, the least he can do.  Granted, the archdiocese has reached a record $660 million settlement with victims, which counts for more -- but may still not be enough.  The fact is that Roman Catholicism in America, and by extension Christianity in America, may never recover from the damage that that these men and others like them did to its credibility.

We'd point out that these scandals simply demonstrate that, underneath the truly scabrous polemical attacks leveled against Roman Catholicism by Protestants and atheists over the centuries, there was at least a grain of terrible, painful truth.  We would point that out, we repeat, if only our last story hadn't been about a Methodist minister who beat his wives to death, and if Stalin hadn't been an atheist.

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