Why are you still Catholic?
Knowing what we know about the Catholic Church’s 70+ years of protecting child-rapists, I marvel that anyone is still a Catholic. I recognize that I am an outsider, so I understand that may be naive. And I have some nostalgia for the Church and recognize the good things over the centuries that the Catholic Church has done. But I truly hope that every individual believer in Christ who counts themselves as members of the Catholic Church can answer this question: “You know without question or doubt that your Church, your Pope protected, provided refuge and covered for men who raped children. So why are you still Catholic?”
There might be good answers to that. I’ll admit, I’m sure they wouldn’t satisfy me. But I appreciate the effort of Andrew Sullivan to face head on the horror and nightmare that has been the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse problem, and still maintain his faith in that most terrible of institutions. I highly recommend his long post today, Nostra Maxima Culpa.
I learned here that in the 1940s, the Catholic Chruch was operating a network of Psychiatric Clinics for serial rapist Priests. The man who ran these clinics wrote to his Bishop in 1957: “We are amazed to find how often a man who would be behind bars if he were not a priest is entrusted with the cura animarum (guardian of souls).” That was in 1957.
For decades afterward, some tried to break this problem in to the public, and The Church, the Vatican, the Pope prevented it. Men who would be behind bars were instead hidden from public recourse, kept from the law, allowed to serve, allowed to guard the souls of the children they raped. Eventually, the very Catholic Official who oversaw everything having to do with that pesky child-rape issue was selected to serve as Pope Benedict. And this is progress on the problem?
Hopefully every Catholic can answer: Why are you still Catholic?
Sullivan tries to answer that. He says this:
There was a slogan in the years of AIDS. It was Silence = Death. What is unforgettable about this documentary is that the loudest voices come from the most vulnerable of all – deaf children who are now deaf adults. The loudest voices were those who could not speak. If I have hope for my church – and I sincerely believe Jesus will never finally abandon us, however corrupt and sinful we become – it is because of this fact. The power of the powerless is what helped stop this mass violation of the souls of children. The change came not from the top, which remains foully corrupted, but from the very margins of the margins: the consciences and courage of those who could not hear evil until it was upon them, but who were surrounded by it. And spoke up. As children. And, then, as adults.
When will the rest of us do the same? When will we Catholics insist in the prosecution of this Pope and this hierarchy for what can only be called – given its duration and gravity and sheer scale – a crime against humanity. When will we lose the deference to a clerical elite that has become its own self-perpetuating clique of sexual dysfunction, that has lost even the most basic moral authority, that even now refuses to hold itself to account.
What, one wonders, would Jesus do? My answer to that ultimately unanswerable question is simple: listen to the survivors. Even those who can only speak in silence and sign:
So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
It’s not satisfying to me, but at least he calls for the prosecution of the Pope, and the dismantling of a hierarchy for crimes unimaginable. I guess that would be a start.