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Well, Here It Goes: an Internecine Catholic Battle During Lent

Since Greg Popcak posted a response to Rod Dreher's recent WSJ piece, the issue has begun to work its way around the Catholic blog world. I wrote about it yesterday. Earlier today, Popcak responded to an email from Rod in a wholly, and insultingly, inadequate manner, subsequently replacing it with a more measured post. Meanwhile, Minute Particulars Mark took the opportunity to post something, for the first time, with which I strongly disagree. And Victor Lams concurs with Popcak, sparking response from Catholic Light.

Victor concentrates on Popcak's assertion that Rod wants a "SuperPope." Frankly, I don't see that in Rod's piece. What I do see is a request for some response from the Vatican to the Scandal. For an example that draws from the column, why not have Cardinal Laghi, who recently appealed to President Bush to let Saddam remain in power, swing through Pennsylvania to suggest to Bishop Joseph Adamec that threatening excommunication for public disagreement might not be exactly prudent.

In contrast, Mark concentrates on Rod's connection of the Scandal to the Vatican's activism against war in Iraq. Making use of a sports analogy, Mark writes:

The foul -- at least to me though I know many disagree -- is [Dreher's] suggesting an analogy between the Church's response to the sexual abuse crisis and its response to the Iraqi crisis; this claim is specious at best and disingenuous at worst. ...

Beneath Mr. Dreher's persistent stance of righteous indignation seems to be the assumption that if we the unenlightened really knew the horrific details of the sexual abuse scandal we would agree with him that it reflects a systemic moral corruption in the Church. I, frankly, resent this. Is anyone seriously denying that the victims have been harmed, in many cases irreparably, and suffered a terrible, terrible ordeal? I don't think so. Is anyone really insisting that the responses of many bishops were appropriate and continue to be appropriate in light of all we now know? I don't think so. Mr. Dreher seems to be doing the Laimbeer flop, "careening to the floor in reaction to the slightest tap from an opponent," when he attempts to convert every moral matter the Church addresses back to the sexual abuse situation.

I am no less eager for the entire abuse scandal to fade into history than anybody else, but the problem with Mark's argument, as I see it, is that the situations are analogous. The underlying theme that relates them even beyond chronological proximity has to do with addressing egregious abuses of power. Through wrong-headed policies and approaches as well as a desire not to cause disruption in the status quo, abusive priests were shuffled around from parish to parish, where they abused again. Furthermore, this treatment seems to have helped to promote a broader moral corruption. Now, the Vatican is working to perpetuate wrong-headed policies and approaches, to avoid disruption in the status quo, that will keep a monstrous dictator in power and increase his leverage, and the leverage of every despot in the world, against the only substantial secular force for liberation in the world. Furthermore, granting undue leverage to the United (Socialist) Nations and those nations willing to defy the impotent international body will serve to promote a broader international degradation.

Who could not link the two "moral matters" last April when, in the midst of the child-abuse scandal, they saw a picture of a representative of the Vatican grinning and clasping hands with a man who perpetuates the practice of sending children to blow up other children?

It occurs to me that Catholics of my general position, which may include Rod Dreher to some degree, are finding ourselves attacked from both sides, and by the same people. On the one hand, we are accused of a variant of the Americanist Heresy, as when Popcak so vehemently criticizes the exercise of some meager influence on Rod's part through free expression of his opinion. On the other hand, we are accused of wanting the Pope to play emperor and "micromanage" the American Church. Taken together, if they are not just contradictory assertions growing from inadequate consideration, these criticisms act as an ideological box with the effect of insisting that our heads remain bowed and our lips sealed. Taking this strategy, elements within our Church who are clearly acting in contravention to the Church's moral resolutions would be free of pressure from both below, among the laity, and above, from the Vatican.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:01 AM EST

1 Comment

Bravo. Very, very well said.

The last paragraph captures the problem very well.

Dale Price @ 03/10/2003 11:23 AM EST