Sunday, May 27, 2012
How about the truth?
This week Msgr. Lynn’s criminal trial for child endangerment revealed great insight into what passes for church hierarchy’s “logic.” Aware that Fr. Stanley Gana also slept with women, abused alcohol and embezzled church funds, Msgr. Lynn and his bosses left this serial child rapist in active ministry with access to children reasoning that his other egregious behaviors disqualified him from being a “pure pedophile.”
I think it’s safe to assume all pedophiles are “impure” rather than “pure.” Despite Lynn’s inglorious explanation, the question remains: Pure or impure pedophile, why was Fr. Gana left in ministry?
Similarly inverted “logic” was used this week to arrest a whistleblower for his part in exposing corruptions in the Vatican and Vatican bank rather than arresting the parties actually responsible for the corruptions, i.e. the pope and several ordained Vatican officials. The pope called the exposure of his and his leadership team’s corruptions, “criminal”, not the corrupt behaviors themselves.
Perhaps since they committed other egregious behaviors like re-instating a holocaust denying bishop, enabling pedophile clergy, unjustly sanctioning theologians, launching a war on women, unceremoniously removing clergy who disagree with them, forcing an inaccurate and unwanted English liturgy translation, and giving preferential treatment to orthodox bullying organizations, they do not consider themselves “purely corrupt.”
I think it’s safe to assume that all collaborators in corruption are “impure.” The question again remains: Pure or impure in their corruptions, why do the pope and his accessories in corruption imprison the whistleblower while they walk with impunity? Being the supreme dictator of one’s own country and religion has its perks, I guess.
Both situations involve “logic” based on this flawed axiom: if something protects the institutional brotherhood of the Roman Catholic clergy, then it is “good” but if it in any way threatens the brotherhood, it is “bad.” The hierarchy seems to place higher value on this axiom than on principles set forth in the Ten Commandments, like truth. With increasing exposures of corruption and enablement of abuses, the truth increasingly is seen as an enemy to those who claim to defend and proclaim it. How can they defend and preach that which they do not recognize or practice?
Rather than stand for truth as Jesus relentlessly did, they become spin doctors and turn seminaries into residency programs refining spin doctoring techniques. Pastoral training has gone on hiatus because truly pastoral people also threaten the sordid brotherhood that has usurped control of the church.
During cross-examination on Thursday, Msgr. Lynn replied to Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, “I don’t know how you want me to answer questions…” Blessington’s response was simple, “How about the truth?” It was a brilliantly simple response to a person who by the nature of his position should know implicitly to answer in honesty.
I think many Catholics tire of hearing about clergy scandals. They wish clergy would stop committing the offenses, the guilty clergy would be removed and punished, and people would stop talking about scandals so they don’t have to defend remaining in a corruptly led organization, or alter their routines.
St. Thomas More once wrote, “For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.” As Catholics weather wave after wave of scandals, I think it is important to reflect upon this thought.
Have we suffered our clergy to be ill-educated and their manners corrupted from the infancy of their vocations by enabling them to live privileged, detached and aloof lifestyles? If we permit them to live as invincible, infallible beings above the law, should we be surprised that they behave like they are above the law and truth? If we turn a deaf ear and blind eye when they err, lie, manipulate or distort, do we have a right to be scandalized when they continue such behaviors? Must we look in the mirror when we ask, “What is wrong with the church?” Whether we leave the church or remain, if we do so in silence, are we accessories to the clergy’s crimes? Will corruption leave the church only when we insist that it does?
In the case of the Vatican scandals, the person arrested was the Pope’s butler. Think about that for just a minute, the pope’s butler… just like Jesus had? The butler is one of the Pope’s personal staff comprised of four women who tend his apartment and some personal secretaries – yes that is a plural - secretaries. Why aren’t people scandalized that the self-acclaimed Vicar of Christ (a homeless, itinerant, staffless preacher) has a staff of servants, including a guy who holds his umbrella over him in the rain? If we permit church leaders to live like royalty and distort truth while committing atrocities, then do we have anyone to blame but ourselves for the church being in its current shameful state?
The U.S. Bishops are encouraging a “fortnight of freedom”. From June 21st to July 4th they are asking Catholics to stand up for religious freedom. Their hope is people will protest the U.S. government. Should we protest secular or ecclesial government? Which should we hold to a higher standard?
Perhaps instead of rallying at some secular government building with other Catholics, we should rally outside of diocesan chanceries, demanding religious freedom within our church, demanding truth and transparency, demanding justice for religious sisters, for women, for gays, for immigrants, for abuse victims, for lay people. Perhaps instead of writing secular officials we write bishops and other clergy expressing our outrage at their corrupt brotherhood.
Perhaps we begin our fight for religious freedom in our own parishes, reverting to the Mass language that fits our culture. Perhaps we send our charitable donations to a food pantry instead of the collection basket. Perhaps we boycott ministerial involvement leaving the clergy to perform all the tasks themselves. If we do not in dramatic ways insist upon honesty and religious freedom within our church, can we ever expect an end to the parade of scandals?
Thanks to my friends Jack and Caridad whose correspondence gave me the idea for this article.