Just a tad condescending, this AP piece is. Coyly using the phrase “mea culpa” twice and derogatorily referring to the close of the Year for Priests as a “giant pep rally,” the piece simplifies and caricatures the Church — teachings, governance, and people — and ignores a key element of the scandals that has to be acknowledged. The scandal, in the AP book, is about “protect[ing] children and bring[ing] justice to pedophile priests.” But it’s about more than that.
Many of the cases we know about — mostly dating from the 1960s to the 1980s — do, in fact, involve sick, pathological priests preying on children and teenagers. But there’s a related scandal involving dissent on sexual morality in the Church. A true account of what has happened in the Catholic Church in the last few decades cannot ignore the impact the so-called sexual revolution has had on the Church, which was far from immune from the chaos, despite warnings and guidance. But you won’t read about that in the mainstream media, because the mainstream media would be happy to foment dissent on sexual morality in the Church. Pope Benedict XVI is a key representative of that counterculturalism, as a teacher, enforcer, and shepherd. When you see the New York Times and others bend over backward to try to present him as part of the problem, rather than the solution, you can see glimpses of their agenda. For much of the media, this isn’t just about protecting children from pedophiles. Ed Koch recently addressed this. He wrote that “continuing attacks by the media on the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI have become manifestations of anti-Catholicism.”
Many of those in the media who are pounding on the Church and the Pope today clearly do it with delight and some with malice. The reason I believe for the constant assaults is that there are many in the media and some Catholics as well as many in the public who object to and are incensed by positions the Church holds, including opposition to all abortions, opposition to gay sex and same-sex marriage, retention of celibacy rules for priests, exclusion of women from the clergy, opposition to birth control measures involving condoms and prescription drugs and opposition to civil divorce. My good friend, John Cardinal O’Connor, once said, “The Church is not a salad bar, from which to pick and choose what pleases you.” The Church has the right to demand fulfillment of all of its religious demands by its parishioners, and indeed a right to espouse its beliefs generally.
I disagree with the Church on all of these positions. Nevertheless, it has a right to hold these views in accordance with its religious beliefs. I disagree with many tenets of Orthodox Judaism – the religion of my birth — and have chosen to follow the tenets of Conservative Judaism, while I attend an Orthodox synagogue. Orthodox Jews, like the Roman Catholic Church, can demand absolute obedience to religious rules. Those declining to adhere are free to leave.
I believe the Roman Catholic Church is a force for good in the world, not evil. Moreover, the existence of one billion, 130 million Catholics worldwide is important to the peace and prosperity of the planet.
Of course, the media should report to the public any new facts bearing upon the issue of child molestation, but its objectivity and credibility are damaged when The New York Times declines to publish an op-ed offered by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan on the issue of anti-Catholicism and to offer instead to publish a letter to the editor, which is much shorter and less prominent than an op-ed.
The Catholic Church must protect children. The Catholic Church is protecting children today. The Catholic Church is also, as she has long done, providing opportunities for children and literally saving children’s lives. Yesterday, the U.S. bishops’ conference highlighted — to the sound of crickets — that:
Students who attend Catholic high schools are more likely to graduate and attend college than students attending other schools, according to The Annual Statistical Report on Schools, Enrollment and Staffing , United States Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools 2009-2010, a report recently released by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).
Catholic secondary schools report a graduation rate of 99.1 percent, higher than rates reported by other religious schools (97.9 percent), non-sectarian schools (95.7 percent) and public schools (73.2 percent). Students graduating from Catholic high schools are also more likely to attend four year colleges (84.7 percent) than students graduating from other religious (63.7 percent) and non-sectarian (56.2 percent) schools. Catholic school graduates are twice as likely to attend four year colleges as graduates of public schools (44.1 percent).
As Sol Stern has pointed out, and as a recent documentary highlights, Catholic schools are Godsends, and not just for Catholics. This must continue. Civilization needs this institution to stay standing, and I have no doubt she will. The Church must not surrender to the culture, though some within it might want it to (and the AP and New York Times certainly do). Celibacy, they’ll tell you, is at the heart of the problem. I’m sorry, but the lack of courage is the problem. And a lack of courage to say so, which leads to confusion and more cultural chaos.
One of the most important points about all of the scandals — old and new — that you will ever read about in the Catholic Church is this: They are fruits of and examples of Catholics not being Catholic. Fidelity is the answer. Surrender is not.