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Touchstone's editors on news and events of the day.

Saturday, May 11

RADIO INTERVIEWS; IS THE MEDIA ANTI-CATHOLIC? My diligent publisher, Tom Spence, has faxed hundreds of press releases reminding radio shows of my book The Church Impotent and announcing my forthcoming book (when I get it written) Sex, Lies, and Bishops: Anatomy of a Crisis. Consequently IÍve been on about 75 talk shows in the past month; last night I was on the Chris Core show in DC.

No host could be called in any way anti-Catholic (and many were surprisingly theologically literate). I was harsher in my judgments of the bishops than the hosts were, because I had read the detailed narratives of the bishopsÍ failures. Only a few hosts could even be called sensationalistic; but the stories, especially the Shanley story in Boston, are sensational. All hosts and almost all callers (on the call-in programs) were fair. In Lexington, Kentucky a few Whore of Babylon fundamentalists got though the screeners, and wanted to talk about the un-Biblical practice of rosary beads as the source of the problem. I reminded them that all churches had problems with sinners among their ministers: Jimmy Swaggert, the Bakers, and many less-well-known reprobates, frauds, crooks, and con artists.

The hardest question to answer was always: what can be done about the problem? The short-range solution is to remove both the criminal priests and the bishops who allowed them to get away with the crimes. The priests may go, but the pope will never remove any bishop, no matter how badly the bishop has failed. Despite all the talk about the big bad papacy and the authoritarian rule of John Paul II, no bishop is ever held to account for serious failures. The long-range solution would be a more masculine clergy. The gay atmosphere in many seminaries must be removed, the sense of priests as the officers in the army of God revived. The bishops would have to do that; but see my comments on the short range solution. Bishops know that whatever they do or fail to do, there will be no consequences. The pope will not remove them, and the laity will continue to pay the bills. Until of course, another Martin Luther comes along, and Christianity fragments even more.



8:13 AM


Friday, May 10

ROBERT HANSSEN, FBI AGENT, CATHOLIC, AND TRAITOR: Robert Hanssen has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He got a mild punishment, considering that his betrayal of three Soviet sources led to their execution.

My wifeÍs family knows the Hanssens. Their children have attended the summer camps my mother-in-law runs for Opus Dei. I probably met Hanssen once or twice at the camps.

He betrayed Opus Dei and the FBI. My wife thinks it was a deep sense of disappointment. He thought the FBI agents were dedicated and relentless in their pursuit of Soviet spies. He found they were a bunch of bureaucrats who didnÍt want to work on weekends to intercept Soviet spies. He thought Opus Dei a right wing conspiracy to take over the world (that is the way its enemies portray it). He found a group of men who said the rosary, read papal encyclicals, and were taught to be diligent in their work and loving to their wives. He was disappointed, and set out to show how much smarter he was than everyone else.

The FBI was warned by HanssenÍs own brother-in-law, an FBI agent, that Hanssen was suspicious and had large amounts of cash at home. The FBI did nothing. Three of our Soviet contacts died as a result of the FBIÍs failure. The FBI doesnÍt give polygraph tests because it doesnÍt want to know what problems its agents have (mostly marital problems, but they can be serious). I had some contact with the FBI over the years, and I was not impressed. I think FBI officials and the American bishops must have gone to the same school of management. Instead of management by crisis or management by objectives, they all practice management by PR and spin doctoring. Then reality catches up and bites them. No FBI agent, and no bishop, has suffered any consequences because of management failures. Church and state operate in all too similar a fashion. Whatever the failure, no consequences for those in charge.


10:23 AM


PUBLIC INTEREST IN THE ISSUES BEHIND THE SCANDALS?: I was surprised by the brisk sales of a new book on the Catholic priesthood and seminaries„at least as reflected by Amazon.com's sales ranking. I can't imagine the same book ranking so highly five years ago; the recent scandals no doubt are driving the interest. Here are the particulars:

Goodbye! Good Men
How Catholic Seminaries Turned Away Two Generations of Vocations From the Priesthood
By Michael S. Rose
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Aquinas Publishing Ltd.; ISBN: 0967637112; (April 15, 2002)
Amazon.com Sales Rank: 107 (!!)

My tenant teaches at a Catholic school on the south side of Chicago. Recently a priest visited the school to explain to the teachers that two retired priests who have been living at the parish residence would have to leave. Allegations of sexual abuse of minors had been made against them; they had originally come from the diocese of Joliet. The priest made it clear to the teachers that the vast majority of the cases did not involve pedophilia and that the problem was homosexual priests. This is the issue Rose apparently deals with in his book. We plan to have a review of this book in Touchstone later this year.


9:03 AM


GARY WILLS ON THE SCANDALS: Gary Wills has some useful observations in his review essay on books on the clerical scandals in the New York Review of Books. Wills notes the immaturity of many priests, who were encouraged to enter the seminary by mothers who did not want to lose them to marriage:

The special tie of the priest to his mother was part of that infantilizing of the priesthood that has much to answer for in the current scandals„an infantilizing process that was encouraged by the old custom of beginning training for the priesthood as soon as boys could be induced to desire it, with the permission of the parents, which often meant with the encouragement of the mothers.

As I discuss in my book, The Church Impotent, men have longed viewed the church as the province for women and children, and for men who need the crutch of religion.

The immaturity made some priests unable to handle the authority that their sacred powers conferred on them. They slipped into antinomianism, the belief that someone is no longer bound by the moral law (a temptation from the earliest times, as we see by PaulÍs criticisms of it). Here, again, Wills:

The "innocent" sexuality of antinomian sects is made even easier for a man who is so clearly marked off from others, for whom he prescribes the rules for absolution of their sins. This makes more explicable the fact that the priest-pedophile, even one who admits what he has done, shows so little awareness that it was wrong. Perhaps, for others, it is wrong. Not for him.

I think that this antinomianism is reinforced by a gnosticism on the part of the clergy, the belief that they have special insights into the real meaning of the law, which the ignorant or unsophisticated laity understand literally. Mixed with this is a generous dose of narcissism, a feeling that the only important thing in the world is the precious Self of the narcissist, and that everything else exists to serve that Self.

The way down was eased by erotic tendencies in Catholic devotion (which I also discuss in my book).

This is where religion and sex slide easily into each other, and there is much in Catholic iconography that can encourage a sexual religiosity, from the mystic writings of ecstatic union to the statues of the naked and suffering Saint Sebastian, the "classic pincushion of homoerotic art."

Wills reveals a dislike of homosexuality in this comment. I wonder whether it is a prejudice that he is unable to overcome (surely he would not say there is anything wrong with homosexuality) or whether it is a tactical device to appeal to parents to alienate.


7:30 AM


Thursday, May 9

CARDINAL LAW'S TESTIMONY: Cardinal LawÍs memory is suffering convenient lapses. Although he admits in his deposition that he had few complaints about molestation by clergy to deal with, he does not remember any letters that he received or conversations that he had about Geoghan. He does not remember the complaints or even the letter from Bishop DÍArcy. Law claims that he turned the matter over to his subordinates, and that he expected them to deal with it. The subordinates are now bishops, and they should explain their role in this whole affair.

The plaintiffÍs attorney is questioning Law closely about the way Law announced that the archdiocese was backing out of the verbal settlement with the victims. Law sent out a press release, and did not attempt to let the victims know privately, although he knew some of the victims are suicidal. By this action, and by many others, Law is shown not to care about the victims. This negligence will be a key element of the story the plaintiffsÍ attorney will tell, and the carelessness and the negligence was and is real enough. Law protests that he feels deeply for the victims, but hurts them again and again.


8:47 AM


Wednesday, May 8

LYING: In researching my new book, Sex, Lies, and Bishops: Anatomy of a Crisis, I have been reading scores of Dallas newspaper articles on a pedophile, Rudy Kos, who molested dozens of boys when he was a priest in Dallas. The archdiocese had a $154 million judgment against it (negotiated down to $23 million) and Kos got life. The officials of the archdiocese lied throughout the trial, as the jury realized. Some priests had repeatedly tried to warn the archdiocese about Kos, but they were ignored. One of them, Father Robert Williams, said in the course of the trial: îI think the basic lesson I've learned from all this is you fight evil by the truth. It's the one thing that it cannot defend itself against.î I wonder if the bishops and officials who lied so freely really have any faith. Gary Wills has quoted St Augustine, ñGod does not need our lies,î and Paul Mankowski has pointed out that a bishopÍs primary duty is to serve as a witness to the resurrection of Jesus. If a bishop lies, who will believe him when he testifies to the truth of the Gospel? The only one who is served by lying is the Father of Lies. I hope Cardinal Law remembers that today when he is giving his depositions in court.


12:59 PM




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