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

Thursday, June 13


Subject:æ"Draft: Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," issued by the U. S. [Catholic] Bishops' Conference
My reasonsæfor thinking thisædraft statement unacceptable, and strongly warning Catholics to reject it:
1) It does notæadequatelyæaddress the problem at its root: homosexuality among the clergy.

2) It still relies on "therapy" for the rehabilitation of offenders, and in connection with this,

3) It allows one offense.æI suggest there is aæcriticalæqualitativeædifference between the psychology and sociology of this and sufferance ofæzero offenses.æThe latteræinvolves the question of whether the Catholic Church does or does not tolerate the sexual abuse of minors, the formeræof whetheræevery priestæshould know beyond any doubtæthat to contemplate the kind of acts to which this paper refers is to put a knife to his throat -- or, to use the Lord's language, a millstone to his neck.

S. M. Hutchens

9:06 AM

Wednesday, June 12

CATHOLIC CHAOS: Bishops are pleading innocent by reason of incompetence. Cardinal Law claimed he did not know what was going on in his own archdiocese, even when he initialed letters. The chancery lost then found 800 pages of important evidence about Shanley. Other dioceses claim they didnÍt know what their priests were doing.

Much of this is an attempt to avoid being stigmatized morally or legally as accessories to felonies, but I am afraid much if it is true. The hierarchy and administration of the Catholic Church is regarded by its friends and enemies as a disciplined, relentless, rigid bureaucracy. The emphasis should however be on the word bureaucracy.

The central administration (such as it is) of the Roman Catholic Church has for centuries been staffed by Italians. Luigi Barzini in The Italians characterized MussoliniÍs Italy as a totalitarian state modified only by total disregard of all laws. The Catholic Church is not much different. The Vatican issued a document saying that homosexuals (among many other types, including the "overly sensitiveî) should not be admitted to the seminary or ordained. The document was totally disregarded.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida is admitting his own poor judgment and the church's tragic reliance on flawed advice from insiders and therapists that have contributed to the crisis.
If anyone could have envisioned the seriousness of the situation, it should have been Maida, who was the first bishop to conduct a national briefing for his colleagues on the legal implications of abusive clergy.
That was 18 years ago.

Maidia pleads guilty of clericalism: the focus was on the priests; the victims (being laity) were invisible:

"For a long time, the victims weren't uppermost in our consciousness," Maida said.
In fact, they were almost invisible to bishops, most of whom assumed they had relatively few cases of abuse in their home dioceses, Maida said.
"There are more victims than any of us realized," he said.
Since widespread abuse by priests in the Boston area was revealed in January, many bishops have reviewed their files and were shocked at what they found.

One would think that bishops would keep on eye on criminal activity by their priests, but apparently they didnÍt. Nor did Maida, he admits:

Bishops sometimes gave the cases little scrutiny.
On the day he left Green Bay, Wis., for Michigan in April 1990, Maida said, he signed off on a letter returning one accused priest to parish work and asserting that the charges made by a boy's parents weren't solid enough. It took three more years before the family settled a civil lawsuit with the Diocese of Green Bay and the abusive priest was ousted.
When asked about the case, Maida frowned.
How carefully did he check out the abuse claim before clearing the priest for parish work?
Maida paused before admitting that he didn't even recall the case.
"Honest to goodness, if the priest walked into the room today, I wouldn't even know him," Maida said.
In those days, bishops paid less attention to signing off on abuse cases than they do today, he said.

Even when priests are disciplined, the discipline is often ignored, not from malice, but sheer incompetence. The Free Press in another article reports:

Msgr. Walter Hurley, Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida's point man in the church's sex-abuse scandal, picked up the telephone to deliver the latest bad news about an accused priest to St. Ronald Catholic Church in Clinton Township.
Hurley asked the current pastor, the Rev. Jim Andres, if he was aware of the Rev. Walter Lezuchowski, who once had been an administrator at St. Ronald.
"Oh, yes, he's been helping here for the last five years," Hurley recalled being told. In fact, Lezuchowski frequently celebrated Sunday mass.
Hurley was dumbfounded.
He had no idea Lezuchowski was still working at St. Ronald. The priest was barred from parish ministry in 1991 after a credible allegation that he sexually abused a girl, Hurley said.
Somehow, Maida's staff lost track of him.
The revelation illustrates the toughest problem facing Catholic bishops as they gather in Dallas this week to address the crisis.
Even when bishops invoke their toughest discipline, some abusive priests keep lurking around the church, working in parishes and teaching. And, sometimes, they abuse again. The priests often crisscross the country with little supervision and no national system to track them

There have been many similar incidents. There is no national, much less international, registry of priests. Priests can disappear and surface in another diocese and help out informally without a reference check. Bishops did not regard child abuse with sufficient seriousness to institute policies to make sure that personnel files were maintained and reviewed, and that bishops were kept informed of priests who are suspended or in disgrace.

This laxity was not confined to criminal priests. When OÍConnor was bishop of Scranton (I believe he was there before he went to New York), he decided to track down all the priests assigned to his diocese and find out where they where. One priest had left Scranton decades before (with permission), had moved to Washington, gotten a good job teaching at Catholic University, and was enjoying life in the nation's capital. Suddenly he was faced with the prospect of being recalled to Scranton. He was not happy. Fortunately for him, before O'Connor found out where he was, O'Connor was appointed to New York. The priest location program in Scranton ground to a halt, and the priest with great relief continued his teaching career.

When Pope John XXIIII was asked how many people worked at the Vatican, he replied, ñAbout half.î He was wildly optimistic.

6:18 AM

Sunday, June 9

PHOBIA OR DISGUST?: According to today's Northwest Arkansas Morning News, three University of Arkansas psychologists have determined that "homophobia originates not out of fear or anxiety -- as true phobias do -- but from feelings of disgust." Jeffrey Lohr, one of the psychologists involved, came to this conclusion in an interview: "If contempt and disgust drive homophobia, then [homophobia] seems more of a moral or social problem than a psychopathological one."

It is perhaps a relief for some to learn that, if they have feelings of "homophobia," they are not pathological or sick. Rather, they are merely the immoral products of poor social formation. It is simply old-fashioned prejudice, irrational hatred of the "other." Since "homophobia" isn't really a phobia, its demise will logically have to come through legal means and various state-run social programs. Or, so one must assume from the research of Lohr and his colleagues.

Of course, anyone with average common sense could have saved these psychologists the expense and time involved in such a study. (Well, this is Arkansas, I suppose, and one must make allowances.) Any reasonable man knows that "homophobia" isn't a matter of fear, but of disgust -- which is the chief reason, by the way, why most of us didn't take "homophobia" seriously as a concept. It isn't, as the news story put it, a case of "I must get away from this," but, "Keep that away from me." We're not dealing with blood-curdling terror when we're faced with something we find morally offensive, something which we all know involves practices best left undescribed and unimagined.

Lohr and associates, though, do not even consider as possible or relevant the one remaining alternative that most of us would think glaringly obvious: homosexual behavior is (as the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church puts it) "objectively disordered." In other words, the natural response of disgust one feels when confronted by something unmistakably perverse is neither pathological nor immoral. It is both healthy and profoundly moral. If we were to apply the same logic to the common disgust most normal folks feel regarding pedophilia, which these U of A psychologists have applied to "homophobia," we are likely to see the point (but, for how much longer, one wonders...).

I think we were better off -- safer -- with the rather silly notion that "homophobia" was a "phobia." Defined as a social and moral "evil," "homophobia" potentially is growing legal fangs and "moral" (i.e., oppressive) clout.

10:37 AM

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