Monday, April 5

Holy Sh*t

Timothy Shriver, "Can the pope restore the purity of Catholicism?" April 5

FRANKLY, it's a bad time to be discussing religion with me: I've just been subjected to yet another rubber buffet in celebration of my faceless, agricultural forebears residing in Europe and deifying celestial seasonal markers and phases of the Moon. Carrying on a tradition, we were booked into the zeppelin hanger of a local golf club, which has been converted into a Holiday Dining Hall by--this is the one interesting part, in a perverse sort of way--measuring to a tolerance most carpenters eschew the distance a chair must be moved in order to claim that it moved, and extrapolating from that how many the place could fit. The Black Hole of Brunch, I call it, without either trying to be funny or succeeding.

The Rileys, of course, pillaged their way around the British Isles beginning a couple millennia ago, so it's superfluous to add that whichever of my relatives makes these reservations year after year hasn't got a clue as to what food is supposed to taste like. And couples this with the self-defeating notion that all twenty-seven of us need to sit at a single table, as though we fear missing a chance to have some delightful bon mot from one of the incontinently made-up fourteen-year-olds from the breeding wing of the family relayed to us in four stages. The whole thing was salvaged, if that's not too strong a word, first by the second cousin who finally told the Nazi floor manager, quote, Stop shouting at me! I can see the fucking empty chair! (occasioned by the fact that the entire entourage stopped dead upon entering this barn to count, and argue over, the total number of chairs available before anyone would agree to sit in one), and, second by some unsung hero of crumbcake who had the rare, practically unique understanding that cinnamon is a spice, not a reason to live.

And this followed Holy Weekend festivities, which began, for me, when some local teleprompter reader informed me that Christians All Over The World were observing Good Friday (she may have said "celebrating", for that matter), something the church I grew up in, which I'm sure considered itself Christian, since it was right there in the logo, regarded as the worst sort of Popery. The same hairdo later muttered something about Saints, which just served to remind us that, at least where television is concerned, whoever has the flashiest pageants wins, no matter what they're celebrating.

(The Church claims over 64 million adherents in the USA and its protectorates, but, let's face it, they aren't selling toothpaste. It doesn't matter to Coca-Cola™ whether half, or two-thirds, or all of its customers also drink Snapple. But when you're in the Absolute Truth business, the fact that over 230 million Americans don't buy your product ought to count for a lot more than it does.)

This was accompanied by Turner Classics dedicating the weekend to showing just how indistinguishable religious kitsch is from the general, not to mention the full-body-wax Jesus (underarms included!) of King of Kings, and, more egregiously, every last one of the channels my wife's students call "Goin' to College"--Science, Discovery, National Geographic, et allia--squeezing out Hunts for This and Biblical Mysteries That, of which we should speak no more. Honestly, is there much worse to be said about what has become of Christianity in this country than to note there are people out there disrupting military funerals in the name of Holy Hatred of Gays, while this candy-assed faux-ecumenicalism peddles soap, free credit reporting, and adult diapers without a wimpier of protest?

Anyway, as you no doubt by now have caught a hint of, Roman™ Brand Christianity has got a little corporate image problem, which is the point where there's too much bad news to ignore, and said entity stops being a paragon and starts transforming into a nuanced collection of individuals, some of whom made Bad Choices. In fact, the Catholic child sex abuse scandals--lately reenergized, by Timothy Shriver's way of thinking--have reached Phase II, where its presence in the very bloodstream and marrow of an organization becomes almost as serious as ACORN using tax dollars to pimp twelve-year-olds, and people start demanding high-level resignations as a way of making the original problem vanish.
The scandal facing Catholics today looks a lot like the Watergate scandal that engulfed the United States in the early 1970s. Then, what started as a crime committed by a few burglars slowly escalated to reveal corruption at the highest levels of authority. The White House counsel, senior advisers and others were punished for their roles. In the end, the president of the United States was implicated and forced to resign.

Is the Catholic Church on a similar pathway to the resignation of a pope?

This is what those of us in the Facile Brickbat Delivery industry call "Time to scrap the lede and start over".

Watergate, by the way, did not begin with a tenth-rate burglary. The discovery and publicizing of "Watergate" did. The criminality behind it all probably began when some dewy-limbed girleen refused young Dick's bumbling advances, or some older kids stole his sled, and it was in full force long before Bob Haldeman first maced a Trick-or-Treater.
On the surface, there are many similarities. A few years ago, the church was embarrassed by revelations that some priests were involved in the abuse of minors -- unlike the Watergate break-in, a major crime. Those priests were largely in Boston, but other abusers were exposed around the country. Reforms followed, and the scandal seemed to pass.

More recently, the equivalent of the Watergate tapes have blown open the church's calm. The Cardinal Archbishop of Ireland was involved in not only a failure to act but appears to have been an active agent of cover-up. And the trail seems to be leading even higher: the pope himself, while an archbishop in Munich, may have played a role in failing to respond to abuse.

Must he resign?

Well, uh…
That's where the parallels break down.

See, now, that's funny, because you're the one who brought them up, what was it, three paragraphs ago?
Watergate was not only a scandal; it was a threat to the republic itself. The head had to be removed for the country to survive.

Look, for you younger readers, it's true there were people back then who talked like this: pundits, desperate Republicans who'd given up defending the man, and a sort of Ur-DLC Democrat who just couldn't bear hearing bad news about his Commander-in-Chief. You may rightly ask just how successfully the country "survived", and what it is that any of those groups has been right about since.
The church is not a democracy. Bishops (and popes) are not answerable to polls; they're supposed to be dismissive of popular trends in search of a higher truth.

Again, I'm not a subscriber, but I'm pretty sure "Not turn Ireland into a catamite-staffed gay resort" was on that list of 'spose tos" as well.
The first part of the answer will depend on justice: Catholics and non-Catholics alike must hear a full confession -- evidence of contrition so pure that it cannot be mistaken. We must see bishops leave their teaching positions because their moral authority is lost. We must believe that civil justice will be served when crimes are committed.

Y'know what? I'll pass, thanks. Maybe you could better use the time being honest with yourselves for once.

Here's what you can do for me: renounce the "moral authority" you've presumed to exercise over Catholics and non-Catholics alike in domestic issue after domestic issue: conception, contraception, gender equality and sexual identity. Then I'll believe you believe what you say. The grander scheme of making the modern world conform to a magical set of medieval strictures? All yours. And try the crumbcake.


R. Porrofatto said...

The really, really sad thing about this scandal is that the Church has had to sacrifice some of its vast wealth and real estate holdings to pay settlements with victims when they could have used that money to build more homeless shelters and clinics for the poor.

heydave said...

Nothing more to add to that!

D. Sidhe said...

Fuck them. They don't deserve the crumbcake.

Thanks, Riley.

Aaron said...

Any post that correctly uses the word "catamite" is made of win.

mark said...