Excellent Read: “The Priesthood of The Big Crazy”

In the NYRB (a publication which doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves), Garry Wills, ex-seminarian, gets to the heart of a decades-long horror — and ongoing institutional problem:

The grand jury report of Catholic priests’ predations in Pennsylvania is enough to make one vomit. The terrifying fact that hundreds of priests were preying upon over a thousand victims in that state alone makes one shudder at the thought of how many hundreds and thousands of abusers there are elsewhere in the nation, elsewhere in the world. It is time to stop waiting for more reports to accumulate, hoping that something will finally be done about this. Done by whom? By “the church”? If “the church” is taken to mean the pope and bishops, nothing will come of nothing. They are as a body incapable of making sense of anything sexual.

A wise man once told me that we humans are all at one time or another a little crazy on the subject of sex. A little crazy, yes. But Catholic priests are charged with maintaining The Big Crazy on sex all the time. These functionaries of the church are formally supposed to believe and preach sexual sillinesses, from gross denial to outright absurdity, on the broadest range of issues—masturbation, artificial insemination, contraception, sex before marriage, oral sex, vasectomy, homosexuality, gender choice, abortion, divorce, priestly celibacy, male-only priests—and uphold the church’s “doctrines,” no matter how demented…

To be a priest is to be a company man, the company being the pope and the hierarchy. The farther one rises in the hierarchy, the higher the stakes. Pope Francis probably does want to do something about the priest mystique; but he is surrounded by loyalists of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, and he is trammeled by his predecessors’ many years of priest-mystique maintenance, which is the principal task of many in Rome. Waiting for the pope to do something is to hope that the protector of the mystique will forswear the mystique.

Many victims of abuse by priests have made the mistake of reporting their charges to a bishop. They should have gone straight to a secular authority. To expect from the celibate clergy either candor or good sense on sexual matters is a fool’s game. The Vatican II Council proclaimed that the church is the people of God, not their rulers…

The laity should reclaim its centrality in the church. It has begun to do that in silent ways: for instance, by widespread disuse of the confessional (a medieval invention), by ignoring the ban on contraception (how otherwise could the birth rate of Catholics have declined so far, so fast?), by the number of Catholic abortions (registered by the Kinsey Institute), and by the drop in church attendance (after the pedophile scandals). Some Catholics, of course, have abandoned the church over one or more of these matters—as can be seen in the decline of the church in Ireland. But people like Bill Donohue of the Catholic League are upset at those who still consider themselves Catholic while ignoring “church teaching” on sexual matters, who go to communion without going to confession, who mock the absurdities called “natural law.”

Those who still want to stand with their Catholic brothers and sisters should not merely dissent in private ways, but should also speak up and demand what opinion polls show they really want for the church as the people of God. It is mandatory celibacy and male-only priesthood that is “unnatural.”…

Rot and dishonesty are hard to claw out, especially when given centuries to embed themselves in the traditions of the church. We can only hope that, this late in the game, they can be cured. There is no way of knowing but to try.

Can “the Church” change? My own parting with the Catholic faith of my parents was a non-contested separation; I stopped attending services as soon as I graduated from the neighborhood parochial high school, by which time the nuns who taught me had generally accepted that the relationship between me and the institution was never going to be a good fit. (It is not precisely a compliment when Dominican sisters say, “If only you’d been born a boy — you’d have been such a good Jesuit!”) But I genuinely respected those nuns, and the many and various Catholic works and workers of faith that I’ve witnessed in my life then and since.

There are many who think that people don’t actually need religion, and that whatever good religious organizations do could be performed as well or better by other groups. Me, I’m still and always a believer (even though not everyone considers animism a “real” religion, we’ve got the weight of human history on our side). And from personal observation, there are plenty of other humans who feel the need / compulsion for “faith” and its communal practice. Some of who, deprived of traditional outlets, end up as servants to doctrines as ugly and anti-life as the worst of Christian tradition, such as for instance Trump’s hardcore Deplorables.

Whether the modern Catholic Church is capable of “clawing out” the “rot and dishonesty” is the question… and I’m frankly not hopeful. At best, I would predict, there will be another Grand Schism, with the “best” (most progressive) section of the American Catholic church (further) abandoning all claims on the material wealth and property of the Vatican’s various global outposts. Leaving the “traditional” hierarchy of powerful (if no longer always white) men within and working with the established institution to hive off an ever-smaller, ever-more-explosive brand of Talibangelical-style cultists. Because this is the rotten heart of the Catholic-church problem, as with so many other powerful modern philosophic organizations now in crisis: There is a lot of wealth and power in the hands of a (generally white, generally male) few. The only way for those groups (such as, for instance, the Republica Party, or the Fortune 500) to survive over the longer term is to cede some of that wealth, but the individuals benefiting right now are the ones least interested in change for the good of their community’s long-term survival.

97 replies
  1. 1
    cliosfanboy says:

    I’ve long thought the death of John Paul 1 was the worst disaster to hit the Catholic church in centuries.

  2. 2
    Elizabelle says:

    Thank you. I love Gary Wills. I’d forgotten he was a seminarian.

  3. 3
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Laws should be passed which clearly require churches to report criminal activity to the police and other secular authorities. I don’t understand why the Catholic Church has gotten away with protecting pedophiles.

  4. 4
    WaterGirl says:

    @Patricia Kayden: Money, money, money, money, money.

  5. 5
    Schlemazel says:

    @Patricia Kayden:
    I believe there are mandatory reporting laws on the books already. They chose to ignore them.

    I think a correct interpretation of the RICO law would go a long way to solving the problem the church has with admitting it culpability in protecting and promoting the sexual abuse of minors.

  6. 6
    Mike in NC says:

    Evidently the pope’s visit to Ireland wasn’t a big hit.

  7. 7
    artem1s says:

    The laity should reclaim its centrality in the church.

    Which laity? the women that the Catholic Church believes shoudn’t have autonomy over their own bodies? who are responsible for original sin and the expulsion from Paradise? The “laity” have been aiding and abetting the coverups for decades centuries. Screw reclaiming. time to reject the whole institution and go your own way. Time for another Reformation.

  8. 8
    Schlemazel says:

    @artem1s:
    Only it is not a thesis that should get nailed to the church door this time.

  9. 9
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    I’ve begun to think that when all is said and done, American religion will be the black church, some Episcopalians/Methodists, and various forms of Islam/Buddhism, and some Wiccan/New Age stuff. Not that these groups are without fault, but they don’t buy into the power trips that other groups do. They don’t try to convert everyone, and have enough history and diversity to be accepting.

    When we talk about the internet being disruptive, we seldom talk about religion. But since the 1990’s the internet has been devastating for a lot of religions. For one thing, survivors of abuse can now share stories. Original documents that show the changes over the years to what was supposed to be foundational teaching, Just the exposure to the wider world of religion means that people can find out that not everyone thinks the way they were taught.

    Before the internet, there was an “away” where people who were unhappy with their treatment just seemed to disappear when they could. Few could compare notes, create meetups or what have you.

  10. 10
    Wag says:

    If only you’d been born a boy — you’d have been such a good Jesuit!

    High praise. The Sisters must have been impressed by your questioning mind and sharp intellect. Nice to know that you’v put those same talents to our entertainment and education instead!

    That said, I struggle with the Church in much the same way that I struggle with our country. Both institutions have been largely taken over by the right, and the hoped for reformers, both Obama and Francis, failed to confront the rot at heart of their respective institutions. I occasionally despair, especially about our country. I have largely given up on the Church.

  11. 11
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @cliosfanboy:

    Boy howdy, I’m with you there! We never had a chance to find out, but I believe JPI could have been, would have been, transformative. I’m not, never was, Catholic, but I mourned his shocking death 40 years ago, and I think more so today.

  12. 12
    Anne Laurie says:

    @CarolDuhart2:

    I’ve begun to think that when all is said and done, American religion will be the black church, some Episcopalians/Methodists, and various forms of Islam/Buddhism, and some Wiccan/New Age stuff. Not that these groups are without fault, but they don’t buy into the power trips that other groups do. They don’t try to convert everyone, and have enough history and diversity to be accepting.

    Don’t overlook the Unitarian Universalists!

  13. 13
    Anne Laurie says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: There were Catholics, even at the time of JP’s death, who “joked” that discovering the true depth & breadth of the rot within his beloved church literally broke a good man’s heart.

  14. 14
    Chetan Murthy says:

    I was reflecting on the fact that, so far, we have (IIRC) 3 allegations (2 of them credible) of sexual harassment/assault/rape by women against men. In toto. Across, what appears to be, the entire Western world.

    I wish somebody were keeping a careful tally of these allegations (against women) and their outcome, so that someday, when it becomes clear that the problem is men and men in power, there’ll be evidence to adduce that it isn’t power per se, but rather men in power.

    I mean this as a way of responding to/supporting @artem1s — yes, I think that the laity should -mean- women, and specifically women with children, in parishes.

    We sure as hell can’t trust us men.

  15. 15
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    @CarolDuhart2:

    I’ve begun to think that when all is said and done, American religion will be the black church, some Episcopalians/Methodists, and various forms of Islam/Buddhism, and some Wiccan/New Age stuff. Not that these groups are without fault, but they don’t buy into the power trips that other groups do. They don’t try to convert everyone, and have enough history and diversity to be accepting.

    America will be 1/3 believer, 1/3 can’t make up their minds and 1/3 unbeliever like every other 1st world country. Americas was odd country out on religion because of the Cold War. Speaking as an ex catholic atheist, no amount of church reform will get me to worship a make believe story.

  16. 16
    Barbara says:

    I don’t actually know what the current pope could do — The ongoing abuse scandal(s) brought home to me quite a while ago that the only time for doing the right thing is at a time when it might actually make a difference. That was a long time ago.

  17. 17
    efgoldman says:

    I am not Catholic; nobody in my family is [mrs efg, on the other hand….]
    The most universal reaction I see from those who were never abused is pure, seething anger.

  18. 18
    Schlemazel says:

    @Chetan Murthy:
    Not hear of the magdalene laundries have you?

    Can’t trust women either. You can’t trust any force that has a totally fucked up view of human sexuality. That is not just the RC Church, it covers a very wide swath of society. Though much of the twisted, self-harming, issues around human sexuality come from the damaged teaching of most organized religions.

  19. 19
    HumboldtBlue says:

    I remember sitting at a dinner table with three monks (Benedictine, Valyermo) and two professors and wondering, “how in the ever-loving-motherfucking-fucking-fuck did people this brilliant get caught up in serious theological lives?”

    This shit ain’t abstract and it sure as shit hit my family.

    Only thing that saved we younger kids was mom and dad could no longer afford Catholic school tuition.

    Motherfuckers.

  20. 20
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Barbara: I must demur. Somewhere on this Earth, a priest (perhaps Christian, perhaps Catholic) is grooming or raping a child. Right now. I refuse to believe that these fuckers are gonna go away just b/c “historical” cases are exposed. That’s not how crime works — every bit of evidence is that a (potential) criminal responds best to -immediate- punishment rather than the threat of massive retribution much, much later.

    He could deliver every scrap of paper about any abuse or coverup of abuse, including by his predecessor, to (all of)

    (a) an international agency responsible for ensuring that the data isn’t lost, and properly analyzed
    (b) every law enforcement agency in a jurisdiction where the Catholic Church operates, with explicit appeal to prosecute every case they found
    and (c) extradite every known abuser/enabler (dammit, Bernie Law got extradited to Hell, I wanted him in Boston serving time, dammit) back to the jurisdiction where they committed their crimes

    And do so publicly. Oh, and set up councils in every parish with representation from mothers (and sure sure sure, fathers) to watch over the congregation and their children.

    He could do that. Hell, he could also reverse the disgraceful attempts by dioceses to shield their assets from damage suits.

    But if he did all this, I’m sure there’d be schisms. B/c pedophiles needs their …. *whatever*.

  21. 21
    p.a. says:

    Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

    F. Douglass

  22. 22
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Schlemazel: I have indeed heard of the Magdalene laundries, and that many were run by nuns. Back then (and today also) nuns are subordinate to men in the Church. And I’m not talking about “let women run it”. I’m specifically talking about letting mothers take on that role in their congregations.

    Look: I know that every time we talk about the sexual transgressions of men, it gets discussed that “women do it too”. And yet, the proportions are wildly out-of-whack: “men do almost all of it”.

    I’m reminded of the ACA and leftists’ critique: “it doesn’t solve the whole problem, so why even bother with it?”

  23. 23
    Elizabelle says:

    @Chetan Murthy: “If we can’t get them all off the Titanic, why save any?”

  24. 24
    NotMax says:

    (even though not everyone considers animism a “real” religion, we’ve got the weight of human history on our side)

    The same weight of human history supports slavery and discrimination of every possible stripe, too.

    Just sayin’.

    “It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil — which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.”
      – Richard Feynman

  25. 25
    opiejeanne says:

    @cliosfanboy: Me too. I still believe he was killed by the traditionalists in the church, after realizing what changes he might be about to make.

  26. 26
    Schlemazel says:

    @Chetan Murthy:
    Understood though I did miss what you were suggesting.
    Yes, women are less likely but “less” != “not”. If the power structure that exists is just given to women the power dynamic will not change. Opening the church to moms would take a double leap, women & marriage, from a group that so far has refused to even discuss letting go of either because :it is what God decreed”

  27. 27
    A Ghost To Most says:

    Religion ruins everything.

  28. 28
    laura says:

    Power without accountability is what repeals me from religion, and every other damn thing these days.

  29. 29
    Platonailedit says:

    @p.a.: That’s a great quote.

  30. 30
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Schlemazel: Oh heck, I don’t even mean that the direction of Catholic Church would somehow be given over to women. I’m not crazy — the boys ain’t gonna sit for that. Look: I’m a solid believer in incrementalism. So the incremental step is to ensure that every parish with children among the congregation has a committee of women (and mothers) involved in all aspects that touch on children, and that every child is carefully educated about what must and must not be allowed to occur. By mothers, not by priests/men.

    Some/many of these women will need to be educated about what happened in the past (and was uncovered about the last 50-70 years of that perfidy) before they can play their role of watchdog.

    The men who run the church need watchdogs put on them. And specifically when it comes to indoctrination of the young. Sure, much bigger changes would be good. I’m with you on women in the clergy, and marriage and offspring in the clergy. But I just don’t think you can wait for that. And even if you did, unless you change the male-dominated nature of the institution, you’ll still get a *lot* of abuse.

  31. 31
    oatler. says:

    It takes a large soul indeed to accept the masses who want to slaughter each other.

  32. 32
    Adam L Silverman says:

    Just a heads up: Archbishop Vigano, who repeatedly manages to avoid responsibility by publicly accusing others of his own malfeasance, has just released a detailed letter blaming the entire child sexual assault crisis on Pope Francis. Vigano is the nut who arranged for Kim Davis to have an audience with the Pope. He is aligned with the reactionary elements within the Church and those elements outlets have picked this up and are trying to use it to force Francis out.

  33. 33

    The RC Church, like the tobacco companies, has largely given up on North America. Their future lies elsewhere, and they’re directing their efforts mostly to South America (Church) and Asia (tobacco). The Grift goes on.

  34. 34
    Ken says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Does the letter explain how Pope Francis borrowed Obama’s time machine to cause the many, many incidents of abuse before he became Pope – indeed, before he was born?

  35. 35
    JR says:

    @CarolDuhart2: Man, the Catholic Church has survived a lot. They aren’t going away any time soon.

  36. 36
    Brachiator says:

    In the NYRB (a publication which doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves)

    I always thought that the NYRB has always been venerated as a holy object by American intellectuals. Garry Wills is, once again spot on.

    @Patricia Kayden:

    Laws should be passed which clearly require churches to report criminal activity to the police and other secular authorities.

    In the past, the police would protect the church, and secular authorities would happily let the Church “take care” of the problem. This problem was exacerbated in cities and communities where the cops and other officials were themselves Catholic.

    Hell, I think that one of the reasons we are finding out the details of the Person is cases is because it is too late to punish the priests involved. And so we are left with empty apologies.

  37. 37
    Barbara says:

    @Chetan Murthy: How many times has this been said? He should do whatever is necessary but it will never erase the stain of having done so little for so long.

  38. 38
    Mike in NC says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Oh, I read that as Archbishop Viagra.

  39. 39
    Platonailedit says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Another instance of accusations are confessions?

  40. 40
    Brachiator says:

    @CarolDuhart2:

    I’ve begun to think that when all is said and done, American religion will be the black church, some Episcopalians/Methodists, and various forms of Islam/Buddhism, and some Wiccan/New Age stuff.

    Sadly, I doubt that you can look to any church or religion for relief.

  41. 41
    Virginia says:

    @CarolDuhart2: I agree. I have thought forever that the Black Church is really the only true religion in the country.

  42. 42
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Barbara: I’m not disagreeing with you about the stain, or how indelible it is, having been allowed to set for so long, in so many innocent bodies and minds. I simply mean that to say “when it might actually make a difference” …. well, it can make a difference today, going forward. Men in power want to convince us all that whatever the abuses were, they’re all in the past, and “looking forward, not backward” we’ll all do a lot better. No need to dredge up all that ancient history, after all. And the next thing you know. they arrange it so that there are no safeguards, no penalties, and the next thing you know, you’re finding a new round of crimes.

    That story could be about loans, or torture, or ratfucking, or Jim Crow, or children having unspeakable crimes visited on them.

  43. 43
    Anne Laurie says:

    @HumboldtBlue:

    I remember sitting at a dinner table with three monks (Benedictine, Valyermo) and two professors and wondering, “how in the ever-loving-motherfucking-fucking-fuck did people this brilliant get caught up in serious theological lives?”

    I have a personal theory that there’s some brain twist — loosely, a ‘faith gene’ — which some humans have and others don’t. Think of it like right- or left-handedness; a random ‘natural’ distribution (although probably not nearly at 90/10 levels). People with the ‘faith gene’ are going to find a faith, whether it’s animism, Zen, Catholicism, Objectivism, or Chicago School Economics; something they (we) can organize our worldview around. It’s not a matter of IQ or intellectualism, either; it’s on a separate axis entirely.

    But because religious faith is a great community-builder for humans, going back to pre-literate societies who first came together to build wood or stone monuments under the supervision of a priest-caste, the random faith-gene distribution has been strongly selected for, socially. We can’t yet be sure how many people are ‘naturally’ atheists — any more than we could be sure, 50 years ago, how many were naturally left-handed — because the RIGHT prejudice was/is so strongly enforced for non-faith reasons. I’m truly grateful that paying lip service to the ‘correct’ local faith is no longer mandatory in modern America or elsewhere, but I’m skeptical that trying to enforce ‘rationality’ / atheism would work very well either (see: Trump rallies, bitcoin, Scientology… )

  44. 44
    Elizabelle says:

    Just tuned into MSNBC online, to see what they were doing. It was a “Headliners” show about John McCain.

    And there is Sarah Palin, in a nasal tone, accusing BHO of “palling around with terrorists.”

    Click goes the window, as it closes. Maybe not what they wanted to highlight about John McCain, but indisputable.

  45. 45
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Brachiator: And yet some people find real comfort from their belief. I was introduced to religion too late for it to take, but I have known sincerely decent people (including my mom) who is long-time D voter.

  46. 46
    Anne Laurie says:

    @NotMax:

    a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil — which is the view that religion has.

    That’s not religion, that’s monotheism. It’s a first-world modern fallacy to conflate the two, because “smart modern Western people” mostly grew up in / around montheistic tradtions. For most humans, across most of history — even “Classical” Greeks & Romans, or Egypt under the pharoahs — monotheism was, where it was known at all, tiny gangs of cultists attempting to reorganize larger heterozygous societies around a Great Leader and his ‘select’ bunch of priestly interpreters.

  47. 47
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    I’m skeptical that trying to enforce ‘rationality’ / atheism would work very well either

    I’m reminded of those (certainly ongoing) scandals about bad-boy atheists and their assaultin’ ways. No, it’s not (merely) religion. Though some religions, by virtue of theiir efficient, long-standing, and globetrotting bureaucracies, are able to magnify the power of bad actors and their enablers.

  48. 48
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Vigano’s getting pushback, fortunately. But he’s the sort of malcontent / would-be Little Deity whom I expect to try and splinter off the “true” hierarchy (wealth) of the Catholic church from the “debased cafeteria Catholics” of America & Western Europe.

    Frankly, I expect Vigano and the people like Rod Dreher to end up emigrating to Mother Russia, assuming it doesn’t collapse completely over the next decade. They’re all short-timers, like Putin, and they can’t be happy in an America where “pious” white men don’t get to have all the status and most of the money.

  49. 49
    Brachiator says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    I’m truly grateful that paying lip service to the ‘correct’ local faith is no longer mandatory in modern America or elsewhere, but I’m skeptical that trying to enforce ‘rationality’ / atheism would work very well either (see: Trump rallies, bitcoin, Scientology… )

    I’m not too sure about a “faith” gene, but I agree with you here about the need to organize around a world view. Communism was supposed to be a godless, rational “answer,” but was as faith-based and oppressive as any religion.

  50. 50
  51. 51
    J R in WV says:

    @cliosfanboy:

    I’ve long thought the death of John Paul 1 was the worst disaster to hit the Catholic church in centuries.

    John Paul I was murdered to prevent any serious reformation of a very perverted institution, by those who most benefit from that perversion. I’m not speaking just of the Roman Catholic Church’s extremely sick version of sexuality and gender, original sin, virgin birth. Every aspect of the RC Church is perverted.

    The power structure, supposedly a pyramid with a single man of god atop that pyramid. Haven’t we all heard that the Pope eats in a communal dining hall? No doubt to avoid the death that caught Pope John Paul I so quickly.

    In realty, if Pope Francis turned all the pedophiles and the evidence the church has of those pedophiles’ crimes over to their local police authorities, he wouldn’t last a month.

    And it wouldn’t do much good, because those police authorities in many places are controlled by the local priests and bishops, and would not investigate nor prosecute those criminal members of the church authority. The rot isn’t of parts of the churchly structure, it runs riot over the whole from top to bottom.

  52. 52
    Platonailedit says:

    The nutjob has now mainstreamed it.

    Pope Francis has refused to respond to claims by a former Vatican diplomat, who has called for him to resign.

    Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano also accused him of covering up allegations of sexual abuse by a US cardinal.

    The Pope was asked about the accusations by reporters on his flight back to Rome after this weekend’s Papal visit to Ireland.

    He said he would not say a single word in response to the 11-page letter from Archbishop Vigano.

    “I will say sincerely that I must say this, to you,” he said, when asked by a journalist about the letter, “and all of you who are interested: Read the document carefully and judge it for yourselves.

    “I will not say one word on this. I think the statement speaks for itself.”

  53. 53
    Gelfling 545 says:

    @WaterGirl: It isn’t really money. It’s the love of order and authority. In my youth it happened that a fair number of priests committed acts that wpuld have gotten most people arrested: dui, drunk and disorderly, etc. “Father” was generally escorted quietly back tp the rectory. If anyone had reported anything approaching sexual abuse I do not think they would have been believed or the authorities might even have helped cover it up so as not to “disturb the simple faithful “.

  54. 54
    Anne Laurie says:

    @John Revolta:

    The RC Church, like the tobacco companies, has largely given up on North America. Their future lies elsewhere, and they’re directing their efforts mostly to South America (Church) and Asia (tobacco). The Grift goes on.

    The South American outreach didn’t work as well as expected — e.g., the current disloyal Argentinian-born pope!

    From what I’ve read, current Vatican-based outreach places most of its hopes (funds) on Sub-Saharan Africa, with side bets on the remaining ‘White’ Russians and the ‘discontented Communist masses’ in China / East Asia. As ever since Paul, people so desperate for a functional social safety net, they’re willing to trade their ‘souls’ for bread / rice…

  55. 55
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Brachiator:

    I always thought that the NYRB has always been venerated as a holy object by American intellectuals.

    Yeah, but I’m a subscriber, and so I know they also consistently post good political articles that don’t get swapped around on the internet the way they should be.

  56. 56
    J R in WV says:

    In addition, I think a nationwide RICO case against the RC Church should be used to seize all the assets of the institution, to be used for the benefit of everyone who has suffered at the hands of the monsters in charge.

    The Bishops should ride bicycles, not in limos. They should all eat at Manna Meal soup kitchens, after they fix dinner for everyone else. They should live without privacy, in dorms, if they want to claim they’re celibate, show us. They will have a million reasons this can’t be done, but the real reason is that they’re greedy for power and the trappings of their position. And Scotch.

    And not to single out the RC Church, Baptists, Fundamentalists of all stripes are eligible for review.

    And I think the comment regarding some people having a pre-disposition to search for a faith is probably very astute. A cousin worked from main-stream Christianity, to Judiasm, to Islam before stopping with that. Because, perhaps, you aren’t allowed to leave Islam.

    Sorry for all the rant. I was never abused in the typical ways we’ve been discussing, but having my family identified with Unitarianism in the Bible-Belt resulted in being preached against by name as devil-worshipers on the radio every week for years. I don’t know if that ended with the death of the ass who ruled that Assembly of God church or not, as I left town and don’t go back much.

  57. 57
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Brachiator: A number of jurisdictions are seeking to amend their laws, Pennsylvania is one, to lift the statute of limitations on these types of crimes so they can bring prosecutions.

  58. 58
    Brachiator says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Yeah, but I’m a subscriber, and so I know they also consistently post good political articles that don’t get swapped around on the internet the way they should be.

    Yep. But a lot of this is because of their pay wall.

  59. 59
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Platonailedit: Apparently Vigano was credibly accused back in 2016 of covering some of this up, which likely contributed to Francis forcing him into retirement. The larger problem is that no matter how much Francis wants to reform things or make changes, he knows he’s got a significant group of conservative to reactionary members of the episcopate and among the cardinals that are left overs from John Paul II and Benedict. So he has to move very cautiously until he can put enough of his own people in place.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/21/us/minnesota-priests-memo-says-vatican-envoy-tried-to-stifle-sex-abuse-inquiry.html

    The Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States quashed an independent investigation in 2014 into sexual and possible criminal misconduct by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis and ordered church officials to destroy a letter they wrote to him protesting the decision, according to a memo made public on Wednesday.

    The detailed memo was written by an outraged priest, the Rev. Dan Griffith, who was working in the top ranks of the archdiocese and was the liaison to the lawyers conducting the inquiry. He wrote that the ambassador’s order to call off the investigation and destroy evidence amounted to “a good old fashioned cover-up to preserve power and avoid scandal.”

    The document offers a grave indictment of the conduct of the Vatican’s ambassador, and will probably put pressure on Pope Francis to discipline him and Archbishop Nienstedt. The former ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, served as Pope Francis’ representative to the church until he retired in April.

    Archbishop Nienstedt stepped down as leader of the Twin Cities archdiocese last year amid lawsuits and criminal inquiries into his handling of priests accused of sexually abusing children. But he remains an archbishop in good standing, and recently celebrated Mass at a California retreat for prominent Catholics.

    Father Griffith’s startlingly frank 11-page memo on the history of that investigation was addressed to two bishops in the diocese: Lee A. Piché and Andrew H. Cozzens. In a brief statement released Wednesday, Father Griffith said: “My memo speaks for itself. I stand by it.” He also said he had confidence in Archbishop Hebda.

    The memo states that after the investigation uncovered embarrassing evidence about the archbishop, the pope’s representative in Washington ordered it cut short. It says that when bishops sent a letter objecting to that decision, the nuncio told them to destroy the letter. Father Griffith said in his memo that “destruction of evidence is a crime under federal law and state law.”

    In February 2014, the archdiocese hired an outside law firm, Greene Espel, to investigate Archbishop Nienstedt. The existence of the investigation did not become public until July 2014, after it ended, and the memo was written a few days later.

    The purpose of the inquiry, the memo said, was to investigate allegations of sex and sexual harassment by the archbishop, primarily with other priests or seminarians. But it was also to look into what the memo depicts as a close relationship with Father Wehmeyer, “which may have affected his judgment regarding Wehmeyer’s past misconduct.”

    “Given the significant judgment errors in the Wehmeyer case, I believed this to be one of the most serious issues of the investigation, a conclusion also reached by our investigators,” the memo says.

    The Greene Espel lawyers took affidavits from 11 credible witnesses who had known the archbishop, the memo said, containing evidence of “sexual misconduct; sexual harassment; reprisals in response to the rejection of unwelcome advances.” The lawyers “stated they had at least 24 more leads to pursue.”

    The memo also said that many of the witnesses mentioned that Archbishop Nienstedt may have had sexual relations with a Swiss Guardsman in Rome.

    Efforts to reach Archbishop Nienstedt were unsuccessful.

    Bishops Piché and Cozzens, with Archbishop Nienstedt, traveled to Washington in April 2014 to discuss the initial findings with the papal nuncio, Archbishop Viganò. The memo offers the first account of what took place in that meeting to be made public, albeit secondhand, because the memo’s author was not present. The nuncio “ordered you to have the lawyers quickly interview Archbishop Nienstedt and wrap up the investigation,” it says. “The nuncio said that the lawyers were not to pursue any further leads.”

    A spokesman for the Vatican, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said in an interview on Thursday, “This is a very complex issue and we need more information before we can make any comment.”

    More at the link.

  60. 60
    JR says:

    @Anne Laurie: I’m skeptical that trying to enforce ‘rationality’ / atheism would work very well either

    Worked so well the last time it was tried.

  61. 61
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Anne Laurie: My guess is that Vigano is aligned with the revanchists that Bannon has been trying to cultivate and work with to overthrow Francis.

  62. 62
    J R in WV says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    And here was I, wondering if my posts were too hostile. Guess probably not, things sound worse than an unchurched person like me could even imagine.

    This corruption and abuse situation is really hard to learn about. I may have too much empathy to maintain an even keel when this swirls around us so strongly.

    Thanks for sharing it with us, though. We need to know and understand what the victims are suffering from and talking about. As difficult as that may be.

  63. 63
    Hkedi [Kang T. Q.] says:

    @Elizabelle: I understand that. McCain was a complicated character, but in the end I don’t think the acts of heroism in the end will counterbalance the fact that he was a very (non-insane) conservative (Military first, Money second). Sarah Palin was an unforgivable act, and I personally think laid the groundwork for Donald Trump.

    Of course these facts are behind the relentless attempt to canonize him as a true martyr of the both-sides D.C media cult.

  64. 64
    Suzanne says:

    @Anne Laurie: I think that a lot of atheists underestimate the cultural and familial importance of churchgoing and religion to a lot of people.

    I go to a liberal Methodist church. I’m not really a believer. Nor am I really a disbeliever, either. I honestly do not really think about God very much. I think a lot—like a lot a lot—about how to put the stuff that Christians supposedly believe into practice, on both an individual and a social level. Church is (at least sometimes) a time for me to think about things that are important. It helps that the pastor is incredibly liberal and awesome and is deeply thoughtful and insightful. The service makes me feel connected to my grandfather, who I grew up with and who died when I was 17. It also makes me feel connected to an old and meaningful culture, to a lineage and a tradition that has produced some transcendence. The act of singing together with a group of people is one of the few times I do not feel on guard in public. Belief is really a very small part of the experience for a lot of people. And there really isn’t another social institution that fills that need for me. I wish that atheists could appreciate that a bit more, because honestly I think there’s more common ground there than people think.

    I am a person who still needs to have moments of wonder and the frisson of having my breath taken away every once in a while.

  65. 65
    Brachiator says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    And yet some people find real comfort from their belief.

    This is true. Some of the people I most admire and respect are deeply religious. But I think that they would be good people no matter what.

  66. 66
    Captain C says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I’m not a Catholic, but wouldn’t that be a firing offense, and possibly grounds for excommunication?

  67. 67
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @J R in WV: What is missed in all of the coverage of this is that every religion in the US averages about a 10% rate of sexual improprieties. These range from affairs between clergy and congregants to sexual harassment, assault, and/or rape. While the numbers may have fluctuated a bit – I haven’t looked this stuff up in a while – and is most certainly an undercount, almost every religion, denomination, sect, and/or congregation tries to keep it under wraps. What really sets the Catholic Church’s problem apart is that it largely involved avowedly celibate male priests with underage males. Though we’re starting to see more reporting of male clergy preying on underage females in their congregations coming out of a number of evangelical churches.

    No religion is immune to these problems. And none of them want any of this to be exposed. They don’t want it exposed because they don’t want the reputational damage. They don’t want it exposed because they don’t want the criminal and civil liability. And they don’t want it exposed because they don’t want anything that can be used to challenge their authority.

  68. 68
    Brachiator says:

    @Suzanne:

    I think that a lot of atheists underestimate the cultural and familial importance of churchgoing and religion to a lot of people.

    I think I understand the need for fellowship (or whatever the gender neutral word might be). This is also why people go to the theater or baseball games or to family reunions.

    We are social animals. But there is always tension between institutions that nurture and those that would strangle us.

  69. 69
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Captain C: One would think. But the power centers and structures within the Church that protect people like Vigano, and which he’s now trying to weaponize against Pope Francis, have developed over almost 2,000 years. And have only really been challenged in any meaningful way since the mid 1960s. And that challenge was largely shunted to the side and paid lip service with the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Pope Francis desire and drives for reform are pushing back against a lot of entrenched and reactionary interests. So he has to pick his fights carefully.

  70. 70
    jake the antisoshul soshulist says:

    Any religious person won’t like my views.
    As far as Metaphysics, I am skeptical of there being a creator. And if there should have been volition behind the Big Bang,
    whatever was behind it has left us on our own to figure things out.
    I am not a fan of organized religion. I do consider it the greatest long con ever invented. At best, it is snake oil for the soul.
    At its worst, it is the most destructive force invented by man. Fascism, Capitalism, Communism, etc. can’t touch it.

  71. 71
    Suzanne says:

    @Brachiator: I agree with you 100%. This is not to let any church off the hook. I’m merely offering that highly limited insight to those who wonder why people attend churches or experience the need for some kind of faith tradition despite it seeming completely irrational. It is irrational. But so much of life is irrational! The religious are not alone in this.

  72. 72
    Brachiator says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    A number of jurisdictions are seeking to amend their laws, Pennsylvania is one, to lift the statute of limitations on these types of crimes so they can bring prosecutions

    True enough. But the Church continues to fight this tooth and nail, and tries to get everyone to simply accept apologies. I know this has been the case in California, where the Church is also trying to suppress investigation into assaults that could still be prosecuted.

    And I don’t want to just bash a particular church. It is noteworthy that other organizations that have deep problems with exploitation of children use the same defense tactics, and some of the same legal and PR firms that the Church has used.

  73. 73
    PJ says:

    @jake the antisoshul soshulist: If you are looking at death counts, obviously fascism and communism have much higher levels of destruction in the 20th century than organized religion, and capitalism, if you consider it beginning in the 17th century (and encompassing the slave trade and slavery generally), would certainly give organized religion a run for its money over the last 300 some odd years. The Mongol army was incredibly successful at killing people, on a level not really seen since. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destruction_under_the_Mongol_Empire The fact is that human institutions, particularly armies, have the capacity to be tremendously destructive, because they allow us to surrender our personal responsibility to a higher authority, and that authority often places the growth and sustenance of its own power above all else.

  74. 74
    jonas says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Vigano is the nut who arranged for Kim Davis to have an audience with the Pope.

    I *knew* I’d seen that name somewhere before. What a little fucking weasel. Not that Francis has totally clean hands in this matter, but for this little shitstain to be doing this purely because he can’t abide a non-fanatically conservative pope (like his idol Benedict XVI) is ridiculous. And of course, I’m just assuming that, like all conservatives in these situations, he’s projecting like a gazillion candlepower searchlight.

  75. 75
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @jonas: Yep and most likely.

  76. 76
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    In Australia we’ve gone through this, and are still going through it.

    What we found is that every religious organization that allows unsupervised access to children produces child abuse. Every organization that produces child abuse will try to cover it up using guilt, threats and intimidation.

    From the Salvation Army to the Catholic Church. From evangelicals to the Anglicans. Every fucking one of them.

  77. 77
  78. 78
    jonas says:

    @PJ: The fascist legal philosopher Carl Schmitt posited that all supposedly secular political ideas about sovereignty are in fact thinly-disguised reformulations of claims to authority grounded in theology. Thus characterizing Hitler’s or Stalin’s or Pol Pot’s cults of genocidal violence as “secular” or atheistic — as opposed to supposedly less-destructive and long-past forms of religious violence — is, ultimately, a distinction w/o a difference.

    As noted, Schmitt is most (in)famous for his role as an early intellectual apologist for Nazism, but philosophers on both the right and the left have had to grapple in various ways with this fundamental observation about modern politics.

  79. 79
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    What really sets the Catholic Church’s problem apart is that it largely involved avowedly celibate male priests with underage males.

    Yep, IMO the particulars of the RC abuse being exposed right now trace back specifically to the mid-20th-century situation. Adolescent — even very young adolescent — boys recruited into all-male, very hierarchal seminary schools before they were fully socialized, just when their hormones were exploding. Of course a predictable percentage of those young men were going to end up with the same kinks as the English boarding schools they were based on, because when you segregate adolescents by sex & encourage them to avoid all contact with ‘contaminating’ outsiders, they’ll fixate on each other. And if you further sort the graduates by demanding they profess never to be aroused by adult females, you make it even easier for men who are only aroused by men and / or ‘unsoiled’ children-to-adolescent sex targets. Then — just as Victorian boarding schools provided an unending supply of little boys for proper Victorian male educators to train up — stock the post-war parochial schools (& their associated churches) with a steady supply of children trained to obey the ‘fathers’ above all else…

    My younger brothers were altar boys, briefly. They said that the nuns who trained them gave specific instructions about never being alone with Father X… just as they were supposed to make sure Father Y didn’t drink all the sacramental wine *before* first morning service, and that congregants waiting for confession on Saturday afternoon knew which booth Father Z (a refugee from the Spanish Civil War who never did learn English beyond ‘five Our Father, ten Hail Mary’) was stationed at that week.

  80. 80
    Citizen Alan says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Someone on this blog (I forget who, but I agree completely) suggest that no one since the death of Hitler and Stalin has been as damaging to Western Civilization as Rupert Murdoch.

  81. 81
    Geeno says:

    A law that resulted in forfeiture of property up to the level where the criminal (I think civil rues should actually apply here) behavior was reported prior to conviction. So if the local parish priest is reported and subsequently convicted, the parish property is forfeit, if it gets up to the archdiocese, then ALL of the archdiocese property is forfeit.
    You’ll see this stuff getting resolved quickly at lower levels as soon as the Archdiocese off Boston is divested of all properties.
    That is only way the church will be brought to heel.

  82. 82
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Citizen Alan: I think that argument can be made.

  83. 83
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Yes I did.

    Two things. One: Kevin Rudd is a narcissistic twit. Two: He is absolutely right.

    As a life long Labor voter I hate Kevin Rudd with the heat of a thousand suns for sabotaging his own government with his stupidity and then Julia Gillard’s with his hate.

    Rudd knows exactly how Murdoch’s propaganda campaigns work, because he and his acolytes were some of Murdoch’s prime sources for undermining Gillard.

    That said, Murdoch has been exercising his veto power over Australian governments since John Gorton (that’s the 60s).

    Every new PM has gone cap in hand to Murdoch for his blessing, even the Labor ones.

    The problem is that for the Labor governments that blessing only lasts until the polls start to turn unfavourably. Then Murdoch is all in, boots and all, to tear down this “socialist menace” with whatever destabilisation campaign works most quickly. This has happened to Whitlam, Keating, Rudd and Gillard.

    With Liberal governments he (or his minions) work the opposite way, he will mount propaganda campaigns in co-ordination with the Libs to magnify their achievements and bury their mistakes. Sometimes, as with Gorton and Turnbull he finds himself allied with the far right faction of the Libs against what he perceives as a too “liberal” leader. Or even worse a Liberal leader looking to lose the next election.

    Murdoch has over 70% of the print market and now that the Libs have changed the industry concentration laws, he is now free to start buying up TV networks. The actions of various governments over the years have granted Murdoch veto power over Australian governments. If he senses weakness, and that weakness is to his advantage, he will exploit that weakness for all that it is worth.

    The big question is what can a future Labor government do about him. He appears to be invulnerable.

  84. 84
    gene108 says:

    @CarolDuhart2:

    American religion will be the black church, some Episcopalians/Methodists, and various forms of Islam/Buddhism, and some Wiccan/New Age stuff. Not that these groups are without fault, but they don’t buy into the power trips that other groups do. They don’t try to convert everyone, and have enough history and diversity to be accepting.

    The only reason Muslims and Buddhists aren’t imposing their religious beliefs on the rest of us is because they are a small minority in this country, and therefore are aware of the backlash the majority would have, if they tried.

    I don’t know much about Methodists or Episcopalians, but Christianity, by default, tries to convert non-believers.

  85. 85
    MattF says:

    @Brachiator: Actually, my recollection is that the NYRB has been mostly sold via subscription since well before the internet became popular. It’s an anomaly– people save issues, read them cover to cover and have been doing that for fifty years..

  86. 86
    Kathleen says:

    @Elizabelle: I do, too.

    “But I genuinely respected those nuns, and the many and various Catholic works and workers of faith that I’ve witnessed in my life then and since.”

    I had 16 years of Catholic education (Kindergarten through college) and stopped going to church in the early 80’s, but I still love nuns and respect many people in the church doing good works. The “institution” itself is evil.

  87. 87
  88. 88
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Viva BrisVegas:

    What we found is that every religious organization that allows unsupervised access to children produces child abuse.

    Fix’d for accuracy. Were you here during the Penn State scandal? That had nothing to do with religion, but you still had a guy who was allowed unlimited access to young boys based on his coaching position on the football team. And there was the recent doctor scandal with the women’s Olympic gymnastics team. This stuff happens all the goddamned time in sports, in public schools, anywhere that adults are allowed unsupervised access to children and adolescents.

    This is why Kevin Spacey is now persona non grata in Hollywood — he was hitting on teenage boys who didn’t feel they could say no to someone who had so much more power than they did.

    I do a volunteer arts program with 10-year-old kids, and one of the inflexible rules is that we are NEVER allowed to be alone with a kid. Ever. Because all it takes is one incident by one bad actor for the whole damn program to get shut down.

  89. 89
    Robert Sneddon says:

    Pope Francis was hand-picked by his predecessor, Benedict XVI to do one thing, preserve the unity of the Catholic Church and ensure its existence into the future. He has been in the Hierarchy for more than half his life, he’s known what was going in in respect to sexual abuses by the priesthood and the Hierarchy for as long because all the priests knew what the other priests were doing. They came out of the same seminaries, worked in the same parishes, spoke with each other about their experiences. It’s not as important in his eyes compared to sustaining the power and influence of the Church in the world which is the Pope’s, any Pope’s essential purpose in life. He will mouth pious words, issue platitudes, apologize profusely for past misdeeds by a few rotten apples and expect this “crisis” to blow over in a few decades. It always works, ask a Penn State football supporter.

  90. 90
    Barb 2 says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    The right wing evangelical churches/religions also ignore and cover-up for their ministers. Spousal abuse – child rape, you name it the Protestants have the same sort of cover-ups. Makes my blood boil because it happened to someone I am very close to. She escaped – was married to a minister who beat her, he started beating their child. My friend left him. She was considered the evil one because she left him – according to the church. She told the church hierarchy what this ordained minister did. They didn’t care. He remarried and remained a minister in good standing with that religion. He started beating wife #2. Adds two adopted kids and this ordained minister starts raping the boy.

    There is an organization that is trying to identify and stop the abusers. I forwarded the info to the now mature young man who is scared by his treatment by this fundamentalist Christian church. My friend suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome after all these years – it is made worse knowing that others suffered at the hands of this ordained minister – her ex husband. The males running this church did not protect my friend, nor the children he adopted. His crimes are the crimes of the leadership of this religion and all the male dominated religions.

    These churches (fundamentalist Christians and evangelical Christians) love Trump.

  91. 91
    Barbara says:

    @Adam L Silverman: The other thing that sets the RCC apart is the top down structure that allowed church authorities to dictate response to allegations by and between churches (e.g., moving priests to different parishes) and to mobilize civil authorities to defer to its prerogative to discipline priests.

    Orthodox Jews in NYC might have had a similar experience but nothing compares to the scale and scope of what has happened in the RCC.

  92. 92
    Barbara says:

    @Barb 2: Did your friend ever press charges against her ex-husband? I never blame victims but it’s clear that deference or appeals to church authorities strengthened the hands of those who have every incentive to look the other way. There were a lot of Catholics who complained to their dioceses about wayward priests. All it did was give the church a headstart to successfully covering it up.

  93. 93
    CliosFanboy says:

    @gene108: the black churches can have their scandals as well, especially the independent ones where the minister runs the whole show. One of my wife’s coworker’s was married to one of those “independent” ministers in DC/MD. He claimed to be divorced, then married his new wife before he actually got around to divorcing his 1st.

    teaching at a RC college my opinion of nuns has gone up, while my opinion of priests has gone down, and it was pretty damn low before. (I’m pretty Scots-Irish Presbyterian myself, and the statues of Mary still bother that part of me. “IDOL! ACK!!” :)

  94. 94
    Matt says:

    Whether the modern Catholic Church is capable of “clawing out” the “rot and dishonesty” is the question… and I’m frankly not hopeful.

    TBH the internal politics of the church aren’t my business. The *real* question is: are we going to continue to grant them moral authority? Are we going to let an organization clearly committed to covering up child abuse keep operating schools, hospitals, and adoption agencies?

  95. 95
    maura a hart says:

    each and every single one of these rapist priests should be arrested charged tried and sentenced. many nuns should have been charged with assault. i know the nuns that taught me were fast with their hands and they sure helped me see there is no god

  96. 96
    lowtechcyclist says:

    I’m a day late here, but just in case anyone checks back here, it gets worse:
    Nuns Killed Children, Say Former Residents Of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage

    And the occasional deaths at the hands of the nuns were just the tip of the iceberg of violence they committed on the children when they owned them 24/7/365. Sexual abuse was part of it, of course, but even that was almost the least horrible thing about life for the kids who grew up in Catholic orphanages. Thank goodness they’re a thing of the past.

  97. 97
    Barb 2 says:

    @Barbara:

    There was no help from the Law – he beat her and her child in a southern state. It was her word against a “minister”. (To get a divorce) She was required to go through a cross examination by the male leadership who taught and preached that beating wives and babies was good for them. Her testimony is on files and locked away.

    This was back in the stone age of the 70s. The abuse of the bastard’s second family she only learned about recently – from the adopted son. Evidently wife beating was fairly common back in the stone age – and it still happens in some of the religious right but job churches. My mother remained in that religion until she died – never missed going to church. It always amazed me that the most religious – true believers are majority female. Males are extrinsicly religious and females intrinsically religious.

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