It’s Holy Week, so I’m purposely steering more towards the Passion of Christ than the sex abuse scandal (although I won’t be surprised if it’s addressed on Thursday by the pope). That said, the clamor over sex abuse has gotten louder and, if you can believe it, crazier. Let me cite you two views on the causes of the sex abuse cover-up discussing the role played by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now-Pope Benedict. Our first contender has this to say:
The sin-crazed “Rottweiler” was so consumed with sexual mores — issuing constant instructions on chastity, contraception, abortion — that he didn’t make time for curbing sexual abuse by priests who were supposed to pray with, not prey on, their young charges.
Re-read this if you have to. Benedict’s problem is that he’s sin-crazed and consumed with sexual mores, and that this means he didn’t take the time to care about sexual abuse. By this same logic, the reason we have a problem with crack cocaine in this country is that so many police department are “drug-obsessed” and consumed by a desire to eradicate drugs like heroin, powder cocaine, and steroids. If only Benedict had stopped worrying about sexual sins, he would have had plenty of time to deal with the sexual sins committed by priests! Our second contender takes another angle:
A culture of laxity had so infected bishops [in the 1960s] that their disciplinary muscles had severely atrophied. It was not as if they were vigilant rulers in all aspects, but perversely indulgent of sexual abuse. Indulgence was shown to abuses of all kinds. So latitudinarian had the clerical culture become that even modest attempts at doctrinal discipline were widely mocked — or do we forget that the progressive press, inside and outside the Church, calling Joseph Ratzinger “God’s Rottweiler”?
Our second contender seems to be arguing that when bishops are either opposed to the enforcement of canon law (liberals like Mahony), or too spineless to do it (conservatives like Law), they don’t enforce canon law. And since canon law is the most powerful tool that a bishop has over his priest, the unwillingness to enforce canonical discipline meant priests did whatever they wanted… and sometimes, that meant raping children while the bishops twiddled their thumbs in angst, or passed the offender to revolving-door rehab like St. Luke’s Institute (which was run at the time by a sexually active homosexual priest), or worse yet, another diocese, where the predator priests struck again, and again, and again. Our second contender sees Ratzinger as one of the few bishops who had enough moral caliber and backbone to actually, routinely, enforce canonical discipline against those priests with deviant “sexual mores,” to borrow our first contender’s turn-of-phrase. And what’s more, our second contender views folks like our first contender as antagonistic thugs who reduce a man doing God’s work to the name of Rottweiler… all because he enforced the very canons which — had they been enforced by the US bishops — would have prevented thousands of instances of child molestation and rape.
You’ll never guess which of our two contenders has a regular column in the New York Times. With logic that sound, how could she not?