Sunday, April 17, 2011

Righteous Anger, Judgment, Reason and Hobbyhorses

If you have a Facebook account then you can see this thread here where Joseph D'hippolito and I are engaged in our same old argument about the child abuse scandals in the Catholic clergy. Or, possibly, we're engaged in "talking past each other" as some call it. Either way I'm done writing anything on Mike Liccione's Facebook account. But I have more to say so I'm going to put it here, and if Joe D wants to he can come over and comment as he's done before in the past.

Here's an abridged version of our exchange so far:

Joseph D'hippolito: Paul, I read William Donahue's response. I did not see one word concerning conviction of sin or repentance. All I read was more of the same kind of arrogance -- only, this time, masquerading as victimization -- that pervades Church leaders and sycophants like Donahue, who wouldn't have a platform if he did not receive support from the hierarchy. Church leaders do a great job lecturing the laity about "social justice" and trying to enforce convoluted fasting regulations during Lent but don't have the guts to apply their self-professed principles to themselves -- at least, not without massive public pressure shaming them to do so. The fact that unscrupulous people will try to exploit the situation does not relieve Church of the responsibility of putting itself in that situation.

Paul: Joseph, you have allowed your anger to countermand your reason when discussing this issue. Some priests *are* innocent victims, and it is not "arrogance" to defend them from those unscrupulous people, as you rightly name them. Your name-calling swipes at Donohue reveal that you cannot contest the facts he presents. Also your remarks about fasting and social justice are completely irrelevant to this conversation.

Joseph D'hippolito: Paul, I don't deny that there are unscrupulous people who will exploit the Church (or any other institution) for financial gain. I don't deny that innocent priests have been smeared. But clerical sex-abuse has been a significant problem since St. Peter Damian's time, when people *weren't* dropping lawsuits left and right, and Church leaders have failed in eradicating it. Yes, this is a "church of sinners." So what? God demands righteousness from His people, especially those who bear authority in His name. Unfortunately, those leaders are so infatuated with the idea that the Church embodies "the fullness of the Gospel" that they refuse to understand the awesome responsibility that carries. Instead, we get misdirection, non sequiturs and arrogance masking as victimization and persecution. Such tactics blaspheme God's holy, righteous name.

Joseph D'hippolito: BTW, Paul, I am angry. Why aren't you? As one devout Catholic said, "since She is the one, true Church, we expect more from those that represent Her than any other church organization. There is no defense against what the cardinals and bishops failed to do. None."

Paul: Joe, I am angry when I think about what the abusive priests did, and I am angry when I think of how it was sometimes covered up. And if that was the only thing I ever thought about, I suppose that I would be angry all the time. I feel sorry for anyone who obsesses about anything to the degree that it becomes obvious to all that they can no longer think straight.

Joseph D'hippolito: Paul, if you are referring to me, then how do any of my comments prove that I'm not thinking straight? How am I or other Catholics *supposed* to think when they see those who hold authority in God's name abuse that authority (no pun intended) to protect unrepentant evildoers? How are we supposed to think when God's holy, righteous name is sullied -- and nobody, not even the most "devout" Catholics, gives a damn?

Joseph D'hippolito: Here's a post from a Catholic who understands the situation better than you do: "Whether the incidence of abuse is worse elsewhere is irrelevant. I have no doubt that there is abuse in the public schools, in swim teams, and within families, etc. But most of us have no practical way to voice our displeasure within those systems. As Catholics who care about the spiritual health of the Church, we have an obligation to speak out when we see that conditions that enable abusers to escape detection continue to persist. Besides, I don’t think the argument that essentially says, 'The Catholic Church: Just as bad or a bit worse than the rest of society at attracting pedophiles' makes for good apologetics."
So much for Bill Donohue and his spin.

Following are my thoughts, not necessarily in order of importance.

Near the end Joseph asks "[H]ow do any of my comments prove that I'm not thinking straight?" Two sentences later he provides an example with his assertion that "nobody, not even the most 'devout' Catholics, gives a damn[.]" Any Catholic trying to practice his faith devoutly to a measure will find that claim untrue and unreasonable. They will also most likely be offended if they hadn't before encountered this type of extreme rhetoric on the issue.

I don't know who gave swim team coaches some kind of immunity from prosecution for child abuse.

When I wrote "you have allowed your anger to countermand your reason", I was voicing my opinion based on Joseph's comments in past threads as well as the present. Joseph's justification for being angry is that his anger is righteous anger. To wit, he states "Why aren't you angry?" And, of course, he has a point. If we read St. Thomas on anger, we can see that lack of anger can also be against reason and correct judgement and therefore can also be a serious sin of omission. Check out point 1 and point 8 on that page. If I have been dismissive about what a child abuser has done to a child, or have been tolerant of it out of misguided patience then I have sinned, plain and simple.

Here's my defense—I have never done that. If anything, I have been too fierce in my anger about the perpetrators, thinking to myself that when John Geoghan was murdered in a prison cell by a White Supremacist maniac that it was simply a case of what Aristotle called natural justice as interpreted by "the Punisher" comic book character. I'm not sure I was correct at the time about that specific line of thought, but I am still angered by the sex crimes he committed, literally hundreds, and the way he was enabled. If someone wants to attack my righteous anger cred based on my sporadic blog posts then they can attack me just as forcefully on all sorts of other "sins of omission", e.g., is Pauli really angry enough about abortion? does Pauli pray enough? did Pauli, who is conservative, point out when Rush Limbaugh said something uncharitable last week like he did when Obama made fun of retarded kids? did Pauli, who has Jewish friends, condemn Sarah Silverman for saying horrible things about Jesus Christ? Et cetera. It is possible that I'm far too tolerant of the sins of others, but if you want to earn a well-deserved "Are you crazy?" look, ask my kids that question.

I continue to post insights from Bill Donohue because I feel he is providing "equal time" on this issue from a completely valid angle, although it is a different angle than is taken by Lee Podles. If SNAP and Bishop Accountability can be devoted 100% to sexual abuse crimes committed only by Catholic priests, then there is no reason why the Catholic League and this blog can't focus on the gross hypocrisy, lies and propaganda about the same class of people.

If I see a Catholic priest and immediately say to myself "Priests molested children," then I really think there is something wrong with me. If I see a Bishop and immediately say to myself "Bishops enabled molesting Priests," then I also think I have fallen into a dangerous anti-clerical mindset. Explain to me how this is any different than the logic of a suburban black who suspects all blacks in the inner city of being pimps and drug peddlers. We would rightly conclude that that man had sadly adopted the beliefs and conclusions associated with white racism.

My final note. Look back at the St. Thomas anger section and focus on the Angelic Doctor's warnings about when anger can be sinful, then ask yourself if Mr. D'Hippolito seems to cross the line sometimes. Does he ever desire punishment beyond the deserts of the guilty, is his rhetoric immoderately fierce, is it ever contrary to charity and/or justice? Has his anger given birth to clamor, contumely, quarreling, swelling of the mind or indignation? I'm not going to answer any of those questions, which I believe are valid when asked with regard to anyone, myself included.

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  1. Re Crimes Against Humanity by Pope: Write The Hague Prosecutor by May 11, 2011. The Hague International Criminal Court will soon decide whether to pursue criminal charges against Joseph Ratzinger (otherwise known as the “Pope”) as a German citizen who is complicit in crimes against humanity, especially in light of the epidemic of pedophilia by Catholic priests. Click here: for more info and address to send your evidence to The Hague Prosecutor – Persons with evidence of crimes committed by the Catholic Church or The Vatican can now write directly to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in charge of this case, Dr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, according to the two German Lawyers who are applying to prosecute Ratzinger, Christian Sailer and Gert Hetzel. Source: City of Angels Blog by Kay Ebeling.

  2. The Facebook conversation is not available and I'd really like to read it, can you email me a copy? or become my friend on Facebook (kay ebeling)

  3. Ms. Ebeling, I can't email you someone else's Facebook page content, sorry.

  4. I can think of tons of people guilty of Crimes Against Humanity. I never realized I can write to the Hague with my evidence! That's so freakin' cool!

  5. Pauli, after reading the main piece, I have just a couple thoughts.

    1) I too am angry about the scandal. The cost of the pedophilia scandal and its bungling through the years includes not a few people leaving the Church -- for the wrong reason, indeed, but leaving the Church anyway. And not coming to the Church, in many cases. So I have lots of anger toward the actual perpetrators (and I think we have some Scriptural backing for such anger -- the passage where Christ talks about the punishment for those who lead His little ones into sin.)

    2) OTOH, it is a certainty that much of the media and public attention is motivated by a wish to destroy the Church, rather than about the pedophilia itself. Kind of like global warming-- it isn't about global warming but about control of the economy. And that's why the media doesn't care (anywhere near as much) about swim coaches, public school teachers, etc. etc. The goal is destruction of the Church, because of its Truth. A much larger issue. But because of that motivation, the media and secular culture will not be easily drop the matter -- there is too big a prize in it for them.

    So, ultimately, I think Donahue's argument is a loser. Arguing about unfair prosecution of one group for crimes committed, as compared with another group, falls on deaf ears. It convinces no one of anything. If one group is being unfairly punished for a crime, the solution is for that group to stop committing the crime. Only then can the story dry up. Nothing else will do.

  6. Pik, I agree with some of what you say. However I believe Donohue's points have merit. He provides balanced argumentation to people "on the fence" if you will. These are secular people who may think religion is goofy and the Catholic church is the goofiest, but they don't deny the good that the Church does and they are mindful that the problems in the Church and in religion in general exist in the world at large.

    So the arguments from those in Joseph's camp who see Donohue as being arrogant and not having the proper contrition may have contain some truth. But I think it's irrelevant in the realm that he is dealing in, that is the realm of civil rights and the law.

    And I guess I disagree with anyone who thinks "the story" (as you name it) isn't drying up. It seems to me like it has. I see nothing to convince me otherwise.

  7. I agree, Pauli, that the story is drying up of its own accord (IMO due in no small part to the action that the bishops and the Pope (or should I say, otherwise known as the "Pope") have taken). And, yeah, whenever Leno or Lady Gaga or whoever (Rod Dreher) trots the story out again, it ought to be slapped down. It is good that Donahue does that.

    I question the number of "secular people on the fence" who refer to Catholic League press releases to get their balanced argumentation on the topic, tho. His posts have great value to the faithful, however, so that we get the full story and don't lose heart.

  8. When I talk about the "people on the fence" I guess I'm thinking about a wide variety of folks, not all secular. Donohue like to quote Richard Dawkins who stated that the church “has been unfairly demonized over the issue [of child sexual abuse], especially in Ireland and America.” But I'm thinking also about people like my Protestant Christian parents who have come to terms with my conversion, but who still think the Catholic Church is a bogus and decadent "denomination". Even so, they see the way the issue is exploited as being unfair against innocent Catholic priests and they see it more as part of the larger attack on Christianity to continue to give the story such high ranking.

    I think the Catholics who don't what Donohue is stating in his press releases about the topic of accusations against clergy are basically missing the point of his chosen profession. It's like saying that a Catholic can be a detective investigating crimes, but he's not allowed to be a defense lawyer, even if there's a chance that the accused party is innocent. The position is naive.

  9. I guess righteous anger can be useful at times, but Joe is one of those guys who hops on a hobbyhorse and never lets go. I applaud you for having the patience to deal with him.

  10. Oh, this is rich:

    Oh, BTW, I will listen to your (and Diane's) complaints about "belittling others" when you publicly apologize for your obsessive demeaning of Rod Dreher over the years.

    This is a guy who has carried on a vendetta against Mark Shea for at least five years. I mean, that wins the award for least self-aware comment ever.

  11. I applaud you for having the patience to deal with him.

    I think that some response is always in order for Joe. I think that deep down he's a good guy.

    The problem with this topic of priestly abuse is that it's "contagious" to the mind, to borrow a concept from the movie Inception. You have to put it out of the mind forcibly.

    Some people cannot do this. Look, I do one post here and up pops this City of Angels Lady with 30 blogs who wants to prosecute Pope Benedict. Go over to Lee Podles site and check out some of the people who post comments there. They make Joe look pretty balanced by comparison.

    You can't start a lay group of any sort to deal with this problem without the membership immediately including people with personal agendas who want to hurt the church. You have to do personal reparation for the damage done, prayer and fasting. I will admit--venting on blogs is much easier....

  12. On a lighter note, Pauli's statement:

    . . . it's "contagious" to the mind, to borrow a concept from the movie Inception.

    requires clarification.

    More accurately, the concept is borrowed from Duck Tales. (H/T to my son, who is a '90s kid.)

  13. Thanks, Pik, that's a great link.

    I liked Inception, but it reminded me of Dreamscape, obviously because I'm an '80s kid.