Friday, April 9, 2010

Missing the Point

Fr. Z has been discussing the Kiesle case. He questions and tries to explain one of the references in the letter:
"DISPENSATION"? AP has been talking about the priest’s "removal" but not about a "dispensation". What dispensation? Dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state? That is not the same as the "removal" implied in dismissal from the clerical state, which is a punishment. Of course the half-informed scribblers of AP probably don’t understand this. But, dear reader, this was an interesting line in the letter, if that is what it actually says in Latin. As I read these things, here is what comes to mind. And this is where the AP’s desires fall apart in this case. In the 60’s and 70’s hordes of priests simply left ministry or, if they requested a dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state, they were often caused to wait a great deal of time – often a decade or more – with the hope that somehow they might be recovered as priests. Clearly this case is more complicated because the priest concerned had harmed children. But back in the day, the standard operating procedure was to try to save priests from quitting. Therefore, when a petition for dispensation had been made, the Congregation followed their standard operating procedure. I suspect there was "boiler plate" in that letter. I am simply musing aloud here. If AP can make wild and aggressively obtuse statements, I think I as someone far better informed than their writers, can muse a little having observed the chicken-tracks of truth they left here and there in the piece.
Which is all fine and good except, from my perspective (and probably that of many people), this doesn't make things any better. If anything, it proves the points we've been trying to make, or even makes it worse.

Neoconservative Catholics (revealing their fascist tendencies) seem to think that "following procedures" explains everything and exonerates everyone. To the rest of us, it looks like the "just following orders" excuse: it is no excuse at all.

No one is saying that procedures weren't being followed, what is being questioned are those very procedures, and the fact that someone who could have probably agitated to change them seems to have just gone along with them. These men are so thoroughly institutionalized into the bureaucracy and "following the rules," I bet that possibility never even entered into their heads.

More disturbing is that this is being offered as some sort of justification:
In the 60’s and 70’s hordes of priests simply left ministry or, if they requested a dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state, they were often caused to wait a great deal of time – often a decade or more – with the hope that somehow they might be recovered as priests. Clearly this case is more complicated because the priest concerned had harmed children. [Now that's the understatement of the century!] But back in the day, the standard operating procedure was to try to save priests from quitting.
This once again shows why the question of mandatory celibacy goes right to the heart of these problems. The men who actually chose to go through the legitimate channels to get dispensed, instead of just leaving, were made to run the gauntlet, all out of some idea that they could be "saved" from quitting, out of the hope that they might be "recovered" as priests?!?! And the fact that this was "standard operating procedure" is being offered as some sort of justification?!?

This once again shows the bizarre twisted mindsets of the men running this organization. If someone wants to leave (or a bishop doesn't want him anymore, for whatever reason), make it easy, thank them for their years of service (or turn them over to the police, as the case may be), and let them go. This idea of pressuring men into staying by holding a promise not have sex over their head...is just sick. This idea that people can be manipulated and browbeaten in that way.

The vindictive and drawn-out nature of the process of dispensing from the obligations of the clerical state (whether laicization was sought by the man himself, or the diocese) and the way they've been known to speak of former clerics also is strangely suggestive of a sort of bizarre
jealousy on their part, as if the man, merely for wanting to leave, has betrayed them in a deep way. Just for wanting a change of career or lifestyle!

You can make the "divorce" analogy all you want, but those sorts of relational dynamics among the clergy are creepy and not healthy. No regular business treats an employee who quits as if he has been seduced and is adulterously divorcing them (then again, no regular business requires celibacy on the part of its employees). Adults simply don't conceive of their occupational relationships in such an intimate and personal way; except, apparently, in the Catholic clergy. If priests were simply free-loaders, I could see why there might be an impetus to discourage leaving (because then people might abuse this system), but priests put in (or are supposed to, at least) work the whole time, and thus support themselves, so it's not like the Church has been swindled if they leave.


This attitude also shows the lengths to which they'll go to retain personnel when there is a shortage (at the expense of quality, and even the safety of children), even while refusing to open the pool to other candidates. It really makes their priorities look absolutely perverse. And the fact that they adamantly protest this and apparently can't see it when everyone else can...makes them seem even more delusional and childish.

I think Fr Z has ended up proving the very points he is trying to argue against.

7 comments:

Peter said...

This is somewhat unrelated but I find the recent appointment of Opus Dei bishops interesting. The soon to be new Archbishop of LA and our recently appointed very young bishop in Allentown PA are both Opus Dei. I have read in several places that of the over 1000 Opus Dei associated priests, none have yet to be accused of any sexual impropriaty. If that is true, regardless of personal opinions related to Opus Dei, it is pretty impressive. In contrast to the LofC. By their fruits ye shall know them??

A Sinner said...

An interesting statistic indeed, if it's true.

I'd tend to think that Opus Dei's dynamics would lead them to being more susceptible to cover-up and such...but if you don't have anything bad to cover up in the first place (due to personal holiness of members) then I guess that isn't really a problem.

It's also possible that this relates to the fact that in Opus Dei, priest members work right along side the lay members, the lay members include men AND women, and they are out "in the world" working regular jobs in contact with regular people, rather than having a more isolated clerical culture.

Pater, O.S.B. said...

Opus Dei priests are usually "second career" priests, having lived as professionals before going into the Priesthood.

A Sinner said...

I bet that helps a lot too.

If the statistic is true, I hope the powers-that-be pay attention to that.

sortacatholic said...

The Latin is here:

http://tinyurl.com/y9h7uym.

It's an extremely bad photo. Hope it goes viral so that people can make up their own minds.

The CDF letter contains highly formal grammatical and vocabulary markers that strongly suggest "form letter". Certainly Cdl. Ratzinger did not sit down and compose a personal letter to the bishop of then Rev. Kiesle.

I disagree with A Sinner's appraisal of the delay in laicizations. Many priests left to wed in the late 60's and 70's. I doubt that the laicization delay was entirely a Vatican stalling tactic to win back priests. Perhaps the Holy Office was simply swamped with requests. Unfortunately this confused period let some abusers slip through the cracks. I would not apply a adulterous metaphor to this situation.

A Sinner said...

It wasn't my appraisal, that was Fr Z's.

And I wouldn't make the adulterous analogy either; in fact, as I said, I say let the men go if they want, and thank them for their years of service.

But I think it is certain clergy who treat priests who leave as "betraying" them all. Fr Greeley discusses how the laicization process is vindictive in his book "Priests: A Calling In Crisis"

I don't by the "just swamped" argument. If you can't get some priests laicized in under a year...then you either bring on more personnel, or simplify the process. If this guy wants to go, why not just let him?

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