Story after story of not simply abusive priests, but of mendacious bishops, intransigent superiors of religious orders, and venal curial officials, seem to pour out daily. Of course, the velocity of these reports is the result of the media’s knowing a good story when they see one, perhaps even some lingering anti-Catholicism. On the other hand, they’re not making this stuff up.
And here is what concerns me now. Despite the fact that Scout masters, school teachers, youth minister and the like--not to mention ministers, rabbis and imams--have all been connected with sexual abuse, the institutions of which they are members simply have not demonstrated (so far) the obtuseness, stonewalling, defensiveness, instransigence and sinfulness that the Catholic church has on this matter. The institution of the church--and here I mean the hierarchy--particularly in its historic desire to shield itself from any and all critique by "outsiders," and its desire to avoid "scandal" made the problem of sexual abuse, which is probably just as rampant in other groups, infinitely worse.
How did we get to this point? How did we find ourselves with some leaders who are not only blind but almost willfully so? (The old term "invincible ignorance" comes to mind.) Part of it is the lust for power. Our blunt editorial this week talks about the "black cloud of flattery" that envelopes the curia, the last Renaissance court. Part of it is pride. One of the less-noted aspects of this saga is how shocked Vatican officials are when anyone has the temerity to contradict them, or even to question them. (Benedict, who many credit with taking a hard line with abusers and with Maciel, while at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was not immune to this. See the video of his slapping a reporter who asked him about Maciel.) It’s not hard to extrapolate this into a disregard for victims and their families. That is, if a bishop won't speak to the police or to the media, why would he speak to a victim or a parent?