(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)
God turned out to be in good health. The Catholic Church similarly seems likely to make it through the clergy sex abuse scandal in pretty good shape.
I don’t mean to single out Time for being snide. Nearly every other media voice in the land has chimed in on the scandal. And, as I’ve said before and don’t mind saying again, the media are doing their job in covering this mess. Sure it hurts. That’s what it feels like when the Church you love blows one big time.
Still, some of the commentary has been over the edge. Here and there anti-Catholic bigots have crawled out from under rocks. Elsewhere hysteria has set in. Some commentators, Catholic and secular alike, seem to have stopped taking their Prozac.
Much of this media attention comes with advice attached. That’s to be expected and should be viewed with extreme skepticism. Pressure from sources fundamentally hostile to Catholic values must not stampede the Church into buying an illusion of peace by saying a craven yes to the values of the world.
In that regard, keep your eye on the suddenly popular word “systemic” now cropping up everywhere.
Undoubtedly the sources of the present crisis exist not only in the twisted psyches of some individuals but in an ecclesiastical system that needs constructive overhauling. Less rote reliance on secrecy and more openness and accountability come to mind as necessary steps.
But “systemic” appears to be code for some agendas of dubious merit — abandoning celibacy, ordaining women, radical democratization of the Church. As special pleaders who have championed these causes for years sound off in the media, one senses an attempt to get a bandwagon rolling.
Celibacy, women’s ordination, ‘democratization’ all need discussing, along with much else. But the discussion should make sense.
If, for example, you believe (I do) that the Church can’t ordain women to the priesthood because Christ didn’t set up the priesthood that way, you need to offer a better explanation than is usually given. Part of it must involve showing how not ordaining women does not — anyway, need not — mean relegating them to second-class status in the ecclesiastical system.
Similarly, if you think women should be ordained, you need to show — much more clearly than anyone so far has done — how that would help solve the sex abuse problem. Unless, that is, you are willing to concede that for you the scandal is just an excuse for pushing your favorite cause.
Already there have been changes as a result of the disclosures of the last three months. An old ecclesiastical system may be passing away. And if that is so, it is crucial that the Church remain in control of its destiny.
The discussion that lies ahead — a discussion in which all of us have a stake — must be reasoned and responsible, not a mindless lemmings’ rush in a direction marked “change,” no matter what media and interest groups may say.
St. Paul told the Christians of Rome, “Do not be conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2). At a time when conforming to the world is urged on the Church from all sides, that is far and away the most important advice.
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