Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Dancing Around the Truth
Turnabout is fair play!
Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest, on the declaration last fall by Pope Benedict seeking to lure conservative Anglicans and Episcopalians to the Roman Catholic Church:
The Vatican sensed an opening, especially with those Episcopalians (and former Episcopalians) who were still fuming over the consecration of V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop of New Hampshire, the refusal of the Episcopal Church to foreswear same-sex marriages, and the ordination of gays and lesbians and even (still!) the ordination of women. ...
While I've seen no evidence of Anglicans and Episcopalians "swimming the Tiber" en masse (pardon the pun) to Rome, the Vatican's overture struck me at the time as opportunistic, even cynical. Ignoring decades of ecumenical conversations—not to mention catching the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, off guard—Benedict thought he could harvest disaffected Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church by offering concessions on liturgy and music together with ironclad proscriptions against such "evils" as homosexuality and women priests.
Now, just five months later, the tables have turned. Every new edition of the New York Times, it seems, carries fresh disclosures about priestly pedophilia in Ireland, Germany, and (most appallingly) at a Catholic school for the deaf in Wisconsin. Sadly enough, priestly pedophilia is old news by now. What's new, in the opening of court documents that the Vatican sought desperately to suppress, is that the Catholic hierarchy stubbornly refused to deal with these cases in a way that would protect children against further abuse by predatory priests. There's plenty of blame to go around, it seems—mild slaps on the wrist and reassignment to other venues where the abuse continued. But the finger of blame and complicity points unmistakably to Benedict in his pre-papal responsibilities as Joseph Ratzinger while archbishop of Munich and, later, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
So what do we learn from these developments over the past five months? Consider the evidence. I gather that the lesson from the Vatican is that homosexuality, even on the part of those in loving, committed relationships, is sin, must be exposed to the light of day for its shamefulness and must never be countenanced. It's okay, however, to turn a blind eye to pedophile priests, to reassign them quietly to do harm elsewhere or simply to ignore the problem.