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Perspective on the Problem

  /   Friday April 09, 2010  

The New York Times has struck again with another story in which they are claiming inaction on the part of the Church against a priest who was sexually abusing minors.  I won’t go into much depth here, but there is more to the story than they tell us (surprise, NOT!).  Good summaries of the real story can be found here and here on Jimmy Akin’s blog for the National Catholic Register.  If you’d rather get some perspective from someone who writes fairly but isn’t necessarily going to outright defend the Church, try this article from John Allen in the National Catholic Reporter.

While all of this, as well as the stories from Europe, were coming out, I read this article from Phil Lawler.  In it, he explains how sexual abuse is a problem in society as a whole, not just the Church.  He is very careful to explain that he understands, as I do, that this does not mean that we should excuse those in authority in the Church for their actions.  The Church must uphold and be held to a higher standard than secular society.  In fact, I would argue that the problem is not that the Church has become worse than secular society but that the Church and her institutions have largely become secularized and then experienced the attending problems.

So, if the fact that sexual abuse and its cover-up is a societal problem doesn’t excuse the Church, what does it mean?  Well, it means a couple of things . . .

First, we have evidence that our media is targetting the Church, whether out of animosity or the desire to sell stories.  After all, if the media’s real interest were sexual abuse, they’d be taking a lot of other people to task for sexual abuse cover-up.  Even the New York Times story mentioned that local law enforcement was aware of the case but did not prosecute.  Amidst calls for Pope Benedict’s resignation, why has there not been a call for an investigation of the law enforcement offices in Wisconsin?

Second, it means that there is nothing inherit in the structure or discipline of the Church that is causing the problem.  The usual gang has used this as yet another excuse to promote their pet agendas:  married priests, women priests, changing the Church’s teaching on sexuality, etc.  However, if the same problem is happening in wider society, it’s hard to make a case that the problem is caused by anything particular to the Church. 

The problem of sexual abuse is, in my opinion, nothing but a symptom of the real problem plaguing the Church – secularization.  This is seen in many of the more horizontal liturgies that we see in parishes today.  It shows in Catholic institutions like hospitals and universities that are now difficult to distinguish from their secular counterparts.  It shows in a Church who is afraid to teach her doctrine.  It shows in orders of nuns that have become little more than social workers (hence the apostolic visitation).  Pope Benedict XVI is doing all he can to try to combat these trends.  While people in the media call for his resignation, I see him as the man whom the Church needs most.

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