Friday, August 23, 2002

Dreher Talks Back!

When I first invited Rod to respond to my criticisms of his WSJ article, we agreed from the outset that I would comment on his response, and he would have the opportunity to further respond, and there we would close the debate between us on this matter. So here are Rod's "final" words on the subject, repsonding to my blog of this morning:

Fr. Rob:

Thanks again for the opportunity to respond. As we have agreed, this response of mine will be the last exchange between us in this matter. So reader, if Fr. Rob doesn't respond to this post, you mustn't assume it's because he didn't want to!

You wrote:

> But I think it is inaccurate to characterize the Vatican as 'refusing to
> hold bishops accountable.' That diagnosis is accurate only if
> 'accountability' equals removal from office. And I don't think that's
> necessarily so. I think for Rome to tell the Bishops 'you clean up this
> mess you made' is a way of holding them accountable.

I fail to see how that is different from not holding them accountable at all? If it is, then Rome owes us an explanation, instead of leaving you and me and everybody else here to divine their intentions. The record shows that over and over and over again, Church officials, from the chanceries to the Curia, have been told by concerned priests and laymen of terrible abuses, and nothing has been done, or if something was done, it wasn't substantial. And the abuse continued. I am genuinely incapable of understanding how Rome's failure to remove egregiously failed bishops like Law, whose failure has resulted in - and let us be very clear what we are talking about - little boys having their rectums torn by the penises of Christ's priests, among many other abominations, can hardly be read as anything but a failure to respond to the gravity of the crimes. To me, it testifies to a Church hierarchy that is so out of touch with the people it is supposed to serve that it identifies the good of the institution with the preservation of its own class interests. Repairing the situation in Boston is not possible with Bernard Law in the chancery. How is it possible to believe that it is? We need to understand that this thing is not about Bernard Law and his quest for redemption. It is about what the Catholic people in Boston - who are part of the Church too - need and deserve.

> [I]nvoking mystical (or any other kind) of theology is not 'cant'.

The American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition) defines cant as: 1. Monotonous talk filled with platitudes. 2. Hypocritically pious language. 3. The special vocabulary peculiar to the members of an underworld group; argot. ... 6. The special terminology understood among the members of a profession, discipline, or class but obscure to the general population; jargon.

I accused you of cant first with respect to your comments about how removing a bad bishop is an "act of violence" to the local and universal Church. I meant to suggest that your sentiments bear little relation to the actual experience on the ground, in Boston or any other diocese where the violence done by these bishops has been real and severe. I don't believe you were being hypocritical or insincere; I do believe very much that your words come from an ivory tower. I don't mean to denigrate mystical theology, but I think it is most inappropriate to invoke it in this particular situation, because it is being employed to justify what I believe to be passivity in the face of evil. It is an outrage that a bishop can remain in office after having committed what could well be felonies, and which are certainly grave moral crimes, because we have to worry about metaphysical guillotines.

I also called "cant" these lines:

> But that may be reason number 6,485 that I am not the Pope, nor ever will be.
> I hope Mr. Dreher and those who agree with him have the humility to admit
> the same.

I stand by my original assertion. These lines strike me as meaningless. OK, so I'm not the Pope. Big deal.

Finally, I called "cant" your assertion that:

> Our obsession with the 'governance' of the Church is almost certainly a sign
> that we are not yet thinking with the mind of Christ in the heart of the Church.
> We will not govern our way out of The Situation. We will only find the way out
> through Christ and His way of the Cross.

I still believe these are pious platitudes you've stated. Of course we have to find our way out through Christ and His way of the Cross. Who disputes that? I dispute your view that proper governing of the Church - that is, holding those ordained to serve Christ and the faithful to accountability, is somehow apart from the Way of the Cross. It is apparent to very many good Catholics that the Way of the Cross does not mean, or should not mean, a lifetime sinecure for Bernard Law, Rodger Mahony and their ilk.

For the record, I believe that it's imperative that the due-process rights of priests are maintained. So does Fr. Tom Doyle, who is second to none in his courageous advocacy of the rights of abuse victims - and it's why Doyle has criticized the Dallas protocols. I have not called on priests to be dismissed without respect for their due process rights.

You write:

>I think to dismiss the Holy Father's lack of 'action' so far as signs of
> indifference or 'not caring' is premature.

It would be, Fr. Rob, if the first the Vatican heard about the scandal in the American Church was January. But they have known about this thing, and known about it in great detail, for at least 17 years. How patient is one expected to be? Do you not understand that the lives and souls of real, flesh-and-blood people are at stake? Does Rome not see that from its vantage point of 30,000 feet? Rome has been told. And told and told and told - and this has been documented (e.g., check out the reporting of such in "Lead Us Not Into Temptation," by Jason Berry, which came out 10 years ago). If you want to see a monument to patience with Rome on the sex abuse question, read the daily papers.

Thanks again for inviting my comments.