Friday, April 9, 2010

Going My Way, Little Boy?

Love the hat, Your Holiness, so much that I'm not even going to mention how much you look like Uncle Fester. Oops! I just did. (I see, however, that I'm not the first to notice it. Just sayin'.)

I don't think that the allegations of Ratzinger's complicity with the coverup of priestly abuse are likely to do any serious harm to the Roman Catholic Church, or even just to the Vatican. It apparently has been suggested that Ratzinger should resign or abdicate, as if he were an American politician tainted by scandal. Hah! Who do these people think they're dealing with? Ratzinger doesn't think he owes anything to the world, or to most Catholics, or to anyone. (I doubt his belief in God is more than merely ceremonial.) He's a tough, ruthless ecclesiastical politician, and he comes from a tradition that administers authority to the plebs. The monarchical episcopate does not derive its unjust power from the consent of the governed; claiming to derive it from Heaven merely eliminates any accountability at all, short of armed uprising.

It's not surprising that many Catholics at all levels have gone on the offensive, from the cardinal who (following the pontiff's own lead) dismissed the scandal as "petty gossip" to the Pope's personal preacher who compared it to a pogrom ("collective violence suffered by the Jews", an especially unhappy choice considering the Church's historical role in perpetuating anti-Semitism), right down to this commenter at FAIR's blog:
How about reporting the sex abuses in Yeshivas? How about reporting the sex abuses in Koranic schools? How about reporting the sex abuses in boarding schools? How about reporting about abuses in American Schools? How about reporting the sex abuses and pedophilia in Buddhist countries? How about reporting – over and over and over – the traveling, pedophile, married Western men who travel to Buddhist countries? What a bunch of hypocrites you all are. The Church is pummeled over and over and yet, sexual abuse is rampant in every other denomination – religious or secular – and yet the very FAIR garbage crowd don't give a damn shit about reporting them. When the Hasidic Jews were caught in their organ harvesting scheme, the press ran the story just a couple of days. Had it been the Catholic Church caught in the macabre trade, the press would have had a field day – for days, and days, and days on end…
How about those abuses? I'm perfectly willing to condemn them, and to tangle with anyone who wants to minimize them. As it happens, though, there is a fair amount of news coverage of those "traveling, pedophile, married Western men who travel to Buddhist countries" (none of whom, I'm sure, are Catholics), much coverage and agitation about sexual trafficking. And the Boy Scouts of America, invoked by another commenter, are facing their own very similar day of reckoning as I write. (To enhance my Schadenfreude, the Mormons are evidently being caught in the backwash. It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.) It should be getting more media attention, but you can't have everything. Given their antigay and religious policies, they're not going to get any defense from me.

But this writer has a rather skewed view of moral issues. One thing that makes it so irresistible to snap at the Ratzinger's ankles is his hypocrisy. He was Wojtyla's point man in attacking the gay movement in the 1980s and after, ranting about morality and decency. To find that at the same time he was sheltering abusive priests is just too delicious to ignore. (But it wasn't his fault, it was Teh Gay.) And it wasn't just Ratzinger, it was the entire church hierarchy, treating its flock as the enemy, silencing and intimidating parents who complained, shielding abusers and moving them from one diocese to another so that they could find fresh victims. The hypocrisy of Ratzinger on Easter, declaring that "humanity was suffering from a 'profound crisis' and needed 'spiritual and moral conversion'", is not surprising -- I suspect that he really, sincerely can't see what all the fuss is about and doesn't believe that he could have done anything wrong -- but it shouldn't be ignored either. He, and the rest of the Catholic leadership, should be jeered at whenever they try to lecture anyone else on morality until they clean their own house. Katha Pollitt makes this point in a good recent column.

One of Noam Chomsky's basic arguments (similar to Martin Luther King's) is that it's easy to condemn the crimes of official enemies, harder but essential to condemn the crimes of one's own group. Picking on the Pope, as fun as it is, really isn't my job, though as a gay person I'm one of his targets when he can manage it, and I'm entitled to attack him when it suits me. It should be Catholics who take up the pitchforks and torches and demand accountability, and the most hopeful aspect of this resurgent scandal is that they're doing just that. They won't be bought off by multimillion dollar settlements, though they may want damages paid, and they won't be appeased by transparently insincere papal apologies. I don't think the Pope realizes just how much trouble he's in.