Boston’s own Andrew Bacevich, a self-described “Catholic Conservative”, writes a provocative opinion piece in today’s Globe — “Don’t look to Rome for the true Catholic voices“. For those like jconway and Christopher who seek insight into what the unfolding scandal means for American Catholics, this strikes me as a must-read. For example (emphasis mine):
Why would anyone choose voluntarily to affiliate with such an organization? In offering his own answer to that question, the novelist Walker Percy, himself a convert, once wrote: “The reason I am a Catholic is that I believe that what the Catholic Church proposes is true.” Yet if truth exists and if a Catholic Christian interpretation of truth retains any potential for illuminating the human condition, its advocates will henceforth have to come from somewhere other than Rome.
Here lies the challenge facing present-day believers. Members of a discredited hierarchy are no longer capable of articulating the truth entrusted to the Church. So people of faith must assume responsibility for doing so, interpreting the message of the Gospels for our time and thereby fashioning a much needed critique of the cultural confusion that modernity has wrought.
In this undertaking, Catholics in this country have a large role to play. Preoccupied with keeping discipline and order and with preserving their own status (no ordination of women!), American bishops will have little to offer.
The main burden of engaging the world from an authentically Catholic perspective will fall elsewhere. We must look to universities like Notre Dame and Boston College that remain seriously committed to their Catholic identity; to independent publications such as Commonweal magazine and the Jesuit weekly America; to grassroots lay organizations such as Voice of the Faithful or to the radical Catholic Worker movement founded by Dorothy Day; and to the communities of religious men and women, their numbers in decline, who in forsaking worldly ambition pursue lives of quiet holiness.
This church — the real church, not the institutional one — will necessarily speak with many contending voices. Out of introspection and before discernment comes disagreement and dissent. A season of debate is upon us, with the outcome revealing what — if anything — a movement based on the teachings of Jesus Christ still has to say to a post-Christian world. The prospect of that debate — which the hierarchy will seek to suppress — is something that serious Catholics should relish.
Seldom has the summons to witness to truth been clearer. Whether we Catholics will answer that summons now becomes the issue.
Andrew Bacevich has laid down the gauntlet — the question is whether self-professed American Catholics (especially lay Catholics) will take it up. This is why whining about “anti-Catholic bias” is so infuriatingly counter-productive — the abuse is real, the conspiracy is real, the moral bankruptcy is real and apparent.
The implications for the Catholic church in America are profound.
Meanwhile, Christopher has asked several times what steps secular authorities can take to address the criminal conspiracy to protect clergy sex abusers.
Another piece in this morning’s Globe offers a glimpse of how secular authorities must properly protect our communities from sex abusers (emphasis mine):
[The accused abuser] pleaded not guilty yesterday to one count of child rape, the Middlesex district attorney’s office said in a statement. Cambridge District Court Judge Michelle Hogan ordered that [the accused] be held on $5,000 cash bail.
If released, [the accused] must stay away from the victim and the victim’s family, have no contact with witnesses, and have no unsupervised contact with children under 16. He cannot work with children and must report to a probation office weekly.
“These are troubling allegations against a man who we allege took advantage of and sexually assaulted the young vulnerable victim,” Leone said in the statement. “Compounding the troubling nature of the allegations is the fact that the defendant, until this incident was reported, worked directly with young children.”
This is the way a society that truly cares about its children protects them from predators who cruelly exploit them. This is what the Vatican shields its protectorate from. Had such policies been in place in Massachusetts, secular authorities might have saved thousands of lives from destruction at the hands of priests who “took advantage of and sexually assaulted the young vulnerable victim[s]“.
Secular authorities in Massachusetts and America must step up to the plate and stop shielding religious figures who prey on our children. Simple human decency demands it.