A confession. I don’t like American football very much, and I’m not enormously fond of Episcopalian theology either. But most of all, I hate hypocrisy and Catholic-bashing. So let’s take a trip to Pennsylvania, via Kansas. Bede Parry is a former Benedictine monk who has a history of abusing young men. When this was discovered he was ejected from his abbey and then refused by another monastery in Las Vegas. Rejected by the Roman Catholic Church, in 2004 he became an Episcopalian priest, even after informing the then bishop of Nevada, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that he had sexually transgressed just a few years earlier. She was also told by his former monastery about his sordid past and given highly damaging psychological records. Surprise, surprise. In July this year he resigned from his post and is currently facing criminal charges.
But here is where it all becomes somewhat Kafkaesque. Rather than campaigning against Jefferts Schori and demanding to know why she accepted into ordination a man with such a grotesque record — reports that suggested he was likely to reoffend — the usual anti-Catholic brigade have set up shop locally to attack the Catholic bishop and the Catholic Church.
Ms. Jefferts Schori, of course, is now the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, or in other words the head of the American version of the Anglican communion. She is also a roaring liberal, a darling of the left, the gay community and those who believe Catholicism to be reactionary, ultra-orthodox and on the wrong side of history.
Those of us who have had to study the ugly figures for sexual abuse knew some time ago that the rates within the Church of England and its international branches were generally higher than within Catholicism, though not as high as those documented in, for example, public education. No matter, if it’s abuse it has to be Catholic abuse, and why allow truth to get in the way of a good story.
A good story; which is precisely what I heard when I listened to Coach Joe Paterno speak a few years ago now, down at Penn State. I was there delivering a set of lectures on G.K. Chesterton and Edwardian English literature of all things, and “Coach,” as he was known, came to listen. It was as if the icon has suddenly come to life. Awe and invincible respect all round. He seemed a nice man, and it’s his assistant, Jerry Sandusky, not him who has been charged with hideous crimes of molesting young boys. Joe, we’re told, knew about some of them and did far too little to intervene.
Which has led most people to assume that pretty much every football coach is part of some enormous sexual underworld, covering up or committing rape and any number of sexual assaults. But of course not. We’re sane, sensible people and we would never make such banal generalizations. That sort of rubbish is reserved for Roman Catholic priests.
[spoiler]Look, numerous studies have shown that abuse occurs wherever there is a power dynamic between an adult and a young person. Its truly horrible, and not confined to any one denomination or profession. Yet only Catholic priests are smothered with the same dirty blanket of assumed guilt; only Catholic priests have to tolerate venomous jokes about their alleged behaviour; and only Catholic priests, it seems, are never allowed to defend themselves.
The leader of the Episcopalian Church in the United States has a great deal to explain, and it appears as if she knew far more about the sexual criminality of a man she personally welcomed into the clergy than did many of the Catholic bishops condemned for not doing enough to prevent abuse from occurring under their watch. Coach Joe Paterno also seems to have been aware of crimes that should have made him act immediately and firmly. He, at least, was fired for his failings; the lady bishop has so far escaped with her credentials unscathed.
It’s the victims that matter most, but the victims who are forgotten first. All in the name of trying to darken the reputation of the Catholic Church. What is odd, though, is that no matter how hard they try, the Church is still so full of light.
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Some more hypocrisy and Catholic-bashing
The Catholic Register
November 22, 2011