Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How Not to Handle It

“It” being the pedophilia scandal currently racking the Catholic world, a topic dwelt on at some length in Pope Benedict’s Christmas message Monday.

Blame it on Society (and/or Deflect Attention from Rome to Society)

We are aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our consequent responsibility. Yet we cannot remain silent concerning the context of our time in which we see these events taking place. There is a market for child pornography which, in some way, seems to be increasingly considered by society as something normal. The psychological devastation of children in whom human beings are reduced to the level of a market commodity, is a frightening sign of the times
Blame it on Drugs (???)

In this context, the Holy Father mentioned the problem of drugs, "which with increasing strength extends its tentacles to the entire world. ... All pleasure becomes insufficient and excess under the delusion of intoxication turns into violence that rends entire regions. And all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom, in which precisely man's freedom is undermined and in the end completely cancelled.”

Blame it on Deficient Moral Theology (“Proportionalism”)

On his way to Australia in the summer of 2008 … Benedict targeted the moral theory by name, claiming that “with proportionalism, it was possible to think for some subjects – one could also be pedophilia – that in some proportion they could be a good thing.”

This morning, Benedict XVI returned to the same point, though without directly invoking the term. Here’s what the pope said, in the English translation of his address provided by the Vatican Press Office:

To oppose these forces we must look at their ideological foundations. In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos. It was maintained – even within the realm of Catholic theology – that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than’ and a ‘worse than’. Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today. Against them, Pope John Paul II, in his 1993 Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, indicated with prophetic force in the great rational tradition of Christian ethos the essential and permanent foundations of moral action. Today, attention must be focused anew on this text as a path in the formation of conscience.

What's the Problem?

"We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen," the pope said.

Indeed. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. And Ireland, and England, and France, and Germany, and the U.S., and on and on. But it isn’t merely corrupt contemporary society, for Catholicism is supposedly in the business of transforming society, rather than being shaped by it. Nor is it as simple or as ephemeral as Proportionalism, which the clergy pedophile problem both predates and postdates. It has more to do with whatever allowed “the realm of Catholic theology” to come to such a state as ever to let Proportionalism through the door – and with it, any notion of child rape being a good thing. (That’s if this breathtaking idea really ever really was proposed by any Catholic ‘theologian’. I tend to agree with Margaret Kennedy, from a survivor group, who says this is “absolute nonsense… No-one in any age has ever thought that adults having sex with children is right.”) It has to do with why so many homosexuals and/or pedophiles managed to be ordained and even made bishops. It has to do with why this horrific thing wasn’t stamped out at least half a century ago. It has to do with why Rome still today is handling it all so badly.

Go figure.