Sunday, April 18, 2010

On "Liberal" Dissidents and the Crisis

In the thread mentioned in my last post, Anne Rice often quotes dissidents--even extreme ones like Hans Kung--and columnists as vehemently opposed to the hierarchy and Magisterium as Maureen Dowd of the NYT. When the anti-papal and anti-Benedict bias of these sources is pointed out, Ms. Rice observes that they are sincere and we can learn from them. Both points are true as far as I know, but there is much more to be said about the dissidents' own role and responsibility in this sordid saga. And saying it cannot be dismissed as mere defensiveness. Here is my response:
There is clearly a difference of perception here and repetition and autobiographical statements do not make the assertions more persuasive. (I do not mean that disrespectfully--I am a huge fan of Ms. Rice's recent work.)

On the question of "liberals" (those who have consistently and often contemptuously opposed the leadership of JP II and Benedict), they may well be sincere and we should learn from opponents as well as friends.

But if we want to understand the current scandal and crisis in the Church, we have to face up to these "liberals'" (or dissidents may be a better term) contribution to it. These include a semi-secularization of Catholics who are terribly under-catechized and whose beliefs and behavior are becoming increasingly indistinguishable from the rest of society, on matters from abortion to the Real Presence, as well as sexual permissiveness. It seems the rate of sexual abuse of adolescents by clergy also rose in this period to approximate much of the rest of the male population.

This atmosphere of permissiveness, dilettantism, a gay subculture that disdained the vow of chastity and the Church's moral guidance in general, permeated the seminaries and infected the priests who graduated from them. The problem was exacerbated enormously by theologians like Kung and Curran who treated almost everything in the Church's teaching on faith and morals as up for grabs. (The Church is also not a graduate theological seminar or playground for academics and intellectuals.)

If we want a full accounting for the abuse scandal and assurance it will not be repeated, we need to face up to this issue and not sweep it under the rug.

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