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The Other Side of the News

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Apr 13, 2011

Sometimes—usually, in fact—it pays to think about the implications of what is reported in the news. Often the implications are more important than the facts. That’s the case, I believe, with at least three of yesterday’s stories in our Catholic World News roundup.

Exhibit A is our story entitled Father Pfleger willing to leave Church rather than resign pastorate. This is a simple report on a troublesome Chicago priest’s statement that he would leave the Church rather than accept from his bishop an assignment which did not dovetail with his own personal mission. No comment was made, but the implication is extremely important.

The implication is that Fr. Pfleger is not fit to be a Catholic priest. He has clearly lost his Faith in the Church as the unique locus of Christ and salvation, so much so that he seems to believe one can leave the Church without betraying the Gospel. Thus he proves that the Church would, in fact, be better off without him. His statement is an enormous scandal that ought to end the controversy over whether Fr. Pfleger wears a white or black hat. Some things are not gray.

Exhibit B is the New York Times article on the new missal translation. The Times writer did a fairly good job of summarizing the rocky history of the effort to revise the translation, including concerns about sentence structure and unfamiliar vocabulary (there is a definite effort in the new translation to recover some things that were lost). But she seems blissfully unaware of the ideological dispute—no, more, the crisis of Faith—which lies at the root of significant opposition to the proposed changes.

The translation we have now was produced by liturgists and linguists who were backpedaling as fast as possible from the strong sense of the sacred which has traditionally surrounded the Catholic liturgical approach to God. The preference for prose which eschews both hallowed language and poetic elements in favor of a sort of universal and vague blandness was a symptom of the neo-Modernist explosion in the Church starting in the 1960’s which tended to produce a horizontal religion of social concern. Some have since simply become acclimated to this approach, and so may be surprised and even distressed by a change. But if you read between the lines on this one, you realize that describing the new translation as “archaic” and “inaccessible” is a kind of code for neo-Modernist opposition to sacrality.

Exhibit C is a little different. In our story Psychiatrists question Philadelphia investigation, defend priests, it is actually the “other side” of the news that is being reported. For years, we’ve covered one spectacular instance of the abuse scandal after another. I’ve sometimes called attention in commentaries to problems on the other side, such as the high rates of abuse in other institutions, the “cruel and unusual punishment” (a Constitutional phrase) being applied to the Catholic Church alone, the profiteering of false victims and attorneys, the lack of due process for accused priests, and so on. But it is difficult for defenders of the Church to harp on these things when so many in the Church have been guilty of the most reprehensible behavior, and of an even more reprehensible systemic cover-up.

And yet, and yet. The full truth demands attention to all sides of the problem, not least what is happening to those accused priests who are innocent and what is being stolen in terms of charitable resources from the Catholic faithful as their dioceses are forced into gargantuan settlements. (Cui bono? Follow the money!)

So I for one have been waiting for steam to gather in the movement to redress some of the injustices which have existed in the response to the scandal, however horrible the scandal itself has been. The fact that some of these questions are finally being raised by those close to the Church is highly significant. Here, the “other side” is becoming the actual story. It will be a slow process, but I hope this is a straw in the wind.

In this connection, if you have not already, please be sure to read Phil Lawler’s outstanding commentary, Counting the Costs of the Scandal. I look for a great many important but widely ignored implications to become significant parts of the story from now on.

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  • Posted by: edwillneff3195 - Apr. 17, 2011 10:54 PM ET USA

    Fr. Pfleger has not deserved to be a priest -- probably within five minutes of his ordination. And Cardinal George recently honored him for his priestly service. You've perhaps heard of workers sucking up to their bosses, well, this is vice versa. (And it didn't work, Your Eminence.) I donate as much as I can and more to my wonderful parish and to conservative Catholic groups. But not one penny (unless the spirit is weak) to the Chicago Archdiocese -- lest that penny end up with Fr. Pfleger!!

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