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By Diogenes ( articles ) | Dec 30, 2004

But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire? And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, "Let not the king say so." (1 Kings 22:7-8, before the catastrophic defeat of Israel at Ramoth-gilead)

It's customary at year's end to recall the best and worst prophecies made at its beginning. Rebecca Nappi, blog-mistress at the aptly named Journey to Vatican III, recounted this upbeat prediction last February from Father Bryan Hehir:

All in all Hehir's talk was thought-provoking and filled with hope. About the abuse scandal, Hehir believes that "all that is to be known is already known." He believes the media has moved on and "I don't think the New York Times will run 35 stories on it in 2004."

A glance at the buggery box scores for the American League East shows that 2004 clearly belonged to the Micaiahs, not the Zedekiahs. A Boolean search at the New York Times's website for catholic+priest+sexual abuse produces 229 hits for the past 30 days. Not all of these stories directly treat the abuse scandal, but roughly a third do. I think it's fair to say that the media have not "moved on." Aside from the upcoming diocesan bankruptcies, Cardinals Egan and Mahony are presently in the early stages of new legal woes. Anybody care to bet the Times will run fewer than 35 stories on the Crisis in 2005? How about 2025?

Fr. Hehir is quoted as saying "all that is to be known is already known." In one sense that is and was true. The molester priests that were slime-lined out of the country to avoid publicity and prosecution were known to their superiors long before the Dallas Morning News broke the story last June. The seven Log Cabin Dominicans stashed in the Oakland priory were known to the prior long before he saw the news account on TV. The sexual recreations of Bishops Thomas Dupre and Anthony O'Connell were and are known to them but not -- as long as they continue to invoke the Fifth Amendment -- to the wider ecclesial community.

It's known all right -- it just isn't opportune that you should be the one to know it. That's what provides so much media white meat after every media kill. It comes out impaled on knife-ends, nugget by succulent nugget. Remember last autumn's festival for Fr. Stephen Fernandes, Fall River's collector of kiddie porn? First there was a round (in all the local papers) of the Priest Quizzed for Child Pornography stories. Then came the Priest Arrested series. Then the Priest Arraigned series. Then the Priest Indicted series. And on the doldrum days between each legal maneuver there were plenty of reaction pieces: "New Bedford Grandma: Porn Priest was Super Holy." Just to rub a little extra salt in the wound, scarcely any article failed to mention that Fernandes was the director of the Pro-Life Apostolate of the Fall River Diocese. One priest, one diocese, maybe forty gut-shots to the Church.

So I agree with Fr. Hehir that it's not a question of "when will they ever learn?". They know. They -- the churchmen in a position to act -- differ from most of the faithful in that they see the separation of the Church from religion as a good thing. Call it "fidelity to Vatican III."

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