Shameful Ovations

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Dec 10, 2004

The Pilot (newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston) deplores Springfield priest James Scahill's tongue-lashing of bishops and fellow priests during a VOTF award ceremony, and scolds the audience that applauded him:

It was painful to watch 600 Catholics emotionally applaud a priest who bashed his peers, all the while holding himself up as the example of an ideal priest. Father James Scahill of Springfield accepted the Voice of the Faithful's "Priest of Integrity" award at the organization's conference held Nov. 13 in Worcester. In his acceptance speech, Father Scahill lashed out at priests and bishops alike.

"It is regrettable that you should have to establish an award to give to a priest for integrity. Integrity is something that should be expected from us. Yet, inexplicably, the vast majority of clergy has been silent. In their complicit silence they have betrayed truth and turned their backs on children and minors. By and large, the clerics have been myopic company puppets instead of being men," he said, receiving a standing ovation from the audience.

The editorial is titled "Shameful Ovations."

A few disclaimers. First, I think VOTF is fraudulent in advertising itself as an association of Catholics; its leadership "takes no position" on Church doctrine and many members are notorious for dissent. Second, I see Scahill as a constitutionally insubordinate half-Catholic, intoxicated by his recent celebrity, unconcerned for and unguided by coherent doctrinal principles.

That said, The Pilot draws exactly the wrong moral from the incident. It is a scandal that a priest should be formally congratulated for ordinary integrity. It is a scandal that so many priests betrayed their flock by timidity, silence, and complicity. Loth though I am to say it of a VOTF honorand, Scahill is thus far absolutely on target. Worse still, it's painful to see Leftist Catholics drawing artillery fire from the Archdiocese of Boston in the one area in which they happen to be right.

If the ovation for Scahill is shameful, the shame comes in large measure from the ecclesiastical failures that still continue. After all, it's not VOTF that keeps gay rights agitator Fr. Walter Cuenin is his Newton pastorate. It's not VOTF that continues to smile on the Jesuit Urban Center, or on the Jesuits who testified in favor of same-sex partnerships at the Statehouse. It's not VOTF that continues to treat Massachusetts's senators as Catholics in good standing.

Of course, what I have named as failures the overwhelming majority of VOTF members would regard as bright spots in an otherwise grim landscape. That fact itself bespeaks a long-standing pastoral debacle. The Pilot would have done well to lament the de facto schism which the "shameful ovation" indicates and the heresy that underlies it. But what is Scahill berated for? Criticizing his fellow clergy.

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