Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

the very model of a modern major general

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jun 25, 2005

OTR commenter Kelly calls attention to Archbishop O'Malley's announcement that the fix is in.

One reason [for the study of the causes of priestly sexual abuse] , said Boston Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, is the findings will show that priests are not any more liable to abuse children than are other men in the general population. "We have a terrible image of the priesthood," he said, "that somehow priests have a greater propensity to pedophilia. I don't believe that."

Well, if it's already established fact that priests are no more prone to pederasty than other men -- since, according to O'Malley, "the findings will show" what the bishops want them to show -- what's the point of the million-dollar study?

More troubling, at least to your Uncle Diogenes, is O'Malley's notion that broadcasting the "finding" that priests shag boys at the same level as millwrights, barbers, truck dispatchers, roofers, insurance sales reps, etc., will somehow act as a corrective to the terrible image of the priesthood.

As a general rule, millwrights and barbers do no post-graduate studies in moral or ascetical theology. They have no special training in prayer or in Holy Scripture and are not required to attend Mass daily. They are not obligated to say the breviary. They make no retreats, have no personalized spiritual direction. They attend no workshops on issues of sexuality. They do not live under close moral and spiritual scrutiny of their personal lives for four or six years. They do not go before selection boards in which their moral probity and spiritual maturity are at issue. They make no oaths, vows, promises, or other solemn and public undertakings of lifelong celibate chastity.

Priests are understood to undergo all of the above. And each of these exercises should, in its own way, contribute to making a man better able to resist temptation in general and sexual sin in particular.

Even among convicted felons in prison, "messing with kids" is regarded as no ordinary crime but as depravity attended by particular odium and disgust. If priests, being the beneficiaries of every moral and spiritual aid the Church can offer, make it a boast that -- in the aggregate -- they mess with kids at more or less the same frequency as those who -- in the aggregate -- have received none of these benefits, something is seriously out of whack.

Let's take an analogy from military life. Soldiers are admired because they expose themselves to the danger of injury and death. Soldiers are honored because they commit themselves, under oath, to perform their duty in all circumstances, even when injury or death is certain. Cowardice, in the sense of evasion of danger to the detriment of one's duty, is one of the worst crimes a soldier can commit.

Picture a Special Forces unit that acquired "a terrible image" through repeated acts of notorious cowardice in battle. Suppose too that a Major General argued the reputation was undeserved, because studies would show that Special Forces members were not especially prone to cowardice but -- in the aggregate -- fled from the danger of death at the same rate as members of the civilian population. Wouldn't we be inclined to think that, in an important sense, our General had already lost the war?

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