Tuesday, May 04, 2004

What Lurks

You occasionally read that the problems of the Catholic Church would be solved if priests could marry, but the underlying pathology is political rather than sexual. From a doctrinal point of view, Catholicism is no crazier than any other religion; but its secretive and authoritarian organization guarantees mischief. That child abuse by priests is what people have decided to get upset now is probably more a function of America’s well-known hysteria about sex than an inevitable consequence of celibacy. Thus, granted the obvious willingness of church authorities to condone and conceal clerical criminality, one can bet that the financial improprieties of the church are at least as widespread as the groping of choirboys. Journalists just aren’t interested enough to battle the political power of the Church to expose unmarketable scandals, at least so long as it pays better to celebrate or at least sentimentalize the decrepit system of superstition.

I draw a partial parallel between the church case and the recent revelation that the United States has been mistreating prisoners in Iraq. Like the Catholic Church, the current regime operates in the deepest secrecy under what it claims to be divine sanction. War can be counted upon to produce horrors under any circumstances, but a war conducted in the dark by people thinking they are doing God’s work will be worse than necessary. Any regime that controls the news as stringently as Bush’s people have effectively guarantees torture and murder will occur because such activity are, as it were, the default behavior of 19-year old farm kids and professional mercenaries. Leaders have an obligation to act in order to prevent what is perfectly predictable under the circumstances. Of course it doesn’t help when a government’s rhetoric endlessly dehumanizes its enemies, suggests that ordinary rules of conduct do not apply to our Chosen nation, and glorifies brutality as “realism.” The priory may be an ideal sanctuary for a pederast, but at least the Church doesn’t actually promote child abuse as a postive virtue.

No comments: