Off with their heads!

Andrew writes that my defense of the Pope is ‘incredibly wrong-headed and simplistic’ and then focuses entirely on the argument I made regarding the aesthetics of Benedict. My point in so arguing was that in so many ways Benedict is theologically almost identical to his predecessor and yet people treat the ascendancy of Benedict as some sort of massive departure from the course John Paul II had set for the Church, which is misleading and in error.

Furthermore, Andrew still has not yet addressed exactly how Benedict is responsible for the cases of abuse his accusers are condemning him for, and has glossed over entirely Benedict’s many contributions to the fight against sexual abuse in the Church. For a great deal more information and perspective on just how Benedict helped shape the much more vigorous approach to combating sexual abuse in today’s Church, see this excellent piece by Cardinal Levada, Benedict’s successor as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the man now in charge of overseeing cases against priests accused of sexual abuse.  I would excerpt from it, but I can’t decide where to begin, so just read the entire thing. If you take away anything from the piece it should be that a rush to judgment – or a rush to call for the heads of those you disagree with – should be tempered. We all deserve a sober judgment from our critics.

Nor did Andrew explain how Benedicts resignation would actually help the Church or the victims of abuse or really anything at all for that matter, unless definitive evidence is brought to light which places the pope much closer to the scandal than he now appears to be – which was the crux of my defense of the Pope to begin with. Yes, I did say that much of the animosity toward this Pope must stem from people’s subconscious antipathy toward his physical appearance – but only because many of the same people who adored the theologically similar JPII despise Benedict, and I can see no other explanation for it. If not aesthetics then it must be style.  Even in Andrew’s old writing on the subject he muses that John Paul II

balanced Ratzinger’s zeal with a more humane approach. Together, they have played a "good cop, bad cop" routine with recalcitrant faithful.

Has Andrew in the past called for the resignation of John Paul II? If it boils down merely to a difference that is not really a difference at all but rather simply a ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine then I have to wonder why the world so loved John Paul II, under whose watch far less was done to combat sexual abuse in the Church than has been done under Benedict’s watch.

P.S. Andrew links yet again to this picture which makes Benedict appear to be hiding. It is at once a picture which evokes a sense of mystery and a sense that the pontiff must be concealing something sinister. And this argument isn’t at least partly about aesthetics?

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16 thoughts on “Off with their heads!

  1. I’m happy to give him the benefit of the doubt (shoddy journalism on the part of the New York Times or any mainstream news outlet isn’t real hard to swallow), but Levada is not exactly a disinterested party here himself.

    I’ll give Sullivan the benefit of the doubt, too, that he’d be after John Paul II as well, were that pope still alive and in power. If a lot of anger is falling on Benedict now, isn’t it sort of because he’s the pope now? And because, whatever his involvement in or awareness of the abuse cover-up, he (and the rest of the church’s defenders) probably could have apologized a lot better? I guess I sorta think when a child-abuse scandal rears its head, one’s default position ought to be “OH GOOD LORD I AM SO SORRY, SO SORRY, SO SORRY, WHAT CAN WE DO TO FIX THIS?”

    I mean, that’s the default position when you’re a restaurant manager and a server spills red wine all over a customer, and this seems like sort of a bigger deal.

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    • I agree very much with this.

      At this point, the only thing that will work is transparency.

      The Catholic Church is an opt-in dictatorship… it only works if people opt-in and those who have opted-in do not decide to opt-out.

      Speaking as a nihilist, this is a public relations disaster and they need to do some cleanup quick. The cover-up is keeping this stuff in the public light. They need to throw some bodies to the wolves and quickly!

      Speaking as an atheist who believes in a moral fabric to the universe, the Catholic Church is undermining not only itself but Christianity in general by treating this as something similar to a public relations event rather than by something evil that happened by its own agency (however removed from the Vatican itself the evil was). They need to say what happened, be honest about it, and quit acting like, say, Nixon would. Or Bush. Good Catholics need to not treat the victims like, oh, Juanita Broderick was treated. The whole right/wrong thing is very clearly delineated here and “damage control mode” is not only resulting in more superficial damage, it wouldn’t surprise me for a second if it was resulting in even more harm.

      And whether those screaming the loudest are screaming about it in good faith isn’t even friggin’ close to a concern yet.

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  2. Furthermore, Andrew still has not yet addressed exactly how Benedict is responsible for the cases of abuse his accusers are condemning him for, and has glossed over entirely Benedict’s many contributions to the fight against sexual abuse in the Church.

    And he never will.

    I can’t for the life of me understand why people still take Sullivan seriously. Every position he takes is based on pure emotion. Sometimes he tries to add a post hoc coating of reason on his “arguments”—but its been a long time since he’s even done that.

    Seriously, aside from the fact that he still (inexplicably) gets a tone of traffic, why should anyone care what he thinks?

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        • Uh, Joe? The stuff you post on the World Wide Web? Everyone can read it. Even people who don’t know you! In fact, actually knowing you is not at all germane to the question of whether one thinks you make any sense. It might even sway the analysis if I did.

          But for the record, no: I actually stopped reading Sullivan regularly awhile back, because he wrote one too many things that just drove me up the wall—things that he was too emotional about, in fact! Assumptions, man. Come on. I really just think, based on my reading of him and my reading of you, that he tends to make more sense. That said, I jumped on you out of nowhere, and even here in the anything-goes Octagon that is the comment section, I’m not sure that was kosher. Sorry about that, seriously.

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          • The stuff you post on the World Wide Web? Everyone can read it. Even people who don’t know you!

            Well, yes, I meant do you know me from reading the stuff I’ve written on the Interwebs, not do you know me in some existential sense.

            Now if you’ve read the stuff I’ve written and came to the conclusion that I just make no sense at all, then I can respect that. But since you gave no examples, I just assumed you were a Sullyfan (which are only slightly less rabid than Ron Paul fanboys).

            You don’t really need to apologize. I don’t mind getting sucker-punched in the Octagon if its a clean shot and from someone who is respectful enough to say “Yes I’ve read your stuff. You suck. Seriously, you do.” I don’t mind being accused of not making sense if someone is making it based on evidence.

            (I will admit, though, that the fact that you think Sullivan is off-the-charts emotional and yet I make even less sense is a bit disconcerting.)

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            • Philosophically I tend to agree with him, but I frequently take issue with how he presents his thoughts. And at one point about six months ago, he wrote something I found so intellectually dishonest that I just had to quit cold turkey for a long time; I don’t remember what it was. I read him every so often now.

              Anyway, thanks for saying I don’t need to apologize, but it was still a cheap shot, and I am genuinely sorry. Off to bed. ’Night!

              .D.: What? We’re only allowed to be unproductive on the Internet during normal working hours, like most people?!

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            • I’ve got to agree that Sullivan is over-emotional, and once he imprints on a hobbyhorse (e.g. Sarah Palin’s obstetric history), he can never climb back off it. Having said that, I value his honest revulsion for torture far above any of the “But 99, we have to torture prisoners– we represent all that is wholesome and good in the world!” rationalizations, no matter how intellectual they might be.

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  3. “I have to wonder why the world so loved John Paul II, under whose watch far less was done to combat sexual abuse in the Church than has been done under Benedict’s watch.”

    That part of the world that was raped by Maciel did not love JPII. Neither did the part that felt any empathy at all for Maciel’s victims. Just the opposite: we (I’m included in this group) were disgusted by all the rampant JPII worship, which included bald-faced stonewalling the plethora of accusations against Maciel and protecting him by giving him a nice apartment at the Vatican where he could live out the days of his perverted life in peaceful “reflection”.

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