I am a Catholic. I am a Catholic by choice, not chance. Not a cradle Catholic but a convert. And from Judaism yet. I have joined the Inquisition. Or so my parents would think.
I am always leaving Catholicism. Years ago, I had a friend who, when asked, would always quip that for Lent he was giving up Catholicism. It got big laughs. For Lent, I go back to Catholicism. Go figure.
The reason this is important is because over at Beliefnet, the resident conservative blogger has been having a field day of frothing homophobia, posting links all over the place about how the Church's pedophilia scandal was caused by a gay culture in the priesthood. This is in reaction to the conviction of Paul Shands, who by all accounts was an active and prolific pedophile. He hurt many children. Today, he is a tired, defeated old man. But, oh, in his day.
I share Loose Cannon's outrage at Paul Shands' actions. How can anybody not? However, no, I don't agree that it was caused by a gay culture. The real cause was a culture of privilege, authoritarianism and arrogance.
The real scandal was never that lots of priests molested some children and got away with it. For it was never lots of priests to start with. It was a few priests who had many victims because their superiors knew what they were doing and shielded them.The bishops even moved them from parish to parish where they could rack up even more victims. The problem wasn't only the priests, it was the bishops. The knew.
And it wasnt the culture of forgiveness as some bishops now like to say. Do they forgive abortion? Do they forgive openly gay individuals in mature, adult, consensual, and loving relationships? Do they forgive anybody who dares to publicly disagree with them? No, they do not. Many of the same bishops who wanted to refuse communion to John Kerry, who, after all, never even performed or had an abortion, are the ones who shielded pedophile priests.
I am going to now make a rash statement. But I think I can defend it.
I do not think that a scandal of this proportion could have occurred in any other denomination. The real problem is not gay culture or arrogant bishops. It's the theology.
In any other church, mosque, or synagogue, if a leader was caught molesting children, the parishoners, or members, would leave in droves. They would pull their money, their support, and their children's bodies. Why can't Catholics do that?
Because, unlike Protestants, they truly, truly believe that salvation comes from Jesus Christ, as mediated through the sacraments, which must be given by a priest in a church. Where Protestants believe that salvation is through a direct relationship with Jesus Christ and that communion is a symbolic act, Catholics believe that Christ is mystically and truly present in the wafer and wine and that without a priest to celebrate this communion, they are not fully saved.
It is through Christ, ultimately, that salvation comes, but there is, and must be, an intermediary. And to deliberately refuse the sacraments of the Church is to be doubly damned because that is an act of apostasy.
I don't know if this is a true or false belief. Many Protestants would say that one's relationship with Christ, plus reading and following scripture (Solo Scriptura) is sufficient for salvation. But, if Catholics are right that more is needed, then what these priests were allowed to get away with was an even more dreadful betrayal of of the faithful because it trapped them with an unholy choice between leaving the church they loved and risking their salvation or submitting to arrogant monsters.
Would the Holy Spirit really allow a situation where ordinary parishoners were so vulnerable to the whims of their hierarchy? I just don't know.