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James Blinkoff wrote:

Hi, guys —

The Catholic Church has long maintained that it has a special relationship with God because the Church was founded by Jesus.

It also believes that those called to the priesthood receive their calling directly from God.
I understand the distinction between infallibility and impeccability and understand that none
other than Christ himself is exempt from sin.

I do not blame Benedict XVI, Cardinal Law, or any other of the bishops involved in the sex abuse scandal for doing what they thought was right in sending the offending priests under their jurisdiction first to therapy and then back into the community. I am sure they acted as they thought was best for the Church, the victims and the priests. I also believe that they prayed for guidance as to what they should do, but I do blame God for not providing better guidance in answer to their prayers.

I recognize that hindsight is 20/20 and that the bishops were following the best medical and scientific advice at the time of their action. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the God's decision not to make His representatives impeccable in their relationships with children and HIS decision not to provide better guidance to His bishops undercuts and perhaps destroys the Church's claim to a special relationship with God and to its claim that each priest received his calling directly from God.

  • Why is my reasoning and conclusion erroneous?

What has made this scandal so different from similar scandals affecting the boy scouts and other secular or religious institutions (where the percentage of abusers is about the same) is that:

  • none of them claim a special relationship to God and that
  • parents trusted priests to care for their children and children trusted the priests who cared for them because they assumed that God had made the priests impeccable in their dealings with children, even as they recognized that priests being mortals were afflicted by other sins

Thus is a serious question and I am not seeking a Jobian copout which says that as mortals we are not able to second guess the mind of God. I say this is a copout because when any religion is faced with a question it cannot answer it tends to use this response as its final answer, The problem is that while faith requires faith, most religions agree that faith and reason are not at odds. The Church, for example, provides rationales for its dogmas ranging from:

  • Humane Vitae
  • to the infallible doctrines dealing with Mary
  • to Galileo's excommunication
  • to it defense of slavery
  • to its claim that Vatican II's revisions were evolutionary rather than revolutionary
  • to its prohibition against women priests.

but in the sex abuse scandal, it has no rationales, not even one which resembles Pope John II's apologies where he blamed members of the Church rather than the Church itself for past misdeeds.

James

  { On the sex abuse scandal: Why is my reasoning and conclusion erroneous? }

Mike replied:

Hi, James —

You said:
I understand the distinction between infallibility and impeccability and understand that none other than Christ himself is exempt from sin.

Not quite: The Church teaches:

  • Christ, a divine person, was obviously sinless and
  • Mary, a human person, was sinless.

You said:
It seems to me that the God's decision not to make His representatives impeccable in their relationships with children and HIS decision not to provide better guidance to His bishops undercuts and perhaps destroys the Church's claim to a special relationship with God and to its claim that each priest received his calling directly from God. Why is my reasoning and conclusion erroneous?

There is no denying that the Church's handling of cases of sexual abuse and pederast priests was for years more than deplorable. The acts of these priests have been criminal. Changes in the manner of handling these tragedies have come far too late. I disagree with rationale that defends Cardinal Law and the like along the lines you have suggested.

Objectivity and intellectual honesty require us to insist, however, that those changes have nonetheless come. Pope Benedict has spear-headed this campaign, despite what you hear in the main stream media about his possible mistakes as a Cardinal. ("Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.") The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has put out their own document on the issue of protecting children.

Your reasoning and conclusion are erroneous because you make the premise that because priests, by God's will, are not impeccable (sinless, like Our Lady), it undercuts and perhaps destroys the Church's claim to a special relationship with God.

It doesn't!

  • Does it hurt the secular world's view of the moral authority of the Church?

Of course it does. I'd be an idiot to say otherwise.

Nevertheless History is history and BELIEVERS, have to remember that Our Blessed Lord built
HIS CHURCH on St. Peter and his successors and said the gates of Hell would not prevail against it [on issues of official faith and morals]. (Matthew 16:13-20).

  • with bad, scandalous, embarrassing behavior, Yes!
  • with false Teachings, No!

Unbelievers, or cafeteria (pick and choose) catholics just go through the motions for convenience; they have to except the WHOLE faith and defend it; even in rough times.

You said:
But in the sex abuse scandal it has no rationales, not even one which resembles Pope John II's apologies where he blamed members of the Church rather than the Church itself for past misdeeds.

That's because grievous, horrific behavior against children cannot be defended. When Our Blessed Lord created man and woman, he gave them free will. This included free will to do stupid, sinful things; outside the Church as well as inside.

If Catholic seminaries are not places of holiness: 24/7, the Catholic spirituality of the United States will plummet.

In my humble opinion, the two vocations that will have the hardest particular judgment are:

  • Catholic seminary teachers and
  • Journalism professors from academia.

These two vocations can either make the world a much better place or far worst. Everyone should pray for this two special vocations.

Hope this answers your question.

Mike

James replied:

Dear Mike:

I thank you for your response, but like George Weigel's article in the current issue of Newsweek, it seems to me to ignore the elephant in the house. Either the Church is the mystic body of Christ or it is not. If the Church is like any other earthly institutions then I agree, it has done a first rate job in cleaning up the sexual abuse mess and taking steps to prevent its recurrence, but if it is just another earthly institution, then its claim to be infallible on matters of faith and morals is also kaput.  If it is the mystical body of Christ, then the Church, as a holy institution, has completely betrayed the children entrusted to its care.

Jim Blinkoff

Mike replied:

Hi, Jim —

You have to separate the morality of the Church's Teachings from the morality of its members, not only among the clergy, but among the faithful as well. Back in Genesis, when God created man and woman, he created them with free will to do good or evil.

That was his idea, not ours. If you can show me where the Church's official teachings are less then Christian you have a point.

Remember though, infallibility is a NEGATIVE SAFEGUARD.

  • It doesn't mean the Pope or bishop's in union with him will always say the best, most holiness thing.
  • It doesn't mean the pope will always make the best choices for bishops.

It means that the Holy Spirit will protect him, only the Pope, from teaching doctrinal errors in his official capacity as Pope.

Make sense?

Mike

Jim replied:

Mike:

Thank you for your response. I do have a further question which is raised by your response:

If the Holy Spirit protects the Pope and bishops from making doctrinal error on matters of faith and morals were not the parents and children themselves entitled to believe and act upon the assumption that the Holy Spirit would protect the children from abusive actions of priests?

Jim

Mary Ann replied:

Humanly speaking, children and parents should have the reasonable expectation that ministers of God will act in a godly manner, as they should have a reasonable expectation that teachers will act in an edifying manner, but there is no divine guarantee that a person will not commit a sin, even for priests. That is the great mystery — how evil and free will can co-exist with an omnipotent and absolutely good God.

Job solved it by knowing God and trusting him, without denying the evil. Christ took the solution further: He says that He has overcome the world, and we can trust Him for justice in the end, and to bear in us and with us the evils of this world, and to use them for His good purpose.

Mary Ann

Jim replied:

Thank you, Mary Ann.

I concur, except that teachers do not claim that the institution they represent is the mystical Body of the Lord. As I said in my original question, in my view Job's final response to God was a copout and inconsistent with earlier portions of the Book of Job.

While I agree that the ability of evil and free will to co-exist is a great mystery, I also believe God should have done a better job in making the rationale for that coexistence clearer to man either through Christ or otherwise.

Jim
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