On theological issues
It's just a few bad apples, right?
Last week, in the wake of a grand jury report that concluded at least 300 priests had preyed on some 1,000 children across Pennsylvania since the 1940s, attorneys general in New York and New Jersey announced investigations into Catholic Church sexual abuse. Missouri, Nebraska, and Illinois have launched state-level probes as well—and more are likely to follow.
And of course there's California, who has benefited so far from Catholic apologist governor Jerry Brown and who won't benefit from him once he's out. In the last half of the Vice piece the author interview this fellow Manly, who lays out the extent of this kid-molesting thing. But one thing that really amused me about this piece is the ending, where Manly weighs in on matters of Catholic theology:
I'm no longer Catholic. I'm sure that shocks you. But the sad part of all this is that the kind, decent theology of the Church—helping the poor, the imprisoned, the weak [gets lost]. We need that voice in our society right now.
Well OK, that's a good note on which to end an interview. Part of Catholic theology is nice. But inquiring minds want to know -- what's this alternate theology, what's the other part, the one that basically tells priests to molest children?
I wasn't granted a religious upbringing. But, as I understand it, theology is like philosophy, only with God and a few other doctrines thrown in. If you read Augustine, for instance (Augustine of Hippo, not Augustine of Canterbury), you can see where he's actually laying out doctrine -- but in the defense of the doctrine Augustine actually had a philosophy, one which became an obsession -- such that (as O'Donnell says) five million words of his writing survive to this day. At any rate, you'd have to imagine that at least a few priests out there philosophized their molestation of kids. So what was it? Did God send his son Jesus to Earth so that His priests could have sex with Junior? Remember, this isn't a small thing. There's a doctrine behind it, just as there's a doctrine behind the late devoutly Catholic Supreme Court member Antonin Scalia's sworn doctrine of "originalism." These Catholic authority figure types have real doctrines in their heads. So what's the "who would Jesus molest" doctrine? Eh?
And then you have this amusing confession, four years back, by the Archbishop of Saint Louis. Here's the Buzzfeed headline from back then:
"I'm not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not," said St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson, who is part of a lawsuit accusing more than 100 priests and church employees of sex abuse.
Was that really the concern? Is it a crime? Make sure the priests are not legally culpable while they're doing what they intended to do all along, y'know. It can't have been a concern as regards sin, no, if more than a hundred priests are doing it? The obvious conclusion to be drawn from all this is that, in fact, there has got to be a generally-agreed-upon theology within the Catholic hierarchy, no doubt kept a secret from the laity but still real enough, that makes it a virtue in their eyes for Mr. Priest Man to be boning your underage son or daughter. Remember that these people believe in doctrines! That's their job!
Okay now back in the day, in discussions about education (some of which no doubt continue to this day in educational journals or in departments of Education in the universities) there was a thing called the "hidden curriculum." The overt curriculum, of course, was the generally-available explanation of what was to be taught in a classroom. The hidden curriculum, however, was the lesson that was really learned by the students, the one that wasn't written down and paraded in front of school authorities or parents.
Now, I suppose the sex abuse thing could have been a hidden curriculum -- but (and here's where the interview with Manly makes another strong point) the victims of this stuff have been keeping it a secret for a very long time, now, as well. So, yeah, this looks like something far more embedded than a hidden curriculum.
Maybe it could be argued that theology is like philosophy except that theological arguments involve a hidden doctrinal curriculum in which theological doctrines actually mean more than what they're telling you. One imagines, to start with, that this concept "God" is pretty malleable and can mean plenty of different things to different people, some of them transcendent, others merely doctrinal. So, for instance, one might want to explore the places where Catholicism actually means giving Mr. Priest Man a free pass with Junior's private parts. And maybe this concept of "hidden doctrinal curriculum" can be generalized further! After all, there are plenty of theological doctrines calling themselves "pro-life" that spectacularly fail to come to grips with the nasty things that go down in places where abortions are illegal. Where is it written that the "pro-life" definition of "life" means "make 'em do it illegally"? After all, we might all be dealing with this sort of thing pretty soon.