Exit, Voice, Loyalty and the Catholic Church

by Henry on March 30, 2010

I did a bloggingheads with Dan Drezner last Friday discussing, among other things, the organizational problems of the Catholic church, which seem to me to be (a) enormous, and (b) reasonably well understood in terms of Albert Hirschman’s famous book). If the Catholic church were a normal organization that was even moderately responsive to external feedback, one would have expected that the Pope would have resigned by now. As Duncan Black notes, the issues are quite straightforward, and have nothing to do with questions of theology. At the least he’s presided over an organization that has systematically covered up for child abusers, and it seems quite plausible that he’s been actively involved in said cover-up. The problem is that there is no very good way to force him to resign, or indeed to exert significant internal pressure on the Catholic church (which is constituted so as to be highly resistant to bottom-up pressures). In Hirschman’s terms, the Catholic church has never been particularly keen on voice (it is notable that the organization tried ruthlessly to stamp out the first stirrings of protest among lay-Catholics in the US against child abusers. Nor does it seem likely to be stirred to radical reform by the threat of exit. Clearly, the church is worried that Catholics will drop away – equally clearly, it wants to respond in ways that reinforce the current hierarchy rather than modifying it (e.g. by sending an Apostolic Visitation – a class of a senior inquisitorial team – to inspect the Irish Catholic church). Hence, it is forced to rely on a kind of loyalty which rests on specifically pre-modern ideas of authority. But loyalty is likely only to go so far, even when it’s larded with substantial dollops of conspiracy theorizing.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, an aide to the Pope, set the tone, telling reporters on Thursday: “This is a pretext for attacking the church. . . There is a well organised plan with a very clear aim.” This theme was pursued by Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper, in an editorial accusing the media of neglecting facts with the “evident and despicable intent to get to and strike Benedict XVI and his closest collaborators, regardless of everything”. People close to the Vatican have been speaking in ominous tones of a conspiracy by masonic lodges and big business to undermine the church.

The church is faced with a very tricky set of organizational trade-offs. It seems to be opting for a bare minimum of external accountability (acknowledging that there is a problem, and apologizing for it, while refusing to undertake substantial reforms or to admit that the rot has spread to the top), combined with an appeal to the loyalty of the faithful. This plausibly shores up the position of those at the top – but at the risk of provoking mass exit (at least among churchgoers in industrialized democracies – I don’t know enough about the church in the developing world to speculate). Senior figures in the church have been muttering for years that, if it comes down to it, they would prefer a smaller and more orthodox church to one which had more members but had to accommodate greater heterodoxy. I suspect they are about to get their wish, although I imagine that they would prefer that it occurred under somewhat different circumstances.

{ 120 comments }

1

Steve LaBonne 03.30.10 at 5:34 pm

“There is a well organised plan with a very clear aim.”

I wonder exactly how close they can come to saying “Jews” without actually using the word.

2

Substance McGravitas 03.30.10 at 5:38 pm

People close to the Vatican have been speaking in ominous tones of a conspiracy by masonic lodges and big business to undermine the church.

Sounds like the masonic lodges and big business would be behaving perfectly reasonably.

3

Steve LaBonne 03.30.10 at 5:42 pm

They should be damned glad they’re just being “undermined” rather than thrown in prison for obstruction of justice.

4

Salazar 03.30.10 at 5:46 pm

One question for me about the American Church is whether the exodus, if it occurs, will lead to the creation of new, socially and politically progressive religious communities — partly in response to the current hierarchy’s tacit approval of neocon policies (death penalty, war, torture and the like).

5

Anita Hendersen 03.30.10 at 5:49 pm

A lack of checks and balances and no accountability. Needs a new organizational design.

6

bianca steele 03.30.10 at 5:56 pm

Henry,
If the Catholic Church is, and has always been, so hostile to grassroots change, where do groups like Voice of the Faithful (which organized in Massachusetts in response to the abuse) get the idea that they will have an impact? Or, for that matter, the people who have been sleeping in closed parishes for three years to prevent the diocese from selling or tearing down the buildings? The Catholics I know and grew up around (and those I overhear Sunday evenings in restaurants) criticize the hierarchy constantly, and talk as if they are given a lot of freedom. It’s difficult to imagine how they could think so, if it’s not the case.

Are these organizations simply stirring people up to eventually leave? (About 15% of MA residents who polled as Catholics 15 years ago no longer do.)

7

Ryan Miller 03.30.10 at 6:04 pm

Steve: that’s silly. The Church has gone to great efforts under the last several pontiffs to improve relations with Judaism. Aggressive secularism, cafeteria wishy-washy-ness, and maybe Islam scare the Vatican. Jews most certainly do not.

Henry: I think you’re wrong in suggesting that it’s particularly bottom-up change that the Church is slow to enact. Top-down change rarely works well either. The Church is by tradition and structure a very conservative organization. When change happens rapidly, as after Vatican II, it’s usually only because top-down and bottom-up pressures were both pushing against a dam for some time in advance. Bishops and bureaucracies have considerable autonomy, whatever the notional organizational lines look like.

I would suggest that a much more helpful way to look at this issue is through the lens of the liberation theology movement, the response to which Cardinal Ratzinger was quite closely involved with. I think that showed that he is extremely worried about de jure evils (heterodoxy, heresy, schism) and thinks that those are where the *public* response of the hierarchy should be concentrated, whereas de facto evils (militarism, child abuse) can better be answered locally and through back channels, and to some extent will always be with us. Now it’s certainly appropriate to wonder about both the prioritization and the tactics there, but that’s a far cry from suggesting that these evils were being actively perpetuated. As with many large organizations, institutional dysfunction and incompetence of various kinds explain far more concrete evil than malice ever could.

With regard to the conspiracy theory, I don’t think it’s so much “conspiracy” per se, in the sense of explicit backroom deals, but rather a (frequently healthy) journalistic ideology which explicitly prioritizes de facto evils (news) over de jure evils (see: complicity with Bush administration), combined with an antipathy towards fervent religion and medieval governance. When those are added together, the Church ends up held to a much higher standard–on the other hand, it’s hard to argue that we shouldn’t be held to a higher standard, either. Jesus wasn’t much fond of the hypocrites.

8

bianca steele 03.30.10 at 6:05 pm

Not “15% who polled . . .”: % polling as Catholics was 51%, is now 37%.

9

Steve LaBonne 03.30.10 at 6:09 pm

When those are added together, the Church ends up held to a much higher standard

Horseshit. People who obstruct investigation and punishment of child rapists are themselves criminals. No matter how low a standard you want to set, they didn’t meet it.

This smacks of Rembert Weakland trying to claim “they knew it was morally wrong but didn’t know it was criminal”. Give me a fucking break.

10

Ryan Miller 03.30.10 at 6:09 pm

Salazar: I think that’s just factually false. The Iraq war was condemned in no uncertain terms, as are torture and death penalty vigils are held constantly. The Church may not issue press releases as frequently as governments, but the positions are both absolute and vocal.

Bianca: first, I think you’re right that many are simply being stirred up to leave. It’s that sort of perception which explains why VoF was met with such a harsh response. Second, as I noted earlier, the Church is bad at top-down change, too, so there’s a difference between feeling freedom and thinking you’re going to change something. Third, VoF meetings were nearly exclusively populated by baby boomers who grew up in the aftermath of Vatican II. I think living through a moment of great change in the church, without much insider knowledge of how that change came to pass, skewed their sensibilities of its future likelihood.

11

Ryan Miller 03.30.10 at 6:13 pm

Steve: I’m not saying it wasn’t criminal. Just that not all such criminal situations stir up such spectacular media coverage. But part of that is probably just the perception that the Church is more centralized than it is, so stories end up being about “the Church” rather than just Boston or Franciscans or whatever. Sorry for posting so much, but I think both sides deserve a fair hearing.

12

Substance McGravitas 03.30.10 at 6:16 pm

Just that not all such criminal situations stir up such spectacular media coverage.

Can you think of another such criminal situation worthy of comparison?

13

Salazar 03.30.10 at 6:27 pm

Ryan: I just see no discussion of refusing communion to — or organizing marches against — officials who backed the aforementioned policies. Compare that to the fuss the hierarchy make over abortion, with the vocal support of some U.S. Catholic organizations and intellectuals and I get the sense said hierarchy can very well live with what the neocons have done, regardless of what they may say in public.

14

Kathryn 03.30.10 at 6:34 pm

Maybe Catholics and Episcopalians can just swap members. Episcopalians upset about gays and women being given a place in the church can become Catholics and Catholics upset about child molestation going unpunished and an unresponsive medieval hierarchy can become Episcopalians. I doubt the two groups have much overlap.

People think the Episcopal church is making a bad move with allowing gay bishops and a woman head. I think they just don’t understand the larger trends afoot here.

15

jhe 03.30.10 at 6:38 pm

Ryan,

not all such criminal situations stir up such spectacular media coverage

Sorry, not buying it. There is an international (I’ll save global for when the stories inevitably break in Asia and Africa) pattern of pedophilia and rape. Pedophilia in one diocese would have gotten a ton of press. In multiple countries this becomes a huge story. Add in a pattern of cover ups and I don’t see how you can claim that this is overblown or at heart about the Church.

It’s hard not to regard the Church as centralized when almost every cover up in every country has involved a Bishop or Archbishop including the current Pope. The church may not have coordinated the response centrally, but in almost every case it’s responsible agents adopted the same response. You’ll have to find the diocese where the perpetrator was defrocked and turned over to the police to change this perception.

Speaking as someone who has been trying to raise his children in the Church, I have to say that the apologists have lost their minds on this one. I can’t see how this does not wind up in criminal proceedings. The entire magisterium is hopelessly compromised. Henry is absolutely correct, in any other organization there would be wholesale changes. Barring the possibility that one of these bastards used a condom, I can’t imagine the hierarchy responding with anything other than a shrug.

16

Nick 03.30.10 at 6:44 pm

Let us not also forget the UN and its foray into child raping and prostitution. Obviously, not quite as endemic as what the Catholic church has been up to, but then its only had 50 years to establish itself some level of unaccountability, while the church has been entrenching itself for 1500 years!

17

The Raven 03.30.10 at 6:53 pm

Isn’t this the sort of organizational problem that led to the emergence of Protestantism? And I wonder, truly, if sexual misconduct did not also play a role there.

18

Ryan Miller 03.30.10 at 6:59 pm

Substance: public school systems, for instance, seem to harbor abuse at similar levels, but aren’t seen as globally coordinated. Not that equivalence is any defense whatsoever.

Salazar: I think there are two differences. First, torture and capital punishment, no matter how despicable, do not kill innocent persons in the hundreds of thousands. Second, neocons were adept at saying the right thing on torture while doing the wrong thing. The Church has historically been very bad at dealing well with that, again see the whole sordid history in South America. I’m not excusing it, but merely attempting to reframe what I think the gap really is.

Kathryn: that is exactly what is happening.

jhe: the story has broken on Africa, so go for global. Certainly the record shows that there have been cases where perpetrators were genuinely reassigned to positions where they would not have contact with children rather than abominably juggled about. Defrocking and denouncement are both rather different, and while they may be appropriate in some cases may not be in others, and I don’t think the failure to do either indicates complicity or evil on its own.

I can’t begin to defend bishops who reassigned abusers to other parishes multiple times, or to clerics who are spending their energies on defense rather than cleaning up the problem. I do think, however, that the broader impedance mismatches between the Church and the modern world confuse the issue, and that the main issue has been the understanding of and response to all sorts of de facto evils rather than some particular intention to protect or perpetuate child abuse.

19

Substance McGravitas 03.30.10 at 7:05 pm

Substance: public school systems, for instance, seem to harbor abuse at similar levels, but aren’t seen as globally coordinated. Not that equivalence is any defense whatsoever.

The question was “Can you think of another such criminal situation worthy of comparison?” Name one.

20

no 03.30.10 at 7:14 pm

21

Uncle Kvetch 03.30.10 at 7:17 pm

First, torture and capital punishment, no matter how despicable, do not kill innocent persons in the hundreds of thousands.

A war of aggression, however, does exactly that. No American Catholic officeholder, however, was threatened with excommunication for supporting the invasion of Iraq (which the Vatican officially “opposed”).

22

Doctor Memory 03.30.10 at 7:18 pm

There may or may not be any way to produce significant internal pressure on the church, but I’d love to see a more serious effort at applying external pressure. Revoking their tax-exempt and audit-proof status would seem to be an excellent and obvious first step.

23

akatsuki 03.30.10 at 7:30 pm

So long as the rule of law is broken and the rapists and their enablers aren’t arrested, there will be no pressure to change or respond. Despicable and cowardly does not even begin to describe the governments who have not filed formal criminal charges.

24

Substance McGravitas 03.30.10 at 7:47 pm

A headline that seems tailor-made for a regular five-minute spot on the nightly news and perhaps its own theme: Catholic Church sex abuse scandals around the world

25

bianca steele 03.30.10 at 7:50 pm

Ryan:
Voice of Faithful primarily “baby boomers”? Is that true? I am just barely too young to be a baby boomer, and I’m trying to think whether this attitude is more prevalent among people just a little older than me.

At some point, presumably, the church will find an equilibrium. It will be restricted to people who are willing to put up with and even defend the actions of the present and recent hierarchy. Or it will be more aligned with the way the secular world is now. One way or the other, one of those groups is going to be disappointed, but we can look forward to the current confusion settling down. Similarly, a few parishes will leave Episcopalianism and become something more like Orthodox, I guess, and the rest will settle in and permit same-sex marriage. One assumes exactly the same thing is happening in the English Church.

26

jdkbrown 03.30.10 at 7:52 pm

“Now it’s certainly appropriate to wonder about both the prioritization and the tactics there, but that’s a far cry from suggesting that these evils were being actively perpetuated.”

I was in Boston when the abuse scandal blew up there, and the evidence really did suggest that “these evils” were being actively perpetuated. And the response by the Catholic hierarchy was more centralized than you suggest–otherwise Cardinal Law would not have been whisked away to a position in Rome.

27

roac 03.30.10 at 8:06 pm

One of Frank O’Connor’s short stories (I don’t remember the title, and my copy is at home) describes how a senior Irish priest masterfully coaxes and browbeats the civil authorities into falsifying the result of the inquiry into the death of a younger priest who has self-evidently committed suicide.

The useful insight to be gotten from the story is that this is the kind of skill that will move you up in the hierarchy. Biology is not the only field in which selection pressure explains a lot. (Not that the Church is by any means the only organization to which the lesson is applicable.)

28

b9n10nt 03.30.10 at 8:18 pm

Ryan Miller:

Either you concretely know of repeated instances of public school officials covering up and reassigning pedophile teachers while insisting on “internal investigations”, in which case your evidence will be forthcoming since it has now thrice been requested

or you have just demonstrated that you are here to provide cover for an institution at its most criminal and self-regarding.

I’ll come down off my high horse if you can explain how your blind quest for exculpating equivalency is anything but feeble-minded claptrap.

29

tom bach 03.30.10 at 8:40 pm

I confess to being confused by the comparisons to public schools or other institutions by those seeking to minimize the nature of the scandal. The pope is the infallible, officially since the late 19th century, voice of God and priests are the recipients of additional grace, through the sacrament of ordination, necessary to fulfill their role as means of channeling grace, through some of the other sacraments, to believers. The CC is by its own argument radically different from all other secular or sacular, if heretical, institutions.

30

Substance McGravitas 03.30.10 at 8:49 pm

And from the post above:

As Duncan Black notes, the issues are quite straightforward, and have nothing to do with questions of theology. At the least he’s presided over an organization that has systematically covered up for child abusers, and it seems quite plausible that he’s been actively involved in said cover-up.

So what an equivalent rate of abuse might be isn’t the point.

31

CJColucci 03.30.10 at 9:05 pm

“This is a pretext for attacking the church. . . There is a well organised plan with a very clear aim.”

Of course the Church is being “attacked.” It is being attacked for its handling of the pedophilia scandals. Nobody who thinks pedophilia and cover-ups are is a bad thing is making any bones about it. They are openly and straightforwardly “attacking” the Church. There’s no “pretext” about it.

32

Maurice Meilleur 03.30.10 at 9:17 pm

On a related note, a question: How far is sovereign immunity likely to carry the pope and whatever bishops he chooses to shield in the Vatican? And can anyone think of any other religions whose primates get to avail themselves of this happy status?

33

soullite 03.30.10 at 9:30 pm

Arrested? It’s pretty clear that isn’t going to happen. I’d like one of these parents to shoot one of these priests in the face, and then I want every Catholic, every priest or layman, to see them get acquitted. Maybe then they would start to see that the rest of us actually believe in protecting our children.

If someone did this to my kid, and the church whisked the guy who did it away to safety, I wouldn’t want to be the next priest I got my hands on.

34

Ryan Miller 03.30.10 at 9:58 pm

If you look through http://www.teachercrime.com/ you’ll see quite a number of them had previous allegations etc. And I believe that I did not suggest that equivalency was a good principle, let alone exculpating, but rather attempted merely to explain why some primates feel that the media has them in its sights. Certainly the links to the name “Ratzinger” have a bit of a feel of attempting to bring him into it.

Uncle Kvetch: I agree and I think it’s problematic, but again I think that’s more of a question of policy vs action than about right-wing vs left-wing topics.

jdkbrown: I, too, am a Bostonian, and I’m not sure why you read this the way you do. Bernard Cardinal Law has the most humiliating, menial job that it is possible for a Cardinal to hold. You may think that punishment is insufficient, but it’s definitely punishment, not protection.

akatsuki: you really think there’s no pressure to change? Seminary rectors are now under spectacular pressure to ferret out whether applicants may have tendencies to pederasty. In fact, I’m not really sure what further the Church would do on the subject in the developed world. Many African dioceses haven’t come to terms with that reality yet, however.

tom bach: an excellent point. I do think bureaucrats, even Church ones, often lose sight of that.

35

Substance McGravitas 03.30.10 at 10:03 pm

If you look through http://www.teachercrime.com/

Golly, those folks appear to have been arrested.

36

Salient 03.30.10 at 10:04 pm

Bernard Cardinal Law has the most humiliating, menial job that it is possible for a Cardinal to hold.

Restroom cleaner at the penitentiary for 3 cents / hour?

…or is it impossible to jail a Cardinal now?

[akatsuki is right.]

37

Salient 03.30.10 at 10:05 pm

In fact, I’m not really sure what further the Church would do on the subject in the developed world.

* Cooperate with law enforcement officials, and enable them to file charges, by providing them full disclosure of internal investigation documents

* Publish all internal investigation documents, not redacted

38

Ryan Miller 03.30.10 at 10:18 pm

substance: as have a number of priests whose accusers went to the civil authorities before the statute of limitations expired. The bishops and superintendents both seem to be walking free.

salient: in context, I meant possible for him to be assigned to by the Pope.

It’s important to remember that the canonical relationship between bishop and priest is as between father and son. A father certainly cannot morally let his son abuse his grandchild, but nor is he morally required to report his son to the police, or disown (defrock) him. The evil committed by both the abusers and their reassigners was great, but I don’t think defrockings and resignations are going to change anything. If they were, why did the rate of abuse drop so dramatically in the last twenty years? Canon law doesn’t have any revenge principle and I don’t think it should. Abortionists, too, are welcome to the confessional at any time.

39

Salient 03.30.10 at 10:22 pm

A father certainly cannot morally let his son abuse his grandchild,

agreed,

but nor is he morally required to report his son to the police,

Wait, what?

(Staring into space for a moment.)

…You believe that?

40

Ryan Miller 03.30.10 at 10:26 pm

salient: assuming he has some other way of preventing the abuse (if he doesn’t, then that’s probably morally required). What would create such a moral duty?

41

Maurice Meilleur 03.30.10 at 10:27 pm

Ryan @ 36: Fathers (and mothers) may not obstruct justice by silencing witnesses or hiding evidence. If they do, they get hauled off to court. A prosecutor may even charge them with conspiracy if they think they have the evidence. Even if we were to assume that what the church considers to be a parental relationship ipso facto becomes a legal status, your analogy fails.

42

Salient 03.30.10 at 10:33 pm

Well, maybe mixing moral duty with the particular laws of whatever jurisdiction might be theoretically inappropriate.

It’s not just about preventing further abuse of that particular kid, e.g. by removing the grandson from that situation. It’s about preventing the abuser from attacking someone else, I’d presume, even if there’s no ‘appropriate punishment’ motive.

And for a more appropriate comparison, suppose X was the mayor, X had ten sons, and three of them were sexually abusing their grandkids. X leans on the sheriff and the local newspaper guy to look the other way whenever evidence of this emerges, and X pays for his kids’ moving expenses when scandal’s potentially about to break, maybe putting that particular grandkid in another home. X doesn’t know all the details, but relatives know, and they collude to make sure no one else finds out. When one of X’s sons was divorced by a wife angry over the abuse she learned about, you helped find him another wife, found ways to intimidate the ex-wife into shutting up, and encouraged the son to have more kids with his new wife (he did, and proceeded to abuse those kids).

Don’t people have a moral duty to… not act like X? At all?

43

Substance McGravitas 03.30.10 at 10:34 pm

substance: as have a number of priests whose accusers went to the civil authorities before the statute of limitations expired.

How many of them retained their jobs?

44

Salient 03.30.10 at 10:34 pm

Sorry, once in there I typed “you” where I meant X. It was an editing fail, not in any way meant as an accusation.

45

jdkbrown 03.30.10 at 10:36 pm

“A father certainly cannot morally let his son abuse his grandchild, but nor is he morally required to report his son to the police”

He most certainly does have a moral duty to do so. That you think otherwise is depraved.

“assuming he has some other way of preventing the abuse”

But Law and other enabling bishops *didn’t prevent the abuse*! They *facilitated* it!

46

Maurice Meilleur 03.30.10 at 10:37 pm

Ryan, whether or not it’s a moral duty, it’s a legal obligation. (Not to say anything about the moral obligation of the cleric to his parishoners.) And coming around again to your comment, since when has there been (in the US at least) any moral, common-law, or statuatory principle that parents are not be required to report the crimes of their children, or to provide evidence or testify against them in court?

47

Gene O'Grady 03.30.10 at 10:39 pm

My impression (in answer to bianca steele) is that most of the people in organizations like Voice of the Faithful, which is the latest manifestation of a movement I’ve observed for quite a long time, are a bit older than I am (born 1948), which would make them non-baby boomers. Most people my age just got up and quit when they couldn’t take it any longer — although a lot of them left for less than admirable reasons.

As a long time Catholic now Episcopalian I don’t see the upset about gay and women priests much outside of the media. By the way, it was my observation in the Catholic world that gay priests, at least the honest ones whether celibate or not, were some of the best, especially at marriage counseling, of all things. And they tended to a higher degree of Marian devotion.

At the risk of outstaying my welcome on a subject where I often get on a soapbox, no one seems to have mentioned that there were four items Paul VI take away from the Vatican Council — contraception, clerical celibacy, reform of the curia, and the relations of the center and the periphery. The Montini-Wojtyla faction screwed ‘em all up, and they all have a lot to do with the current problems.

48

politicalfootball 03.30.10 at 10:41 pm

It is understatement to say that the Church gets the same treatment as other organizations with similar scandals. In fact, the Church has consistently been let off easy in this regard, as it still is today. Anybody who doubts it should ask the McMartin family what happens to people who are accused of abetting child abuse – even when the charges are nonsense.

Bernard Law skipped the country to escape charges, got a sweet sinecure at the Vatican, and was one of nine prelates who presided over John Paul’s funeral masses. So not only was he not disgraced, he was explicitly honored by the Vatican after he failed to cooperate with the law’s attempts to uncover his child sex ring.

49

Akshay 03.30.10 at 10:53 pm

Ryan Miller @ 36: Do you believe that Canon “law” somehow trumps the actual laws? AFAICT we are dealing with rape, torture, cover-up, obstruction of justice (when pressuring both priests and victims to shut up) and even aiding and abetting further rape (when simply transfering a priest to a different parish). Actually, it was even worse. The Irish ‘Ryan Report’ concluded that the abuse in Irish Catholic ‘Reformatory Schools’ was “systemic, pervasive, chronic, excessive, arbitrary, endemic.” Even the executive summary of the report is barely readable.

Isn’t that – as Gwynne Dyer recently noted – precisely the problem though? The idea that the church believes that Canon law trumps the law? I agree with Akatsuki @21: I wish they were taught otherwise.

50

theAmericanist 03.30.10 at 11:07 pm

Lord, I wish folks would try a little harder to FOCUS.

For one thing, the Pope is not “infallible”. The doctrine doesn’t say that if a Pope decided to get into the Vatican office pool on the NCAA, he’s gonna beat out the autistic kid with all perfect picks. The doctrine is that when the Pope SAYS something is a matter of faith and morals on which what he is saying right now, on this matter, is absolutely true: THEN — and only then — is that doctrine infallible.

It’s only ever been used for I think three statements about Mary.

For another, there are two reasons why this scandal is so serious for the Church, and neither of ‘em are directly related to sex, as such.

The primary reason it’s so serious is because the Church so clearly aided and abetted crimes and criminals. If these guys had been sneaking out of the confessional to knock off banks and 7-11s, it would be pretty easy to see that the responsibility of their employer would have been to turn ‘em in. Somehow, that wasn’t clear to the Church itself.

The second reason it’s so serious is because it speaks to the relationship that doctrine has to the institution. In most institutions, if a minor official commits a crime and a mid-level official covers it up, the institution itself is structured so that they can cut it off and heal — hell, making prompt hard calls like that is precisely what gets mid-level officials promoted to the top levels, in healthy organizations. But the Church’s institutional structure is so saturated with its doctrine that they’re just not nimble (much less responsible, never mind moral) about the obvious civic responsibilities they shirked.

That’s why this is so serious, and why they’ve had such difficulties dealing with matters that, in a healthy institution, would have been dealt with long ago.

So, naturally, they’re dealing with the problem at the top, because there’s no place else to pass it along: I’m not sure a Pope has EVER resigned, so don’t hold your breath it will happen now.

An arrest seems more likely – and man! that would be crushing.

It would be interesting if somebody familiar with Catholic doctrine were to actually write out what the Pope should say, and do, that even COULD be consistent with the institutional responsibilities of the office.

51

tom bach 03.30.10 at 11:46 pm

The Americanist:
I am aware f that and, I think, you are underestimating the power the pope is presumed to wield inside he Church visible; from the Trindent reforms (which — I would argue — were as much about putting paid to councilor Catholicism as sharpening the divide between Catholics and Protestants) on the popes have given themselves and the councils have accepted ever increasing power over the ritual, dogma, kergma, and etc, which culminated in the formal statement of papal infallibility. My larger point was and remains that attempts to find other secular institutions, like public schools, or sacular institutions guilty of similar peccadilloes, and doesn’t do the CC any good as it is sui generis.

I would also suggest that making analogical arguments concern secular biological relationships with the secular “in Christ” relationships, the a bishop is a priest father in Christ, grants to the latter relationship a great moral urgency and the claim of self regulation requires, I would argue, that the punishment fit the crime.

52

john b 03.31.10 at 12:03 am

I like Matt Taibbi’s take on this: The Catholic Church is a criminal enterprise

53

Ryan Miller 03.31.10 at 1:45 am

Ok, I should probably try hard to be more clear. First, I am not defending pederast priests. Second, I am not defending bishops who exhibited, at best, gross negligence in making sure that those likely offenders did not reoffend. Third, I don’t know the law well enough to know whether the bishops’ actions were illegal or not. I am not suggesting that law enforcement ought not prosecute. Fourth, I am not defending gross bureaucratic negligence in keeping and sharing appropriate records. So what am I saying?

First, that it’s appropriate for bishops to look to canon law first, as a moral matter. It’s the legal code they’ve sworn to uphold, its basic structures predate most civil codes, and while perhaps details should be changed it’s basically fair to accuser and accused. The church is a 501(c)3 but it is not merely that, and its religions and state aspects are not peripheral to its operation.

Second, that on the question of private settlements with victims, rather than on the one of reassignments (recognizing in practice they often went together) the moral ground is hazy. If allegations are made which do not constitute a preponderance of evidence, and those allegations will destroy a person’s career if publicized, and if the alleger does in fact need counseling, etc, coming to a deal is not always wrong. Certainly not all civil cases settled privately with sealed documents are in moral error? Though this does make me queasy, perhaps because it was so frequently used with reassignment and without sharing internal documentation.

Third, that those saying the Church needs to change structure to deal with this are ignoring that it managed to halt the pandemic twenty years ago, and is being extremely vigilant to prevent recurrence. Certainly the existence of a pandemic in the first place is abhorrent, but also clearly the structures are able to succeed in stopping one. Publicity, denunciations, and law enforcement are not necessary at this time for the cause of stopping an abuse pandemic.

Fourth, I think that absent a founded belief that further harm will take place, you do not have a moral obligation to denounce or disown someone on account of past evil. No one has yet given an account of what would give rise to such an obligation.

Salient: I think the moral situation of X hinges most crucially on the bit about X’s son having more kids. Bishops who did not prevent this were in deep moral error.

Maurice: until recently, I don’t believe it was in most jurisdictions a legal obligation. If it were, Massachusetts would not have updates its statute on the subject.

Politicalfootball: Law is the only non-retired Cardinal who does not have a curial or diocesan position of authority. This is not an accident.

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Bernard Yomtov 03.31.10 at 2:06 am

Law is the only non-retired Cardinal who does not have a curial or diocesan position of authority. This is not an accident.

My heart bleeds for him.

The man should be in jail, and this is the best you can do?

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b9n10t 03.31.10 at 2:30 am

First, that it’s appropriate for bishops to look to canon law first

…but not stop there. Why not follow both laws, and whichever one is most restrictive of abusers and least restrictive of victims.

it managed to halt the pandemic twenty years ago, and is being extremely vigilant to prevent recurrence.

The pandemic didn’t exist to the degree it did without the Church’s criminal negligence and cover-up. I for one don’t merely want the pedophilia to stop, I want justice. That is more than just a cessation of harm. Bush’s war is over, justice for Iraqis and Americans is not. We should have truth and reconciliation, a new Pope, and where appropriate criminal investigations. Instead, the Church is giving us infantile claims of victimization.

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Substance McGravitas 03.31.10 at 3:03 am

First, that it’s appropriate for bishops to look to canon law first, as a moral matter.

Yes, in a case where your employee is sodomizing kids, you look at the employee handbook. It is, after all, a workplace incident.

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pv 03.31.10 at 3:23 am

The Raven: “And I wonder, truly, if sexual misconduct did not also play a role there.”

The corruption of the medieval clergy certainly did play a role in the emergence of the Protestant Reformation, and that corruption included supposedly celibate clergy with girlfriends and children. So “sexual misconduct” had a role, though I don’t think it was the central instance of corrupt clergy that really fueled it (some of the financial shenanigoats were a bigger deal). But if the heart of the theological conflict was over authority (not just authority for theological truth but from where the ruling figures of the church get their authority, what it actually means, and how it functions), those corruptions added up. I don’t know how relevant that situation was to this situation though.

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Alice de Tocqueville 03.31.10 at 4:56 am

I can’t forget that all this is on top of the abuse of telling children a bunch of lies, that goodness comes from “god” and not from your own nature; that women are beneath men in holiness, and therefore cannot be the spiritual leaders that men can; that priests have grace that others don’t; that a wife should suffer abuse from her husband because “god” wants her to – tripe like this. I went to Catholic school for eight years, and I never experienced anything like the goodness I’ve seen in my atheist friends and teachers. It’s such a pathetic pretense, that there is any enlightenment in such a sick organisation. It’s a dirty old mens’ club, that’s all.

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Ryan Miller 03.31.10 at 5:38 am

b9n10t: I think you’ll find that criminal investigations and truth & reconciliation commissions don’t make great bedfellows. Thought I’d pass along two links that I think help fairly show the Church’s side of the matter in what seems to be a fairly typical case: NCR and another source.

Obviously there’s much to be criticized with how this was handled and it’s far from the worst cases involving serial reassignment, but it should give you some pause with regard to the press coverage suggesting Vatican complicity.

To those here who have very different conceptions of justice than I do, thank you for your viewpoints and hopefully there will be a better forum to discuss them another time.

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clod Levi-Strauss 03.31.10 at 5:42 am

I had a teacher in high school, in his mid 40′s, who married a recent college graduate.
They met when she was one of his students in 10th grade.
The heart of the problem isn’t sex between 16 year olds and 40 year olds, it’s the gulf between absolute moral authority and absolute corruption.
No one should ever have such authority over anyone, and the Catholic church is founded on it that lie.

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derrida derider 03.31.10 at 5:45 am

“Senior figures in the church have been muttering for years that, if it comes down to it, they would prefer a smaller and more orthodox church to one which had more members but had to accommodate greater heterodoxy”

So these senior figures prefer, on their own theology, the eternal damnation of millions more people in order for them to preserve their personal authority? Morally that’s worse than their toleration of kiddy fiddlers. “Whited sepulchres” doesn’t begin to describe them.

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Substance McGravitas 03.31.10 at 5:46 am

From Ryan’s NCR link:

In 1995, some of Murphy’s victims and their lawyers contacted the now-archbishop of Milwaukee, Rembert Weakland (ironic, yes, but that’s a different issue), reporting Murphy’s actions from the 1970s.

What’s ironic? This:

Milwaukee, Wis (CNA) – Former Archbishop of Milwaukee Rembert Weakland, who resigned after revelations that his archdiocese paid $450,000 to a man who alleged the archbishop had sexually assaulted him, will soon publish a memoir describing his work in the Church and his sexual orientation.

Now that’s a stirring essay in defense of reasonable behaviour by church officials!

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Alex 03.31.10 at 8:22 am

I know papal infallibility doesn’t mean that the pope is right by definition in every thing he says and does. However, he’s not exactly behaving like a man conscious of his own capacity for error, now, is he?

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ajay 03.31.10 at 9:12 am

So, naturally, they’re dealing with the problem at the top, because there’s no place else to pass it along: I’m not sure a Pope has EVER resigned, so don’t hold your breath it will happen now.

It has happened once: Celestine V.

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alex 03.31.10 at 9:50 am

I’m still surprised by all the surprise. I don’t recall a time in my adult life when I wasn’t conscious that black humour about the sexual proclivities of priests put in charge of children was a commonplace. I always assumed it had a basic grounding in fact, and that the power of the church was widely used to cover these things up. Nothing that’s emerged about this kind of abuse, or the more industrialised kind of abuse associated with economic exploitation meted out in Ireland’s Magdalene homes, for example, has changed that impression. They were always power-mad scum hiding behind a facade of avuncular authority.

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Mrs Tilton 03.31.10 at 10:26 am

ajay @64,

[Papal abdication] has happened once: Celestine V

And Celestine went to hell doing so, sent there by no less an authority than Dante himself.

Though in terms of how best to deal with the current incumbent, part of me can’t help but admire Philip IV’s way of addressing the issues presented by Celestine’s immediate successor.

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Mrs Tilton 03.31.10 at 10:34 am

Me just above there:

s/b “…for doing so…”. Arse.

Decent enough bloke, apparently, old Celestine, if hopelessly naive and a bit befuddled. Still, the negative incentive that bastard Alighieri has provided for all subsequent pontiffs is nigh unanswerable.

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Alex 03.31.10 at 11:02 am

other alex: I’m still surprised by all the surprise. I don’t recall a time in my adult life when I wasn’t conscious that black humour about the sexual proclivities of priests put in charge of children was a commonplace

No. I remember when the Irish scandals blew up, and I don’t remember anyone I knew being in the least bit surprised. This may just be anti-Catholic prejudice, of course.

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je suis partout 03.31.10 at 11:36 am

mst cnfss tht m srprsd t s lft lbrls n tbld frnzy bt “kdd fddlrs” nd sdmy. Nt lst bcs, nlk tbld dtrs, lft lbrls hv lng ssrd s tht sdmy nd prdtry ml hmsxl bhvr r nrsrvdly gd thngs. Prhps tndncy t cls rnks n ths thngs s nt cnfnd t th Cthlc chrch. Th Trtshyst grp blngd t n my yth dvctd bltn f th g f cnsnt nd thr ws dscssn n th cntrl cmmtt bt sldrty wth th Pdphl nfrmtn xchng. n Lndn, th Hckny Lbr lft prtctd th srl chld bsr Mrk Trttr. nd slf cnfssd kdd fddlr Dnl Chn-Bndt rmns pplr n th Frnch lft.

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Zamfir 03.31.10 at 11:56 am

I remember reading that besides Judas, the Catholic church has only once officially declared that a person is in Hell.

The subject was some minor Italian nobleman at war with the church, in the days that the Pope still had divisions and lots of them. The Church had sent a 15 year old cardinal as messenger, and the guy publicly raped the kid in front of his troops to make a statement. Since the raping of children obviously isn’t the big objection, I guess it was raping cardinals in public that damns your soul.

The trouble, is I can’t find any confirmation of this story, which leads to scary implication that I might have accidentally made it up myself.

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politicalfootball 03.31.10 at 11:58 am

We don’t need to guess about the Church’s stand on pedophilia. Bernard Law skipped the country. The fact that the Vatican sheltered him says all we need to know. The fact that the Vatican gave him a high-visibility role at J-P’s funeral tells you the Vatican is proud of Law, and wants to encourage others similarly positioned to do the same thing.

It’s like Cheney and torture – the crime is denied only in the most superficial sense. You have to have a pretty weak moral sense to say that Cheney didn’t condone torture or the Vatican didn’t actively obstruct the investigation of pedophilia.

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theAmericanist 03.31.10 at 12:14 pm

Not to get self-referential, but it seems like it might be useful to explain my monicker in this context: in the 18th century, it became necessary to create an American bishop — John Carroll. Like all consecrated bishops, he was required to condemn all heresies and heretics. Unlike others, he refused — because that would have meant that he would have been damning George Washington himself (a Mason). The Vatican let that slide for about a century.

But Carroll’s refusal began what was eventually known as “the Americanist heresy”. The American divergence from Vatican doctrine really got going in the 1850s, when Pius IX issued the Syllabus of Errors which said, among other things, that freedom of speech and religion, and the separation of Church and State, were not compatible with being a faithful Catholic. (Catholic apologists note that Pius did not claim the Syllabus was infallible doctrine; most folks figure this is a distinction without much difference.)

In mid to late 19th century America, there was a wave of Catholic immigration as well as a resurgence of the faith among foreign stock (US citizens with immigrant parents), particularly among German-Americans in the midwest. The leaders of that resurgence, notably Hecker and Orestes Brownson, didn’t emphasize certain aspects of Catholicism (e.g., Mary), but were passionate that being a good Catholic AND a patriotic American was not only possible, it was a Very Good Thing. (The Vatican wasn’t quite sure.)

One of these guys served in the Civil War, and eventually became Cardinal Gibbons, who gave us the Baltimore Catechism. (Taught Babe Ruth, too.) He was in charge of the American Church when a bunch of French knuckleheads provoked Leo XIII to investigate, and eventually condemn “Americanism”.

It’s sometimes called the phantom heresy, because neither the US Church nor the Vatican wants to recall what it meant — particularly now. In a nutshell, the Americanist heresy was the idea that civics has a moral value in itself. When I read about that, I thought: well, that’s me. Thus, my online id and alter ego.

Leo XIII condemned the Americanist heresey in 1899 by citing Church authority: civics, he said, has no moral value UNLESS it reinforces the authority of the Pope.

The thing about the Americanist heresy is that, in the end, it WON: much of the core ideas of the heresy (for example, the redefinition of “outside the Church there is no salvation” ) became Church doctrine at Vatican II, notably because of JC Murray.

So it’s central to the reactionary approach the Church has taken since Vatican II, personified by Benedict but beginning with JPII before he became Pope, when he served as the Vatican’s designated dissenter from the birth control commission (which included not only laymen, but also married women!); JPII’s dissent became the Vatican’s position on the relationship between celibate authority and sex.

The Americanist heresy doesn’t recognize the tainted Biblical idea of rendering unto Caesar (which was, after all, a defense of slavery), it acknowledges instead that secular authority in a democracy has an inherently moral power which the Church must accept. (As a Union veteran of the Civil War, Gibbons knew this keenly — the Catholic Church was the largest American denomination that did not split over slavery: nobody needed to tell Gibbons that Southern Catholics were wrong, no matter what they were told from the pulpit.)

LOL — anyway, TMI. It just seems relevant to any discussion of how and why the Vatican just didn’t order all bishops to turn all criminal priests over to the cops. (But if anybody wants to produce the play I’ve written about all this, let me know.)

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Salient 03.31.10 at 12:33 pm

I think the moral situation of X hinges most crucially on the bit about X’s son having more kids.

Ryan, I really have to respect you for stating so clearly and plainly how you feel about this, and how you interpret moral obligation, and so forth. We completely disagree about the above. I think X is deeply morally wrong at every stage of the process I described, long before X’s son has more kids. There’s probably no way to reconcile our perspectives.

LOL —anyway, TMI. It just seems relevant to any discussion of how and why the Vatican just didn’t order all bishops to turn all criminal priests over to the cops. But if anybody wants to produce the play I’ve written about all this, let me know.

Not TMI at all, I appreciated the history lesson. I’m no producer, but would definitely go see that play. :)

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theAmericanist 03.31.10 at 1:30 pm

Kewlness — I appreciate the encouragement.

LOL — and I didn’t even mention the lesbian lead character.*

*F’r real, btw: her name was Ella Edes, and she was the Vatican reporter for the American Catholic press. She knew everybody, and was a genuine player in the Vatican’s wheeling and dealing surrounding the Spanish-American War, which the Pope opposed. The evidence for her orientation is that she never married but had a lifelong female companion, which I have some fun with onstage: gotta love a tall, striking redhead who used her beauty to get her brains where they could do some good.

I also couldn’t resist telling part of the story — which has to have a big historic sweep to work — with Teddy Roosevelt, for two reasons: first, TR was the first to apply the word “Americanization” to immigrants. Orestes Brownson had coined the word — and probably the concept — for the American Catholic Church. When he was NYC police commissioner, TR had dinner with Cardinal Gibbons in Baltimore (at the home of his friend, who was Napoleon’s nephew, no less), which is where TR heard the word from Gibbons himself.

Secondly, the Vatican’s attempt to keep secular America from kicking Catholic Spain out of Cuba was the most important global event leading up to Leo XIII condemning the Americanist heresy. But not too long before, there was this intriguing little staged event at Cape May, between President Harrison and Cardinal Gibbons, who just ‘happened’ to be walking along the same stretch of beach. The incident has intriguing echoes with what happened much later with Hitler, and even what goes on now with Muslims and al-Qaeda: there was a fight between the German and Irish stock Catholics in the US at the time. The German stock folks resented all the Irish stock guys hogging the American appointments for bishops — which, as it happens, is Ross Douthat’s theme on the scandal, that Cullen in Ireland (the worst anti-erotic bishop of modern times) caused the repressive character of the Church which in turn caused the scandal.

So Gibbons, as the first cardinal in the American church, made a point of bumping into the President of the United States at the beach, and got his informal personal opinion that it would better for American Catholics to be taught in English than in German. (Sounds something like the current debate over Spanish-speaking immigrants, no?) That’s what Gibbons wanted, so he promptly communicated it to Leo XIII, who immediately squelched the Prussian movement called Cahenslyism.

I think it’s a helluva story, at any rate, and oughta be more widely known.

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Cobb 03.31.10 at 2:29 pm

All we need is Colin Powell to stand in the presidium and show us the Church’s WMD program. Clearly Chemical Cardinal Ali Law used such weapons against the Bostonians and now he is being housed in an imperial palace. Of all the evil in the world, let us get consumed with this one (for at least a media cycle). Who among us will be the Feith? Who among us will draw the new lines and bring these evildoers to justice? It’s basically our organization vs their organization. How could we possibly be wrong? It’s for the children!

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Alan 03.31.10 at 4:55 pm

I accept the claim that change in the church tends to be top down and it is resistant, though not totally impervious, to down up change. I think the church has allowed evil behaviour and effectively condoned it.
However, one of the main issues that is being ignored is the implicit acceptance by civil authorities of the churches misbehaviour and its unwillingness to seriously tackle it.
Maybe the route to get the church to change is pressure on the civil authorities to change the relationship between civil authorities and the church so the civil authorities are much more intrusive.

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parse 03.31.10 at 6:06 pm

We don’t need to guess about the Church’s stand on pedophilia.

None of this is about pedophilia. Pedophilia describes a sexual attraction, not something that people choose. Pedophiles are not responsible for sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy, not in the minority of cases where those acts are instances of pedophile contact, nor in the majority where pedophilia is in no way involved. The guilt belongs to the individuals who committed the abuse and the individuals who facilitated it. It would be unfair to blame “homosexuality” for the abuse scandal on the grounds that some of the abusers were homosexuals; it’s similarly unfair to blame pedophiles.

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burritoboy 03.31.10 at 10:44 pm

“it acknowledges instead that secular authority in a democracy has an inherently moral power which the Church must accept. “

Why? First, there’s no reason to just assert that democracies (as a category) are INHERENTLY more moral than other forms of government. The Confederate States of America were a democracy. The Confederate States were as secular as the United States as the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights were incorporated directly into the Confederate constitution.

But that leads us directly to the question: obviously, some democracies are even massively evil regimes (like the Confederacy). If the Confederacy had won the Civil War, should the American Church be supporting that regime? After all, the Confederacy was an actual democracy that performed numerous absolutely essential civic functions – in fact, in terms of civic functions, the Confederacy (at least, for non-slaves) essentially had the exact same things as the United States did. (Of course, the Confederacy was composed of former US states, so many aspects of the Confederacy’s governance were precisely the same as they were before the war.)

It’s quite possible to assert that a particular monarchy is superior to a particular democracy – in fact, that was indeed the case with the Confederacy. Some monarchies were, in fact, superior to the democratic Confederacy.

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theAmericanist 03.31.10 at 11:12 pm

An interesting, if somewhat abstract and definitely ahistorical point.

My general feeling about that sort of argumentation is that IF you want to argue abstractions, you have to stick it out: no fair being abstract when you think it fits, and concrete when the abstractions don’t work for you. If you want to make an abstract argument about an historical example, it has to work for the relevant historical examples.

Yours doesn’t.

Cardinal Gibbon (I have a mental block and keep pluralizing him) was a Union chaplain in the Civil War. Since he was the ranking Americanist — which he stoutly and rather cleverly denied — his historical experience is the one that counts most: as a matter of civics, the Confederacy LOST. That’s the real history of the Americanist heresy, which is partly how I boil it down to the idea that civics has a moral value in itself.

Remember, in a sense this was the central issue in the Civil War itself: the Confederacy insisted that secession was legal, which is why they fought to do it, in order to preserve slavery. The Union insisted that secession was illegal, in fact, not possible without destroying the country. While it is certainly true that slavery somehow caused the war (as Lincoln put it), it is not true that the Union began to fight in order to destroy slavery. But it became clear that the only way to save the Union was to abolish slavery, so that’s what they did.

That is a damned powerful, practical lesson in the moral value of civics. Nobody knew it more plainly than Gibbon, who saw a lot of blood shed — AND, what’s more, also noticed that the only US religious denomination that did not split into Northern and Southern sects because of the war was the one he belonged to, the Roman Catholics of America.

So your point, interesting in the abstract, is simply contrary to the actual history.

Oddly, you also make essentially the same abstract argument that the Papacy does: it is, after all, essentially a monarchy, albeit one that as a practical matter precludes hereditary titles . But the whole model of the Vatican since at least the Dark Ages has been an authoritarian monarchy, with the Pope elected by the Cardinals and then appointing (and creating) Cardinals himself, who in turn create bishops, who assign priests to parishes, and so on. Cradle Catholics are often just amazed that other denominations essentially have the congregations hire their pastors — it’s like rain falling up.

So Leo XIII’s condemnation of the Americanist heresy makes essentially the same argument that you do: only the absolute authority of the ultimate good justifies any earthly power, so totalitarianism is superior to self-rule — which in any case is merely an illusion, a trick of Satan.

I dunno as you want to be making that argument, even in the abstract: but you did. I realize you think you were making a relative argument — that a slaveholder “democracy” can be morally inferior to a “free” monarchy — but it’s bullshit.

BTW — the way Gibbon dealt with the Pope’s condemnation of “Americanism” was priceless, and verrrry American. Basically, French knuckleheads precipitated the crisis for their own purposes — they wanted to get the Vatican out of political power in France, so they promoted the idea that American Catholics had figured out how to be religiously independent in politics. This obviously freaked out the Vatican, which was already fighting with Bismarck (the original Kulturkampf), so they finally decided to DO something about these doctrinally-suspect Americans, with their separation of Church and State, religious liberty and free speech.

A couple of the Americanists — notably Monsignor Denis O’Connell (from South Carolina, no less), and the founders of Catholic University in DC — had been articulating a full-blown theory of American Catholicism which had attracted attention throughout Europe. (O’Connell gave a big speech at Fribourg.) In the US, two Irish-American bishops argued opposite sides — McQuade bragged that he had never voted, because it only encouraged sin, and he discouraged faithful Catholics from voting, while Bishop Ireland used to give great bellowing speeches about how participating in American democracy was a blessed cause.

So when Leo XIII condemned the Americanist heresy in that loopy Papal language, he was essentially backing McQuade while Ireland, God love him, immediately wanted to argue with the Pope about how none of what the Vatican objected to had ever been part of the Americanist theology….

But Gibbon told him to STFU, and responded to the Pope: Brilliant letter, boss, condemning all that nasty stuff. Good thing nobody around HERE ever believed any of that, huh?

LOL — and this is the guy who slapped Babe Ruth at his confirmation. Can you get more American than that?

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burritoboy 03.31.10 at 11:21 pm

“I realize you think you were making a relative argument—that a slaveholder “democracy” can be morally inferior to a “free” monarchy—but it’s bullshit.”

You’re avoiding the question: does the mere fact of democracy (and, yes, the Confederacy was a democracy) mean LITERALLY every democracy is inherently better than ANY other possible state? There’s nothing the worst democracy could do that it would not, by definition, be better than any other possible regime?

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burritoboy 03.31.10 at 11:25 pm

“it is, after all, essentially a monarchy, albeit one that as a practical matter precludes hereditary titles ”

On a side topic: traditional Judaism was actually also monarchist. The Messiah is a monarch (i.e., the perfect state is a monarchy and distinctly NOT a democracy). In fact, traditional Judaism is significantly more monarchist that Christianity is.

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theAmericanist 03.31.10 at 11:37 pm

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (Winston Churchill in the House of Commons on Nov. 11, 1947)

Besides, what I actually said (describing a heresy that I did not invent, after all, although I’ve been encouraged to revive it) was that 1) civics has a moral value in itself, and 2) that secular authority in a democracy has a moral power that the Church must accept. Neither of those are remotely like your odd, ahistorical misunderstanding of the point. That you keep distorting the idea that the Vatican has to recognize the moral power of secular authority into something grotesque does not indicate you’d handle an argument on even your weird terms well.

It’s important to realize that at the center of the Church’s alienation from its moral responsibilities in hiding criminal priests, is that it not only considers itself morally superior to the civil law in these matters, it considers the civil law to be essentially IMmoral — literally and precisely to the extent that it would be prosecuting priests and bishops.

That’s why the Americanist heresy cuts so close to the bone on this one. As Leo XIII said of everything modern in 1899: “Yet all this, to be of any solid benefit, nay, to have a real existence and growth, can only be on the condition of recognizing the wisdom and authority of the Church.”

Understand THAT attitude, and it’s easy to see why something like two-thirds of all American bishops have been documented to have covered up crimes by the priests for whom they were responsible.

As for your distorted idea it’s worth arguing whether any democracy must be better than any other form of government: it’s a monumentally stoooopid formulation of a practical (not an abstract) set of questions.

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djw 03.31.10 at 11:54 pm

Democracy is certainly an essentially contested concept, and will continue to be so, so this isn’t an argument that can be meaningfully settled in any sort of way, but I’d venture to say that widespread legalized and institutionalized slavery is a pretty big disqualifier to the claim claim to be a democracy under most of the compelling and appealing democratic theories on offer. (I would also note that this is by no means the only necessary condition for democracy not met by the CSA, although it’s entirely sufficient on that front. I seem to hazily recall burritoboy is a big fan of the ancients, so this may explain his position, but it’s a position that has little resonance in contemporary democratic theory or popular discourses of democracy.

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 12:31 am

“2) that secular authority in a democracy has a moral power that the Church must accept”

1. Does this secular authority in a democracy have moral powers that secular authorities in other types of regimes don’t (and indeed, can’t) have? Do religious authorities in democracies (many democracies had established religions, and some still have them) have moral powers that the Church must accept? Do religious authorities in non-democracies have moral powers that the Church must accept?
2. There have been numerous democracies within the time the Roman Catholic Church has existed. Some of these had conflicts with other democracies (including wars). Thus, the secular authorities of one democracy could be ordering their citizens to kill the citizens of another democracy. Wouldn’t this doctrine mean that Roman Catholics on both sides MUST engage, to the best of their abilities, in this war? Which means these Roman Catholic citizens must kill each other. And this killing is morally correct (by definition) because their respective states order them to kill. They do not have a choice in this matter.

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 12:34 am

“I’d venture to say that widespread legalized and institutionalized slavery is a pretty big disqualifier to the claim claim to be a democracy under most of the compelling and appealing democratic theories on offer.”

The United States under this definition was not a democracy at all until after the Civil War. Not that it was a flawed or problematic democracy, but it was actually not a democracy.

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 12:41 am

“but it’s a position that has little resonance in contemporary democratic theory or popular discourses of democracy”

You’re inherently assuming here that contemporary democratic theory is by definition correct. Again, most religions have had to deal with many different kinds of political regimes and often, have needed to deal with numerous kinds of political regimes at the same time (Lutherans had to deal with being under democracies, absolute monarchies and aristocratic republics all at the same time, for instance). The Americanist is asserting that all religions should treat all democracies in a quite different way than they treat all non-democracies.

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 12:48 am

“The United States under this definition was not a democracy at all until after the Civil War. Not that it was a flawed or problematic democracy, but it was actually not a democracy.”

Further, since it was not at all a democracy until after the Civil War, the Church should not have recognized the authority of the United States’ secular authorities until then. John Carroll was mistaken under this definition.

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 1:02 am

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Besides being a piece of rhetoric and leaving multiple terms undefined, Churchill seems to be making a prudential argument: democracy, in general, is a better regime than non-democracies. He certainly does not think that all democracies, by definition, are better than all non-democracies. He clearly believes there can be, in practice, democracies which are worse than the non-democracies of their times. For example, Churchill clearly favors the not very democratic Great Britain of 1860-1865 to the democratic Confederacy of 1860-1865.

Churchill believes that usually democracy is the best regime. The flip side of this is that he does not think democracy is universally the best regime in all times and places.

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theAmericanist 04.01.10 at 1:21 am

Seems a good time to make up a Rule: any argument that revolves entirely around definitions is circular.

That’s why I noted it’s legit to argue abstractions AS abstractions, or facts and history on their own terms, but it’s not legit to switch back and forth randomly, as you find “principle” or “practice” seems to fit what you want to say. It’s Calvinball, basically — and the score is always Aardvark to 13.

As an abstraction BB’s reasoning, such as it is, isn’t particularly complex, intellectually: to the extent a “democracy” like the Confederacy is immoral, it isn’t a “democracy”; while to the extent a “monarchy” (name some) is moral, it isn’t a “monarchy”.

D’uh.

The reality is pretty elementary American civics, of course: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

BB seems to have skipped class that day, so perhaps it’s worth explaining it to him (maybe for the first time): Governments don’t GRANT rights. We are born with them.

That simple and damned revolutionary concept is what made America — because we are that rarest of things, a CONSERVATIVE revolution. The colonists originally sought only those rights as colonists, e.g., the right to tax themselves with their own representatives, that they would have had as Englishmen. But the Crown replied that they didn’t have those rights — because the Crown had not granted them.

So we made a revolution. We didn’t need the Crown to grant us rights.

From the Vatican’s perspective, it is obvious why the whole enterprise is heretical: I quoted Leo XIII on the point: “Yet all this, to be of any solid benefit, nay, to have a real existence and growth, can only be on the condition of recognizing the wisdom and authority of the Church.”

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 1:42 am

“Governments don’t GRANT rights. We are born with them.”

Assertion. Beyond the fact that many religions deal with regimes that explicitly reject this statement. It cannot be taken simply as a given in Islam, Judaism or numerous other faiths.

“That simple and damned revolutionary concept is what made America—because we are that rarest of things, a CONSERVATIVE revolution. The colonists originally sought only those rights as colonists, e.g., the right to tax themselves with their own representatives, that they would have had as Englishmen. But the Crown replied that they didn’t have those rights—because the Crown had not granted them.”

I’m not certain why this is even being mentioned. All religions which cross the boundaries of multiple states inherently need to think about morals independently of particular political regimes. Not all Catholics live in the United States. In fact, only a small percentage of Catholics live in the United States. Historically, only a trivial number of Catholics interacted with the United States (most, of course, died before the United States existed). The same goes for any other particular regime type, particular geographic location, particular ethnic groups and so on. Historically, regimes change over time (the regime of the United States now is different than the one in 1773, obviously). So, every religion retains the ability to judge regimes independently from the state authorities. If they don’t, they’re meaningless – it means that the political authorities simply run the religions for all practical purposes.

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 1:50 am

“to the extent a “democracy” like the Confederacy is immoral, it isn’t a “democracy”; while to the extent a “monarchy” (name some) is moral, it isn’t a “monarchy”.”

Unclear how you came to this conclusion. A democracy is where many rule. It implies nothing about morality or immorality, in my opinion. A monarchy is where one rules. It implies nothing about morality or immorality, in my opinion.

DJW, not me, argued that the Confederacy was not a democracy because it had the institution of slavery. But the United States had the institution of slavery from 1788 to 1865 (it’s mentioned in the US Constitution). Under DJW’s definition, the United States wasn’t a democracy from 1788 to 1865. Under my definition, both the United States and the Confederacy were democracies for all of their respective existences.

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theAmericanist 04.01.10 at 2:12 am

BB: you realize, of course, that literally no one (including you) has a clue what you’re talking about, much less its extremely hypothetical (and only cuz I’m cutting you a break) relevance to the thread.

But just cuz it’s Holy Week, I’ll unpack the odd baggage you keep dragging into this: it’s perfectly legit for someone to express the view that the Declaration’s founding concept that governments don’t grant rights, that we’re born with them, is just an opinion like any other — an “assertion” — but it is NOT legit to insist that the Declaration (based on this principle) isn’t the foundation of “Americanism”.

Likewise, it is perfectly legit for non-Catholics to dis the Vatican for stuff like infallibility, but it is NOT legit for anybody (Catholic or not) to mis-state what the actual doctrine IS, for Catholics.

The conflict between the Church as an institution (which is so saturated with its doctrine), and the actually, American-ishly revolutionary responsibilities of, well, everybody’s civic values that would have turned all these criminal priests in to the cops in a heartbeat, is pretty obvious.

So it’s just odd that BB keeps trying to make up definitions (like the Confederacy was a “democracy”) and then apply ‘em as if they substitute for the stark reality that is staring one of the world’s great religions in the face.

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 2:47 am

“like the Confederacy was a “democracy””

How was the Confederacy not a democracy?

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theAmericanist 04.01.10 at 2:56 am

Just to get technical: No, slavery is not mentioned in the original US Constitution. There are two references to it — the infamous (and widely misunderstood) 3/5s clause, and the following: “The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.”

This is an example of why I dunno that arguing with you about terms you define is likely to be productive: you get basic civics wrong.

The only time the Constitution mentions slavery is to abolish it, in the 13th amendment.

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 3:21 am

Again, how was the Confederacy not a democracy?

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lemuel pitkin 04.01.10 at 3:44 am

Djw,

I’m genuinely curious: what is the standard by which the contemporary US is a democracy, but the Confederacy was not?

In both, sovereignty is located in the people, exercised through elections; in both, the people consists of adult citizens, with large numbers of others (children, immigrants, prisoners and so on, and slaves in the Confederacy) subject to the authority of the state but without political rights, and with some groups of citizens (residents of DC, Puerto Rico and other territories today, and free blacks in the Confederacy, and of course blacks in much of the post-Civil War South) with sharply circumscribed political rights. How is the one case different from the other?

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PHB 04.01.10 at 6:34 am

I find the apologists for the Vatican and the Pope to be unpersuasive.

The Pope refuses to accept responsibility, either for his own actions or the actions of the church. Instead he is claiming to be a victim and that all the accusations are being made with malice.

First that bit about ‘infallibility’. It is not the number of times that it has been used that is the issue, the doctrine itself is a blasphemy even if it had never been used at all.

Besides being blasphemy, the assertion is absurd. There have been plenty of popes who have very clearly been amongst the most amoral, wicked people of their time. The idea that a human being can be infallible without being impeccable is just stupid and wrong. The doctrine of infallibility is a modern invention, prior to 1870 it was not dogma, it was merely a medieval form of brown-nosing for scholars who wanted to boost their chance of cannonisation. To the early church it would have been absurd, the bishop of Rome was not even first rank at the Council of Nicaea. The center of the early church was Greece, not Rome.

In the current crisis it is rather clear that the current Pope acted to protect the reputation of the church, knowing full well that his method of doing so would cause further harm to those who were already victims and ensure that more children became victims.

In particular, we have evidence that the current Pope issued instructions that the crimes were not to be made public and that anyone who did so was to be excommunicated. This document itself is a criminal obstruction of justice. The bishops were aware of a criminal offense and a likelihood that further offenses would be committed. Thus the Pope, the bishops and the church were accessories after the fact and before the fact.

The Pope’s instructions left the bishops with no choice but to obtain oaths of secrecy from the victims or to excommunicate them. Thus the Pope made the victims of the abuse co-conspirators with the church in perpetuating and facilitating the continuation of the abuse.

Think of it from the victim’s point of view. First the church tells you that sexual thoughts and actions are sinful. Then a priest rapes you, most likely claiming to be doing so under the sanctity of the sacraments. You get up the courage to complain and the church and the bishop use a combination of moral pressure and threats to get you to be silent. Then you discover that by remaining silent you have become a co-conspirator with the church as your silence caused the rape of other children.

Rape is not merely a physical attack, it is a psychological attack and the primary damage is psychological. It is pretty hard to imagine circumstances that could lead to worse psychological damage than those that Pope Benedict played a major part in establishing.

There being little prospect of either a resignation or a removal, the Catholic church is going to find itself in the same position as Benedict’s native Austria did when their head of state turned out to be an embarassment.

What may well be a bigger blow to the church is German Catholics refusing to pay the church tax.

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ajay 04.01.10 at 9:29 am

In both, sovereignty is located in the people, exercised through elections; in both, the people consists of adult citizens, with large numbers of others (children, immigrants, prisoners and so on, and slaves in the Confederacy) subject to the authority of the state but without political rights, and with some groups of citizens (residents of DC, Puerto Rico and other territories today, and free blacks in the Confederacy, and of course blacks in much of the post-Civil War South) with sharply circumscribed political rights.

Small prize for the first man to name the (very, very large) group of disenfranchised Confederate citizens that lemuel has forgotten to mention.

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Richard J 04.01.10 at 9:33 am

Almost 50% of the population too.

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 11:06 am

“Small prize for the first man to name the (very, very large) group of disenfranchised Confederate citizens that lemuel has forgotten to mention.”

Problem: under this definition, the United States wasn’t a democracy either until 1865 (and quite arguably until 1964). The United Kingdom wasn’t a democracy until probably the Third Reform Act of 1884. Of course, all nations of that time didn’t allow women to vote (and the female population was even larger than the slave population). If we use female suffrage as a goalpost, the United States wasn’t a democracy until 1920, the UK wasn’t a democracy until 1918, Switzerland until 1971, the Netherlands until 1919 and France until 1944.

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ajay 04.01.10 at 11:13 am

100: spot on. All this is really doing is highlighting the fact that there’s more to the system of government we call ‘democracy’ than a nose-counting exercise every five years. It would be possible, theoretically, to have a fully-’democratic’ slave state – as long as the slaves either approved of slavery or weren’t a majority, of course.

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Phillip Hallam-Baker 04.01.10 at 11:59 am

I don’t see the point of the Confederacy thread. Clearly the whole point of the existence of the Confederacy was to perpetuate slavery at the point of a gun. As such it was an illegitimate state irregardless of the extent of the franchise.

Come to that, I don’t see the point of using the intention of ‘the founders’ as a normative argument for how the country should be run. The intention of at least a third of the founders was to perpetuate slavery and a caste based society that put them at the top of the heap. Several were serial rapists of slave-women.

I suspect that the fondness of certain parties for making such arguments comes not in spite of the serial rape problem and the institution that enabled it, but rather because that is deep-down the way they think we should live.

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alex 04.01.10 at 12:23 pm

@94: you forget Article 4, section 2:

“No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.”

Had to toughen that one up later with the Fugitive Slave Law, but the original intention was plain.

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theAmericanist 04.01.10 at 12:27 pm

BB, you fit the cliche definition of a fanatic: redoubling your efforts when you’ve lost sight of your goal.

The theme of the thread is the moral and legal failings of the Catholic Church worldwide, including the United States, specifically regarding sexual crimes committed by priests against (mostly) kids, which were covered up by the heirarchy, all the way up to the current Pope.

Derailing that because you want to argue whether the Confederacy was a democracy indicates a certain fascination with shiny objects on which perhaps you should consult a professional.

F’r instance, when you’re not making flat-out errors (e.g., the Constitution does not mention slavery, as you claimed in 91), you keep asking, viz. 95: “how was the Confederacy not a democracy?” I’ve pointed out that you bounce back and forth from abstractions (which you get wrong) to history (in which your errors are worse): it’s Calvinball — and now you’re losing by the lopsided score of Oreos to eleventy-one.

Nevertheless, out of charity, I spoke to your abstract point, such as it is: to the extent a “democracy” like the Confederacy is immoral, it’s not a democracy; just as to the extent a “monarchy” is moral (name some), it’s not a monarchy.

You promptly confused this simple observation — again! — by insisting on several impossible and irrelevant things at once. So let’s just take the irrelevancies:

I had noted the specific connection between the Roman Catholic Church’s institutional structure, and its doctrine. I also pointed out that this is directly related to the Americanist heresy, which I explained denotes, among other things, that the Vatican must acknowledge the moral power of secular authority in a democracy.

You promptly distorted that, and have continued to bend it to your twisted mind ever since. You’d do better to take real thinking straight, like good whiskey.

The classic formula for the separation of Church and State — which was formally rejected by the Vatican as late as 1854 — is Christ’s “render unto Caesar”. In the Gospel, this is generally (and properly) understood to be about idolatry and commerce, since the Pharisee who was trying to trap Christ asked him about whether it was legit for a Jew to use Roman money, as a religious matter.

But I noted it was ultimately a rationalization for slavery — Rome was a slave state, of course, and you will search in vain throughout the Bible for a moral condemnation of slavery, either as a legal institution or morally. (Slavery is advocated on several occasions in the Old Testament, particularly in Leviticus, and expected as a matter of course until the end of time in the New Testament.)

Much like the meaning of the Declaration of Independence, you seem to have missed the significance of that.

The honor of the first unequivocal, moral attack on slavery belongs to Patrick — who also happens to have been the first missionary to go outside of the Roman empire. The eventual abolition of slavery was religiously inspired (Wilberforce, the Quakers), but it was NOT carried out by an authoritarian religious structure, such as the Roman Church, or others require — again, for doctrinal reasons.

Again, you’d do better to take real thinking straight, on its own terms, rather than to constantly try to bend abstractions that are beyond your intellectual strength. It’s not just you, of course: Ajay also misses the plain language of the Declaration, that “to defend these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their JUST powers from the consent of the governed…” (emphasis added)

Because governments do not grant rights, We, the People — though sovereign — have no legitimate power to take away the rights that individuals are born with. Slavery is not, and can never be a legitimate exercise of popular sovereignty, any more than a legislature can repeal gravity or Canute could command the tide.

Despite your transparent sophistry, BB, this is essentially a MORAL point, stated bluntly in the Declaration as self-evident. It’s because you keep skipping over the practical civics of the history that you have such trouble understanding where it led us. But it’s not like these are facts hidden from view.

Legions of historians (notably Richard Ellis in Founding Brothers) have explored how the United States was founded first on the proposition that we are all equal (the Declaration), and then on its contradiction, the compromise with slavery that made us a nation in the Revolution and the Constitution.

What I’ve been pointing out in this thread — kindly don’t skip over it this time — is that the resolution of that contradiction in the Civil War is directly related to the scandal confronting the Catholic Church, because of the Americanist heresy. See how focus works?

Cardinal Gibbon served as a Union chaplain (from a slave state, no less), so he knew from personal experience the moral power of preserving the Union BY abolishing slavery. With acolytes like Monsignor O’Connell (whose experience of the war including the burning and looting of his parish church in South Carolina), Gibbon was vividly aware that the American Catholic Church was the only American denomination that didn’t break up over slavery. That he championed Americanization — a term coined for the Catholic Church, and later applied to immigrants — took a moral and political courage that you’d do well to perceive, never mind appreciate. It is a very big deal for a Cardinal to be that close to a heresy.

Like I said, the essence of the Americanist heresy is the notion that civics itself has a moral value: as demonstrated by the appalling price the Civil War exacted, in order to preserve the Union by abolition. The Americanist heresy includes the idea — specifically condemned by Leo XIII, whose view of the Vatican’s moral authority remains Benedict’s today — that the Papacy must acknowledge the moral power of secular authority in a democracy. That is what the Vatican has refused to do regarding criminal priests and the bishops who protected them.

You have deluded yourself that “the moral power of secular authority in a democracy” denotes the Confederacy. The history I have cited repeatedly demonstrates that it refers to the UNION, which abolished slavery.

Strive to take real thinking straight. You can’t handle the fizzy stuff.

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alex 04.01.10 at 12:28 pm

@101 – or you could be ancient Athens, of course. And meanwhile, what about all those 16 and 17 year olds tragically deprived of their democratic rights across the world? As my politics teacher told me when I myself was 17, ‘democracy’ is just a hurrah-word, it doesn’t perform any analytical function worth mentioning, or that can’t be argued around. Specific, legally-enforceable rights of political participation extended to the population on a rational basis, that at least has the potential to start being the definition of an actual practice.

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theAmericanist 04.01.10 at 12:28 pm

Alex @ 103: yeah, you’re right. I was wrong to leave that out.

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lemuel pitkin 04.01.10 at 2:59 pm

Small prize for the first man to name the (very, very large) group of disenfranchised Confederate citizens that lemuel has forgotten to mention.

I am suitably abashed. But of course, women couldn’t vote in the North either.

But that just comes back to the point: If democracy means everyone subject to the authority of the state has a voice — let alone an equal voice — in government, then no democracy has ever existed. But once you’ve accepted that a democracy can include some people without political rights, where do you draw the line? Slavery, it’s true, was a particularly abhorrent institution — bu so are contemporary American prisons — and anyway, is the presence of stuff we abhor really a good criteria for defining forms of government?

I think there’s a certain uncritical Whiggish quality to a lot of these discussions, where vague or broad or impossibly absolute definitions of democracy can be adopted because it’s assumed that of course the contemporary US and Western Europe, etc. are democracies. But once you recognize that the specifically political undemocratic features of the Confederacy were shared by the US and other official democracies, you have to either accept a broader definition by which the CSA was a democracy — a vicious and repulsive one, but still a democracy. Or else go in the direction of someone like Luciano Canfora, and think of democracy not in terms of institutions but of the “temporary ascendancy of the poorer classes in the course of an endless struggle for equality” — in which case you can no longer talk about democracy as a property of states, but only of historical moments.

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alex 04.01.10 at 3:07 pm

Before people get exercised about C19 ‘democracy’ in the USA [or the CSA], they should read something like “American Mobbing, 1828-1861: Toward Civil War”, by David Grimsted, in which is discussed the extent to which actual physical violence was an everyday part of political life, up to and including the need to literally fight one’s way to the ballot-box on election day, and how this was upheld by observers as an example of the manliness, independence, forthrightness, etc etc of the American democratic spirit.

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theAmericanist 04.01.10 at 3:07 pm

LOL — like I said, when your arguments revolve around definitions, you argue in circles.

“disenfranchised Confederate citizens” — oy, ye gods and little fishes. The whole point of the Confederacy was that blacks could NOT be “citizens”, with very few exceptions, and those were the most pernicious of all aspects of American slavery. (Denmark Vesey was a free man, and part of what set him off was the prospect that he could have bought slaves himself.)

And if you’re gonna get all solipsistically idealist about it, the best example I know of how to handle gender inequality other than, yanno, equality, is the old Iroquois practice: only men could speak at the council.

But only women chose which men, in what order.

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 3:09 pm

“to the extent a “democracy” like the Confederacy is immoral, it’s not a democracy; just as to the extent a “monarchy” is moral (name some), it’s not a monarchy.”

1. This seems to be a no true scotsman argument.
2. The statement renders the words democracy and monarchy meaningless. The word moral (entirely undefined) actually does all the work.
3. All states do some moral things and some immoral things. Where do we draw the line so that some states are democracies? If we say the word democracy means a state that has done absolutely no immoral things ever, the set of democracies is an empty set. There are no actually existing democracies that haven’t done bad things. Similarly, many monarchies have done at least some good things. Is the set of monarchies also empty (or almost empty)?

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 3:17 pm

Lemuel,

More elegantly put than I have done.

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Salazar 04.01.10 at 4:24 pm

@108: Thomas Frazier also devoted a chapter to this topic in “The Underside of American History, Vol. 1.”

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theAmericanist 04.01.10 at 4:47 pm

BB, you really ought to pay more attention to responses made to your “arguments”. You’re basically talking to yourself, no matter what the reply is.

You want some abstract definition of “democracy” to be the focus. I reject that — but more than simply dismissing the foolish exercise you’re trying to derail the thread into, I’m also pointing out WHY it’s foolish: you keep bouncing back and forth between some slippery abstraction of what “democracy” (soon to be joined by “monarchy”) can mean, and various historical examples that, like the text of the US Constitution, you obviously don’t know very well.

Believe it or not, it is much more useful to understand particular forms of government, and particular examples of history, as constellations of facts unto themselves, without the constant reification that you seem to enjoy.

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burritoboy 04.01.10 at 5:33 pm

““to the extent a “democracy” like the Confederacy is immoral, it’s not a democracy; just as to the extent a “monarchy” is moral (name some), it’s not a monarchy.””

Please explain this above statement of yours. I confess I do not understand what it means. Perhaps I’m simply dumb, but if it is as easily understandable as you say, it should be easy to explicate it further to me.

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theAmericanist 04.01.10 at 11:13 pm

Perhaps you didn’t notice it was a response to the way you keep bouncing back and forth between the abstractions by which you define terms, and actual examples. You might look up the word “reification”, which is the fancy way to describe your approach.

Basically, you misunderstood — or distorted, take your pick — my observation that the Vatican should recognize the moral power of the secular authorities in a democracy. You seem to think this meant that ALL democracies, or ANY democracy, must be morally superior to any other conceivable form of government in any possible circumstance — the abstract example you cited was a “monarchy”, and the concrete one was the Confederacy, which you held up as an example of your abstract idea of “democracy”.

I noted that what you were doing was definitively ahistorical — the actual example I had cited (the Americanist heresy), besides being relevant to the thread, also directly involved the Civil War in precisely the OPPOSITE way to your pitiful attempt to apply an abstraction to a series of real events. So my real example trumps your reification — see how it works? Like I said upthread, if you want to argue about abstractions by citing definitions — which is what the sophomoric “no true Scotsman” reasoning is about — you’ll just go in circles.

So I noted how it’s done: to the extent a “democracy” like the Confederacy is immoral, it’s not a “democracy”; to the extent a “monarchy” is moral (and I’ve invited you three times now to cite some examples), it’s not a “monarchy”.

And you’ve promptly proven — and RE-proven my point that this is just circular, because you keep spiraling to argue about the definition, from which somehow, you can establish that an evil regime like the Confederacy is, so! a “democracy”, which (you argue) by definition, must prove… something.

You’d be better taking real thinking straight, without trying to bend reality to abstractions: your intellect is clearly not strong enough.

It WOULD be a good thing if the Vatican’s response to the global scandal of bishops, cardinals and now a Pope’s clear conspiracy to protect — hell, assist! — criminals while covering up their crimes, was to acknowledge the moral power of secular authority in democracy.

Why you are disputing this, much less your method of dispute (which is as baffling as Calvinball), I dunno.

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burritoboy 04.02.10 at 12:24 am

“You seem to think this meant that ALL democracies, or ANY democracy, must be morally superior to any other conceivable form of government in any possible circumstance”

Ah, we’re getting somewhere. Religions should recognize the moral power of the secular authority of a good or moral democracy. Thus, armed with this rule, we can determine that, if the Union was a good democracy, religions should prefer the Union (a good democracy) as opposed to a bad democracy (the Confederacy, if the Confederacy is a bad democracy).

How does a religion determine whether a particular regime is good or a democracy? Both the Union and the Confederacy claim to be good and both claim to be democracies. Indeed, the PRC and the USSR also claimed to be both good and to be democracies. All regimes everywhere at least claim to be good (not all claim to be democracies). The religion needs some rules or guides to determine the claims of the Union (good democracy) versus the Confederacy (bad democracy) versus the PRC and USSR (neither good nor democracies). What do you suggest to be these rules?

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theAmericanist 04.02.10 at 12:29 am

Well, the first thing I’d suggest is that nobody pay YOU any attention.

The second thing I’d suggest about your examples (with a kinda wide range in both time and place), is that it isn’t about what they CLAIM to be.

Going too fast for you?

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Beryl 04.02.10 at 7:21 pm

Re Steve LaBonne @1:

Last week, the center-left daily La Repubblica wrote, without attribution, that “certain Catholic circles” believed the criticism of the church stemmed from “a New York ‘Jewish lobby.’”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/world/europe/03church.html

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hix 04.03.10 at 12:55 pm

“Unnamed sources” “certain catholic circles”………

I think the catholic church is half right. Anti catholic bias shows just like oldashioned tabloid style sensationalism in some publications. Newyorktimes and economist were rather bad with their reporting for example. Many try to link the scandals to Benedikt XVI without a smokeing gun. Thats not just cheap sensationalism, but also pointless and naiv. First, it doesnt change anything. Thats just punching catholics since the pope as an important religious figure only matters to them. Second, how stupid do those people think the catholic church is. If they want to cover up something, they would never let it go up so far the hieararchy in a way that can be tracked down.

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theAmericanist 04.03.10 at 3:20 pm

Um, hix: you HAVE heard about this scandal? It’s not like it’s new: consider how the Church directed Catholics to SECRETLY handle such cases back in 1962 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimen_sollicitationis

Ratzinger was personally involved in a number of cases, both in Germany while he was an Archbishop, and in at least one US case after he went to the Vatican. Hell, even the Curia doesn’t try to deny those facts.

How can you be unaware of ‘em?

Your bizarre notion that it is anti-Catholic to report the facts, even as you insist that the Church is somehow capable of preventing a coverup from ever reaching Vatican City, is just ignorant.

What’s happened is clearly the opposite: in hundreds, if not thousands of cases, local Catholic authorities chose to resist all efforts to turn criminal priests over to civil prosecutors. In most cases, this was done by direct intimidation of witnesses. As noted upthread (and, in a somewhat uninformed way, it was the central point of Henry’s post itself), most organizations are structured and organized to prevent a scandal like this from ever getting too far up the food chain. In fact, in a healthy heirarchy one of the best ways to get promoted is to be the mid-level guy who realizes that something can’t be covered up, so you fix it. The organization’s reputation takes the hit, and then you move on.

But not the Roman Catholic Church. Its structure is too closely identified with its doctrines — the Mystical Body of Christ, after all — to be sufficiently nimble. That’s why I noted the relationship all this has to the Americanist heresy: the Church has historically held that it can NOT acknowledge the moral power of secular authority. That’s precisely why there are documents proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the cover up in every local case was not only authorized, it was REQUIRED by the heirarchy, e.g., Crimen sollicitationis.

There is documented evidence that Ratzinger personally ordered bishops and parish priests alike to carry out this policy, with his own, personal, infamous directive at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that their primary responsibility in criminal cases involving sexual abuse by priests was to defend the Church’s reputation.

How come you don’t know that? It’s been in all the papers.

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