Daily News - Newburyport, Massachusetts June 28, 2010
Moral pollution engulfs church
Margaret Flaherty | Opinion
At least the unprecedented oil spill flowing from the damaged Deepwater Horizon oil rig into the Gulf of Mexico and beyond can be seen and measured by concerned scientists all over the world. As the slick spreads, while the effect of its toxicity is absolute and certain, the relentless nature of truth in time will reveal the breadth and extent of this particular incident. Since data abounds on oil's destructive aspects, the outlook is grim. One aspect to be wryly glad about is that there is no place for BP to hide.
In similar fashion, a moral pollution continues to ooze from dark and hidden shadows of the Catholic Church, a sickening abyss, covered up and ignored for years by the secretive, self-serving members within the canonical and hierarchical structures of the church. Wherever the church exists or has operated, histories of sexual abuse continue to be revealed on a worldwide basis. Unlike the well-chronicled disaster in the Gulf of Mexico caused by BP, the shocking moral contamination by priest pedophiles has been deliberately hidden.
Some eight years ago, when Bernard Cardinal Law faced Boston reporters to answer questions about his role in the supervision of pedophile priests in Boston, I mistakenly judged him to be a stricken man, a man who regretted adhering to the policies of the past, a man who might claim a piece of the sunlight that was beginning to pierce the darkness. He perpetuated a policy that believed it was better to hide evil than, if you will, scandalize the faithful. Did his prideful ambition to be the first American pope refuse to acknowledge that the church he hoped to lead had no desire to really throw open all the doors and windows? What did he think of John XXIII, who believed that fresh air and sunlight would strengthen the church's foundations, who wanted to unlock doors and open wide the shuttered windows?
My old department head, Mary Lanigan, often wrapped up a problem-solving conference with the admonition that, whatever else, we were going to take the high road. You might call it the less traveled way, where integrity is not compromised. Evidence of the high road taken was rare here in Boston and elsewhere.
Would that Bernard Law had decided not to abandon the sunlight that could have strengthened the moral voice of the church. No one wants to be the one who uncovers the forgotten container of leftover fish. The initial opening is overwhelming, but cleanup brings instant relief. Odors may linger, as is the case with the stench of rottenness, but continual airing, scrubbing and scouring eliminates the source of decay.
I had long hoped that better minds would insist on an unsparing examination at what part sex plays in the teachings and life of the entire church. I had hoped for an open-ended, long-term public study of sexual truths and sexual truthfulness. The church has the scholarship and wherewithal to lead such a work, an open dialogue that would examine and question the full understanding of human sexuality and its impact on every aspect of our lives. Imagine the strength and scope of such an endeavor, an analysis that might well take years. But in the eyes of the church, where a century, when compared with eternity, is considered just a blink of an eye, why not embrace humanness in its completeness?
The church has been around proudly and mightily for over 2,000 years. Good deeds and good works abound in its history. Ask the lepers that Damian cared for in Molokai. Ask the poor of Calcutta about Mother Teresa. Ask the poor in South or Central America about the Maryknoll nuns, brothers and priests who went to live and work among them, those church workers who worried more about the social injustice people endured that the lack of a formal religion in their lives. But the church has allowed itself to absorb more than one misconception about sex, gender issues and life choices. The time is past due to study the doctrinal fallacies the church has embraced or promulgated. All of mankind needs the deepest, broadest discernment that human minds can offer. For every race. For every religion. For every continent.
We know what motivates BP. Be glad for the conveniences that the use of oil allows, but don't give greed or carelessness a pass.
We think we know what motivates the church. Be glad for the good the church has done, but the past dreadful actions of the church regarding children are worse than the greed-motivated oil producers of the world. Don't give the church a pass. Challenge them to not only punish and purify its ranks but to emerge with a fuller, healthier understanding of human nature.
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