Over at Catholic Digest, Editor in Chief Dan Connors recently wrote a thought-provoking article in which he expresses a frustration with clericalism, arguing that the laity needs to look at the possibility of its own complicity in the abuse scandal. The crisis, and who is to blame, is, as he says in his article, "a very complex subject." Thoughts? An excerpt is below:
Many of us have long exalted our clergy. The institutional Church told us priests are “special” and we took it to heart. We were told they followed Christ in stronger ways than we did, and we said “Amen.” Following the lead of many in the hierarchy, we exalted their kind of priesthood and ignored our own. It may have had benefits for some of us. In a way it served our needs: The pressure was off; they could lead the sacrificial lives; we just wanted to know the minimum we needed to do to get to heaven. And in a Protestant society suspicious and scornful of Catholics to begin with, we could take pride in our exalted, well educated, and saintly clergy.
I’m being much too broad and superficial here, of course, but in general, with multiple exceptions all over the place, the Church gave us a steady diet of clericalism, and we gobbled it up. Seeing priests as weak or sick or perpetrators of crime had ramifications way beyond the individual in question. It touched the life of the Church and the trust we placed in it; it would give aid and comfort to people who scorned the Church we love. Better to hide it, like a spouse of an alcoholic, hiding and covering and doing everything possible to avoid the satisfied clucking of those who gloried in his or her shame.
By putting priests and the Church high on a pedestal, we all cooperated in a system that nurtured cover-ups and excuses. So I wonder: Do we have the right to feel smug and self-righteous when the system that encouraged bishops to make all those horrendous mistakes was one that we not only failed to protest, but eagerly participated in? While we demand to see what the bishops have learned, and how they are making sure this will never happen again, maybe we should also be asking what we have learned in all this. How are we addressing the root causes of the cover-ups and our complicity in the system that facilitated them?
...[A]s loyal Catholics muster to the barricades, shouldn’t we be careful about putting anyone above criticism, challenging the motives of everyone who seeks information, and rushing to defend the Church at all costs, no matter what? Again, it just makes me wonder: Isn’t that the kind of thinking that got us into this trouble in the first place?
Read the rest here.