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How to Win an Argument with a Catholic

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Filed under Scandal

Arguing

In the delightfully crunchy world of debate, it seems apparent to me that the closer you are to the tactics of the Westboro Baptist Church, the closer you are to being entirely wrong. This is a concept towards which I have no doubt that my atheist friends will nod in earnest. After all, the level of intellectual destruction it takes to reduce one’s entire theology to the slogan “God Hates Fags” is embarrassing, to the point that the entire universe seems sadder for WBC’s very existence.

So it is odd—and I pretend with a passion that it is not simultaneously and sickeningly fascinating—that we sometimes see others joining forces with the WBC. What dark power could possibly exist on earth strong enough to bring about such a cosmic convergence? Why, The One Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church!

You see the Church—may She blossom, build more cathedrals, and continue being the world’s largest charity—has the remarkable habit of unifying friends and enemies alike. Thus we see record numbers of Anglicans and Lutherans becoming Catholic, incredibly improved relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church, and, in general, great strides towards Christian unity, while Evangelicals, Agnostics and New Agers all sit together on the sidelines with identically incensed “you-don’t-allow-birth-control?” expressions on their faces. The Wiccan and the Darwinist can set aside their mutual contempt for each other and smoke a few bowls over the Church’s position on abortion. It happens.

But my point is that these days, any argument with a Catholic can be neatly avoided—and often is by the Church's most vigilant opponents—by devolving to the Westboro Baptist Church’s self-proclaimed “air-tight, three word case against the Catholic Church”: priests rape boys.
 

Reason to be Catholic #1334542: We have all the right enemies.

Reason to be Catholic #1334542: We have all the right enemies.


 
This is a fact that we Catholics have come to terms with, to the point that we can judge how good our arguments are by how fast our opponent does The WBC and calls the Catholic Church “the most well-funded and organized pedophile group in the history of man.” Ten minutes? We should be clearer on our metaphysics. Thirty seconds? Catholicism ftw.

The problem is, as others have noted here before, this is a bad argument against the Church. Actually, it is not an argument at all. It is specifically the avoidance of any argument. But nevertheless:

If a man commits a crime as heinous and hideous as child molestation, he deserves all the mistrust and disgust thrown at him. If that man is in a position of care, as a priest is, that same man deserves all the more mistrust, excommunication, and punishment prescribed. But if a stereotype is to be applied to an entire group of men, it follows that that group of men must commit the act more than any one else.

multi taskTo use a more benign example, if the stereotype that “women are great multitaskers!” is to be a sensible stereotype, women must be greater multitaskers than men. If men are equally good at multitasking, or better than women at multitasking, the stereotype is empty. All well and good, but apply that same logic to priests and watch the world flip out.

The truth is that child-molestation is not a Catholic problem. It is a problem of Western culture in general. As Newsweek pointed out in their 2011 article "Mean Men", “experts say there’s simply no data to support the claim [that the Church is “a refuge for pederasts”] at all...based on the surveys and studies conducted by different denominations over the past 30 years, experts who study child abuse say they see little reason to conclude that sexual abuse is mostly a Catholic issue. ‘We don’t see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else,’ said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”

Dr. Thomas Plante, a Professor of Psychology and an Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, says “available research suggests that approximately two to five percent of priests have had a sexual experience with a minor” a percentage which “is lower than the general adult male population that is best estimated to be closer to eight percent.”

A child is more likely to be molested by his parents, his neighbors, or family friends than a priest, yet there exists no stereotype about these groups. According to the US Department of Education’s report on the issue, entitled Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature, “the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by [Catholic] priests.” Why, one wonders, in the ever-present debates over the pay of teachers, public school programs and the like, is there no brilliant, hip man who stands up and says, “Yes, but everything you’re saying is suspect because teachers rape children." Why is there no stereotype against public-school teachers?

First of all, because, unlike American public schools and the culture in general, the Catholic Church has made an unprecedented effort to destroy the evil culture of child molestation. If you’ve ever worked for the Catholic Church, you know of what I speak. It can be hell, going through the various training programs in place to completely rid the Church of child molestation. Ninety-four percent of the abuse incidents reported to the Catholic Church from 1950 through 2009 took place before 1990, and there’s a reason for it. Already having less of a problem than the general culture, the Catholic Church has done more than any other institution to get rid of the problem entirely. All of this meant staying in the media spotlight. We did not avoid evil, we fought it, and we let the world see, because we are held to a higher standard than the world. So the Church bore the brunt of the blame, and has ‘cleaned house’ tremendously, while the public-schools are rarely discussed, and are still a major problem. And this is good, because one abuse-case is one too many, and I don’t give a damn how embarrassed it makes Catholics, all this attention the Church has paid to the issue—if it’s what it takes to keep children safe, it’s worth it.

But I fear that the real reason there exists a completely baseless stereotype against priests is the same reason the WBC has a stereotype against priests: It’s easier to make up a stereotype and name-call than deal with the claims of the Catholic Church. If people who make this claim really do wish to do The WBC, let ‘em. It’s so obviously ridiculous that it can only ever mean a Catholic has won the argument.

So how to win an argument with a Catholic? Not through empty stereotypes. You win by arguing.
 
 
Originally posted at Bad Catholic. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Lifehack)

Marc Barnes

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Marc Barnes is an English major at The Franciscan University of Steubenville. He writes at Patheos.com for the Catholic Channel, focusing on bringing Catholicism to secular culture through natural law, humor, and ADD-powered philosophical outbursts. He recently created and released the website 1flesh.org with some friends, a grassroots movement in opposition to artificial contraception, promoting natural methods of family planning. He has also written for Crisis Magazine, LiveAction.org, LifeSiteNews, and his work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal. He loves blowing things up, and has a man-crush on Soren Kierkegaard. Follow Marc's blog at Bad Catholic.

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  • Andre Boillot

    But if a stereotype is to be applied to an entire group of men, it follows that that group of men must commit the act more than any one else.

    If people's main criticism of the Church sex-abuse scandal centers on the idea that Catholic priest are more likely to abuse than other groups, I could see the point in this line of defense. However, I don't think that many with a more than passing familiarity with the subject make that case. In my experience, the outrage is focused on how the Church's cover-up allowed this small minority to victimize far more children for far longer than should have been possible. To this day (unless I'm mistaken), incidents of clerical sex-abuse are only required to be reported to civil authorities if such incidents are required to be reported by civil law. To see this we're no worse than most, and slightly better than some type of defense leaves me wonder just how much Catholics have come to grips with this.

    PS.

    while Evangelicals, Agnostics and New Agers all sit together on the sidelines with identically incensed “you-don’t-allow-birth-control?” expressions on their faces.

    Really?

    • "the outrage is focused on how the Church's cover-up allowed this small minority to victimize far more children for far longer than should have been possible."

      And to that extent, there should be outrage. Pretty much all Catholics would agree with you there. But we still must make two points:

      1) Even if a small number of dastardly Church leaders covered-up this abuse, is that at all relevant to the truth of the Church's theological and moral claims?

      2) Why is there not a greater outrage for the much-wider cover-ups throughout the rest of culture? There is a far more prevalent cover-up of abuse perpetrated by schools, boy-scout groups, sports teams, and even families, yet the outrage seems solely aimed at the Catholic Church. Is this a symptom of anti-Catholic bias, or is there good reason why the "you rape boys" stereotype seems to be only applied to Catholics?

      • Andre Boillot

        1) Even if a small number of dastardly Church leaders covered-up this abuse, is that at all relevant to the truth of the Church's theological and moral claims?

        Not necessarily, and I certainly didn't imply this here.

        2) Why is there not a greater outrage for the much-wider cover-ups throughout the rest of culture?

        Well, first I'm not sure this is accurate. Can you point me to an institutional cover-up as wide or wider than the Church's? Other abuse cases have certainly received plenty of attention; The Penn State scandal was pretty huge, and recently Steubenville and Maryville cases have received a great deal of attention.

        Second, I would guess that the outrage is generally in proportion to the degree of cover-up, number of victims, level of trust previously placed in the abuser, etc. I'm not sure why you're surprised that an institution claiming to be the one true faith was met with such backlash in the wake of such a massive failure to hold people accountable and protect the innocent. That you think the outrage is solely aimed at the Church, and that so many Catholics seem to fervently point at other groups any time the abuse gets mentioned is evidence that you've not really "come to terms" with this.

        • Andrea Leiker

          The Catholic Church has been around longer than any other Church, college, school....etc. Any time something has been around for that amount of time, somewhere , there is going to be a "hidden trail" a path of destruction and conspiracy. Is it right??? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! It is horrible embarrassing to those of us who follow our Catholic Faith as we are instructed to, by the Bible. It hurt our Church, it makes Jesus sad that this stuff happens, but the reality is.....SIN exists everywhere, this was a prime example of bad apples in a beautiful Orchard.
          That is not who the Catholic Church is, WE ALL do not deserved to be looked down upon because of the mistakes of others.
          Many of these "New Age Churches" that have been around for 1 year, 5 years, 15 years, 20 years, 50 years, 75 years. I PROMISE you that the pot will get stirred at some point, something will come out that will make you question your own Faith.......just give it another 500 years, you'll see.
          So please, don't judge others.

          • Andre Boillot

            That is not who the Catholic Church is, WE ALL do not deserved to be looked down upon because of the mistakes of others.

            As a former Catholic, who's family remains almost entirely Catholic, I would never look down on Catholics because of something they had nothing to do with personally. I'm trying to do my part to help explain why pointing to the % of Catholic abusers in comparison to other faiths and institutions doesn't get to the heart of the problem, and that constantly pointing to the "low" % is a red-herring as far as I'm concerned.

          • Paul Boillot

            " I PROMISE you that the pot will get stirred at some point, something will come out that will make you question your own Faith.......just give it another 500 years, you'll see."

            Was this accidental?

            It's nice to occasionally see others articulating why I don't believe anymore for me.

          • Andrea Leiker

            No not accidental, but anywhere there are humans, bad things will happen. We are sinful judgmental people. Its sad to see what this world is coming to. I am sorry you don't believe, but you should not let the sins of the world drive you from your faith, that is what the evil is seeking.......taking people away from the Bible.
            I just said that, because MANY of my "New Age church friends" have mentioned "The Catholic Scandals". Sorry, but my Church has come a LONG way, and I only focus on the one true word. When your Church has been around for over 500 years and remains perfectly intact.....then I will be impressed and we can talk, until then........Just enjoy who you are, be proud, without putting me down.

          • Paul Boillot

            Andrea,

            There's no need for you to feel sorrow over my unbelief, it's the best thing which has ever happened to me.

            I didn't mean to put you down at all, it was nice to know that you (and I'm sure many others) can use my logic to de-legitimize *almost* every faith in existence.

            Here's to hoping we get you one step further :)

            But seriously, I am proud, and I do enjoy it, and I couldn't agree more with "anywhere there are humans, bad things will happen."

      • David Nickol

        1) Even if a small number of dastardly Church leaders covered-up this abuse, is that at all relevant to the truth of the Church's theological and moral claims?

        It is not necessary unreasonable to answer "yes." To the extent the Church itself (not just "a small number of dastardly Church leaders") mishandled the problem, to that extent it is not unreasonable to question the claims the Church makes about being divinely guided and protected from error. The close relationship between Pope John Paul II and Father Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, is particularly disturbing. And the behavior of Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, to take one example, raises questions about whether the Church will ever get things right.

        . . . . yet the outrage seems solely aimed at the Catholic Church

        I don't really agree with the premise of point two, but it must be remembered that, unlike any other group or organization you mentioned, the Catholic Church is one, single, worldwide organization with an extremely clear chain of command and one leader at the top. If ten or a hundred or five hundred public schools in the United States have problems with sex abuse, there are 13,809 school districts in the United States, and each one is responsible for its own schools. What happens in five hundred public schools does not reflect poorly on the other public schools. But when a bishop fails to protect children in his diocese from a known abusive priest, that bishop's superior is the pope, and the bishop's behavior is the pope's responsibility In a hierarchical organization like the Catholic Church, the buck stops with the man at the top.

        • "To the extent the Church itself (not just "a small number of dastardly Church leaders") mishandled the problem"

          What do you mean by "the Church itself"?

          Also, I appreciated your last paragraph, but I don't see how it answered my question about why the outrage is disproportionately (and sometimes exclusively) aimed at the Catholic Church. I'm curious how many times you've commented on public school message boards to complain about the far worse abuse crisis, or written to superintendents, or maligned teachers in general as if they were one, homogeneous body, all equally responsible for the sins of a few.

          • David Nickol

            What do you mean by "the Church itself"?

            By "the Church itself," I definitely do not mean an individual priest acting on his own, or even an individual bishop making bad decisions on his own that allows abusive priests to go unchecked. I mean the Church acting in its official capacity as an organization, which would include matters handled by Vatican organizations such as the CDF and by the pope himself. Although the pope appoints bishops, and the bishops are responsible to him (and no one else), it is unrealistic to expect the pope to be aware of the actions of the thousands of bishops who are accountable to him. But the CDF, the pope, and other Vatican organizations, when they handle individual cases or set policy—or fail to set policy—are acting as the institutional Church.

            I'm curious how many times you've commented on public school message boards to complain about the far worse abuse crisis . . . .

            I don't see that there is a "crisis" in the public schools. As I said, "the public schools" taken collectively do not constitute an entity with one top authority and one policy. The situation in the Catholic Church was a "crisis" because it was widespread (which is not to imply common), inadequately handled, and brought to light. I personally would say the "crisis" is over, since new standards have been put in place and the incidence of new abuse cases is very small. It was a "crisis" because everybody realized that something needed to be done that was not being done, and now that the situation has been exposed and more safeguards are in place, what was a "crisis" has become an ongoing problem, since I think it is impossible to make sure no priest ever abuses any child. It may be that we look back some day and find that the pendulum has swung too far, and that we are overly afraid to let adults and children near each other.

            You write as if I have somehow been pounding the Church over the head by making constant references to sex abuse by priests. In truth, it is a topic that doesn't interest me greatly and I am definitely not one to bring it in out of left field and say, "Oh yeah? Well what about priests who abuse little boys?" The only point I make is that I do not think it is out bounds for those disturbed by what has taken place to ask themselves whether they regard the sex-abuse crisis as having been so pervasive, so serious, and so attributable to the Catholic Church as an institution that it raises doubts about the Church's claims to divine guidance. Even if the public schools were all united in one huge system, with a great hierarchy and one individual ultimately responsible for every public school, public schools don't claim to be Christ's representative on earth and receive special guidance from God. It is not a double standard, in my opinion, to hold the Catholic Church and its priests and bishops to a higher standard than the public schools and public-school employees.

            . . . maligned teachers in general as if they were one, homogeneous body, all equally responsible for the sins of a few.

            I do not feel that way about the public schools, and I do not feel that way about the Catholic Church. Like many others, while I hold priests personally responsible for their own behavior, what was particularly troubling about the sex-abuse crisis was the cover-up. And what is still troubling is that almost no one in a position of authority who covered up sex abuse has paid a price for it. And some, like Cardinal Law and Archbishop Raymond Burke, instead of paying a price, were "kicked upstairs."

      • Sqrat

        1) Even if a small number of dastardly Church leaders covered-up this
        abuse, is that at all relevant to the truth of the Church's theological
        and moral claims?

        The abuse in question is merely a subset of the much broader "problem of evil" that the Church's theology has difficulty addressing. Yes, it's a problem that it happens, and to the extent that Church officials have tried to cover it up or sweep it under the rug, that's an even bigger problem. However, the theological problem for the Church here is that, if God exists, he at the very least allowed the abuse and indeed was the ultimate cause of it.

        The theological excuse for moral evil is that "God gives people free will and does not interfere with it." In other words, God's values the free will of abusers over the rights and well-being of the abused -- check. And God is perfect, and Jesus tell us to be perfect, like God is perfect. Wouldn't that mean, then, that we too should value the free will of abusers over the rights and well being of the abused? However, we don't -- nor should we.

        • Sqrat (sorry, I'm technologically challenged and don't know how to make Disqus point to you automatically)
          There's an unstated premise in your argument, namely, whatever God does, we should do. But that isn't a defensible premise. God has a different set of responsibilities than the rest of us (BTW, I've never really liked the slogan, "What would Jesus do?" for the same reason).

          Fr. Barron describes this as the error of thinking that God is just another thing in the world, like you, me, and the coffee table. So, the line of thought goes, if I were omnipotent and omniscient, I'd hit that abuser with a lightning bolt. But God is not the Cosmic Lifeguard. He is not a being but the source of being. The universe he created includes free will. This confers rights and obligations. God does not withdraw those rights at any time, even in the face of great evil. He sometimes interferes with a miracle, and those happen quite often, but obviously not often enough to suit us. Love it or hate it, that's the world we have to deal with.

          I don't blame you for finding the Christian solution to the problem of evil unsatisfying. I vividly remember the first time I read the Book of Job, and I got to the part where Job states his complaint to God, which I think is essentially the same as your complaint. I got quite excited, anticipating God's answer. "Oh boy," I thought, "a direct, divine answer to the problem of evil, right here! This is going to be good!" It wasn't. "Where were you when I created the stars?" was God's answer. In other words, you don't get this, or you're asking the wrong question, or Silence, Puny Mortal, or whatever (I'm not a Bible scholar, if you hadn't figured that out). What a letdown, and I still wish there was an answer that tied things up nice and neat. But since then I've figured that the absence of facile answers to hard questions isn't a reason to doubt the truth of the faith. Seems reasonable, don't you think?
          Peace

          • Sqrat

            There's an unstated premise in your argument, namely, whatever God does,
            we should do. But that isn't a defensible premise. God has a
            different set of responsibilities than the rest of us.

            It seems to me that you are holding the rest of us to a higher moral standard than you are willing to hold God.

          • A different standard, yes. But why do you think it's a higher standard?

          • DannyGetchell

            Glenn

            As I read your take on the book of Job, it is something like this: God created us. He therefore has the right to do with our lives as he wishes. And we have no standing to criticize him.

            Is that correct? If so, I agree with your interpretation. Do you believe that Catholic teaching supports it?

          • Good questions. Here's what I believe, which I also believe is consistent with Church teaching, but if it isn't, I am open to correction.

            You have three points:
            God created us: Yes, absolutely
            God can do whatever he wants with us: Strictly speaking, that's true, but God is Love, and love wills the good of the other. So God wants good things for us. Lots of people reject God's love and oppose his will for them, and go off and do terrible things to innocent people.
            We don't have standing to criticize God: Incorrect. In fact, the Book of Job is an extended refutation of that belief. Job criticizes God, and God doesn't blast him or have someone put him to the sword. In fact, he restores his health and well-being and his herds and flocks to boot.

            I heard this saying somewhere: "It's okay to wrestle with God, just don't let go." I passionately believe that, and wrestling with God has made me the man I am.

            Peace

        • "However, the theological problem for the Church here is that, if God exists, he at the very least allowed the abuse and indeed was the ultimate cause of it."

          Can you envision how someone could *allow* something to happen without becoming the ultimate cause of it? Also, assuming God is as Catholic believe him to be, namely omniscient and timeless, could you envision a possibility where God permits evil to bring about a greater good?

          If you can even envision such a possibility--a possibility that I believe is highly probable--then there is no theological problem here, no logical contradiction between the existence of evil and the character of God.

          (I'd encourage you to read some our previous articles here at SN on the problem of evil where we engage this problem more in depth).

          • Sqrat

            Can you envision how someone could *allow* something to happen without becoming the ultimate cause of it?

            Yes, because that's the way it is for us ordinary "someone's." However, the Catholic God is not an ordinary someone -- he's the omniscient "first cause" of everything who is always creating everything and everyone anew as he struggles constantly against the might force of non-existence (a force that would cause bad guys to disappear right in the middle of their bad deeds but for God's positive action to keep them in existence and thus enable them to complete those deeds). So, while if a person does something good, God has at least a share in the credit for that good act, if a person does something that we call "evil," God must also have a share in the responsibility for that as well. God is the indispensable enabler of every human act.

            Also, assuming God is as Catholic believe him to be, namely omniscient and timeless, could you envision a possibility where God permits evil to bring about a greater good?

            As I have suggested above, if God is omniscient and timeless, he does not merely permit apparently evil deeds, he's the ultimate case of them. So, if God is omnibenevolent -- 100% good -- could you envision the possibility that every one of the things you consider and have condemned as evil are really good because God is at least partly responsible for them?

            Your argument here is obviously not a new one. I recall reading one time of a public debate between an atheist and an Anglican divine in which the Anglican said that the Holocaust must somehow, in some way we simply could not understand, have been a good thing because, after all, God had allowed it. At that point the atheist stood up, said "Damn you to hell!", and walked off the stage.

          • I like to try and break things apart with logic, to see how they work. I think your syllogism go something like this:

            An all-good God would not create a universe were evil was possible.
            Evil is possible in the universe.
            Therefore, an all good God does not exist

            Let me proceed by a few steps and see how far we can get.

            I would say, if beings are unable to do anything other than a good act, then they do not have free will. Do you agree with
            this statement?

            Beings with free will are ”better” than beings without free will. Do you agree with this statement? We can talk about what we mean by “better” if that is a point of contention. It’s not
            necessarily meant in a moral sense.

            Peace

          • Sqrat

            Glenn:

            My syllogism might go something more like this:

            Catholic doctrine asserts that God is all good.

            An all-good God would not knowingly cause evil acts to occur.

            Other parts of Catholic doctrine logically entail that God must be knowingly both an ultimate and proximate cause of every human act, the evil and the good alike.

            Therefore, Catholic doctrine contains a contradiction.

          • That's helpful. Strictly speaking, this isn't a syllogism in formal logic, but it's clear enough and I appreciate it. I want to say something about the second proposition. I think we are understanding “good” in different senses. Would it be fair to say that you are defining ”good” as a quality or attribute that exists independently of God, the way it exists independently of you and me? I don't want to sound overly Platonic; but the way good is being used in this conversation suggests that it is exactly that sort of thing — not necessarily a real, existing thing in Plato's heaven somewhere, but at least a concept that we can talk about separately from God, the way we can talk about it separately from this person or that person.

            If that is the case, then this is not the Catholic understanding of the relationship between God and goodness. When we say, “God is all-good,” we are not saying that God is good the way that humans are good only more so. We are saying that, whatever goodness is, it has its source in God. To say that God is not good because he allows evil to happen is to make what logicians call a category mistake. This is where are you attempt to attribute to a thing a quality which is not capable of possessing, like saying that most birds are Christians because they sing on Sunday morning. The goodness you are talking about is not a kind of thing that can be attributed to God.

            At this point, you might be inclined to say, "You're just redefining ‘good' to suit your purposes.” That's not the case, however. Good, whatever it is, is not subject to arbitrary definitions. But it is subject to the forces of evil, which is why the world is such a dark and confusing place.

            To understand God's role in all of this, we have to talk about the passion of Jesus Christ. In that moment, God did not just allow evil; He willingly became its victim. The really interesting question is, Why?

            Peace

          • Sqrat

            When we say, “God is all-good,” we are not saying that God is good the way that humans are good only more so. We are saying that, whatever goodness is, it has its source in God. To say that God is not good because he allows evil to happen is to make what logicians call a
            category mistake.

            You seem to be missing my point, Glenn, so let me riff on what you just said to try to make it more clear. If "whatever goodness is, it has its source in God," parts of Catholic doctrine logically entail that whatever evil is, it also has its source in God. God does not just passively "allow" evil, he causes it.

          • I guess I wasn't trying to address your entire argument, only the second proposition. I think I have answered that fairly directly. The point about causation goes to your fourth proposition, so let's turn to that.

            Once again, we need to think about what we mean by "cause." I don't cause a loaf of bread to be baked in the same way that I cause an accident while driving. Aristotle's's distinctions between the different types of causation are very helpful here. If I understand those distinctions correctly, and I'm not entirely sure I do, the Catholic understanding, based on Aquinas, would go something like this: by creating the universe, God is the formal and material cause of all created things. Evil however, is not a created thing, but an absence or privation. God is thus the "accidental" cause of evil, in that he created a universe in which it is possible. God does not will evil, the way I will a loaf of bread. To use a very imperfect analogy, the way he causes evil is more like the way I cause an accident by running into someone who stops unexpectedly. The analogy is lousy at explaining God, but it draws what I hope is a useful distinction about causation.

            You can say that the creation of the universe was a bad idea for this reason, but of course you are saying it from within that universe and so are sawing off the branch you're sitting on, logically speaking. Anyhow, I have a great deal of difficulty imagining a universe in which people existed but evil was impossible, unless people were effectively robots. So if we have people with free will, we have the possibility of evil.

            I had a philosophy professor once who I greatly admired, who offered this refutation of the Thomistic solution to the problem of evil: "I understand that there has to be evil, but why is there so much of it?" While intuitively appealing, this argument really does not make sense. To say there is "so much" evil is to make a purely subjective and arbitrary judgment. Chesterton answers this very eloquently in Orthodoxy, by answering the question with a question. As he looks around at mountains, trees, horses, goldfinches, and everything else, he asks, "How can there be this much good?"

            Peace

          • Sqrat

            Glenn:

            You are still not grasping my argument, probably because I haven't put all the pieces together in one place. Let me try to do that:

            The Church holds that God is omniscient. One facet of his omniscience is that he knows, and has always known, absolutely everything that will happen at any time in the future. One of the things God knows and has always known is what any person will do with the free will that he has given to him or her. So, if a person will some day freely choose to do a particular evil act, God knows and has always known that that evil act will be committed by that person at that time.

            But God is not just a psychic or a prophet with a 100% perfect track record of predicting the future. He is, according to Church doctrine as I understand it, the creator of anything any everyone who will bring about that future. He is, if you will, the author of the future. For example, God would have known, at the moment that he metaphorically said, "Let there be light!", that in the far distant future some people at a place called Auschwitz would use the free will that he would give them to commit mass murder. God did not simply create a universe in which it was possible for that to happen (and then allow it to happen), he created a universe in which it would happen, and had to happen, by his will. Each and every evil event that occurred at Auschwitz had to have been the inevitable result of the will of God that that event should occur. God was their knowing author.

            But there's more. Catholic doctrine (again, as I understand it and as i has been explained in this forum) is that anything in the material universe that exists only does so because, at each and every moment, God is willing its existence to continue, otherwise it would fall into non-existence. Thus, all the time that Auschwitz was in existence, God had to be willing its continued existence. Otherwise, gas chambers, crematoria, weapons, guards -- all would simply have poofed into non-existence, and the evil that resulted from their continued existence would have ceased forthwith.

            So if certain parts of Catholic doctrine are true, God must bear his share of responsibility for the evil deeds committed by human beings. It's because, if God was indeed an omniscient creator, then whatever evil deeds occur must be the inevitable consequence of his choice that they should occur, and also because, if things can exist only because of God's continuous creation, only with his wiling help and participation at the very moment that those deeds are carried out could they even happen.

            Now I will grant you that this entirely contradicts the basic Catholic view that God is omnibenevolent. However, as I said, Catholic doctrine appears to be contradictory. In an attempt to get around the obvious contradiction, some (non-Catholic) Christians reject the claim that God's omniscience includes certain knowledge of the future, because they realize that such a view logically entails that God must therefore bear a measure of positive responsibility for whatever evil that occurs.

            You can have a God who is:

            1. Omnibenevolent,
            2. In possession of perfect knowledge of the future,

            3. The creator of all things.

            Pick two.

          • I agree with you up to "God was their knowing author." Now you're talking about causation, which I've already addressed.

            A Universe with free will allows for evil things to happen. You obviously think that kind of universe is a bad idea. I addressed that point, too. You're certainly free to prefer your interpretation to mine, but it's incorrect to say I haven't explained it.

            I've had this experience before in dialog with atheists, where I explain a point, and they seem not to see the explanation. It seems to fall into a mental blind spot. It makes me wonder if you are working from the assumption that religious people are obtuse and the religious position ridiculous, so all you need to do is keep repeating yourself until they finally get it. Now, that's certainly your right, and I would absolutely defend your right to hold and express those views. But it puts you in a difficult position when you consider how many wise and smart Christians there are and have been (present company very much excepted). I'm not sure you're saying you're smarter than all of them, but it sounds like it. There are and have been a lot of atheists who are smarter than me -- you may well be one of them. But at some level, we're all in this together.

            Peace

          • robtish

            "A Universe with free will allows for evil things to happen. You obviously think that kind of universe is a bad idea."

            Actually, I'd Sqrat is saying something different: that a Universe with free will for humans is actually impossible under the Catholic definition of God. It's ruled out by God's omnipotence and omniscience and status as source and designer of all that exists.

          • This is a perfectly valid criticism of the Calvinist view on predestination, which rules out free will to a greater or lesser degree, depending on whether you’re a single-predestination Calvinist, or a double-predestination Calvinist. The Catholic Church has strongly denied this view since the Reformation.

            If you are thinking that an omniscient and omnipotent God rules out free will, consider this analogy I picked up from a Catholic writer somewhere: Suppose you are looking at a sidewalk, along which an ant is stolidly progressing in a definite direction. From your vantage point, you can see that the ant is going to come to some obstacle that the ant, from his perspective, cannot see. Your sense of the ant's impending problem is somewhat like God's sense of what will happen to us if we persist in our sinfulness. He can see with a certainty the end result, even though we cannot. From our point of view, we remain free. From God's point of view, the outcome is determined.

            Caveat: like all analogies, this one does not work across every axis of comparison. I do not mean to say that we are insects, and obviously we don’t know in advance whether the ant will change direction. But it loosely explains the compatibility of free will and God’s omnis. I hope it’s helpful.

            Peace

          • robtish

            Glenn, I can't buy that. Because if I created the ant and the sidewalk and the obstacle and everything else in reality knowing exactly how it would turn out, I'd have to say that ant is not free, but is merely an extension of my will with no free will of its own.

          • Yes, that's the trouble with analogies: they always break down. The point is to consider where the axes of comparison do hold, not to extend the analogy until you find axes of comparison that don't hold, and then reject the analogy as a whole. By that analysis, no analogy is ever meaningful. In my experience, analogies are often (though not always) meaningful.

            From the perspective of theology, philosophy, history and logic, there is distinction between the Catholic and Calvinist view of free will. It may not be readily apparent, but it's there. Consider this analogy (sorry): I understand that, before the Big Bang, space did not exist, and neither did time, so there really was no "before" involved. This seems like complete nonsense to me. But I don't consequently say it can't be so. I have it on good authority that it is.

            NOW I KNOW that someone out there will say, "But physics is a science and theology is BS" or something like that; But this is just doing what I pointed out at the beginning of this post.

            I find it hardest to understand those things with which I am inclined to disagree. Many liberals don't understand Second Amendment rights. Many conservatives don't understand Obamacare. And many atheists don't understand Christianity. I've found that, once I have a will, in good faith, to understand something, it becomes a lot clearer. I like this blog because so many people really do seem to be trying to understand, myself included.

            Peace

          • Sqrat

            I don't see it as a valid criticism of Calvinism at all. If you accept the premises of Catholicism about God being the omniscient creator of the universe, Calvinism is the only logical conclusion.

          • Well, you're certainly free to believe that, but a whole lot of Calvinists and Catholics don't agree!

            Peace

          • Sqrat

            If God knew, when he created the universe, that I would believe that, then my believing that was absolutely inevitable.

          • It's a question of perspective. It seems intuitively correct to talk about what happened "before" the big bang, but we know that really isn't the correct way to express the event. We can picture the big bang happening, but our mental picture involves the physical stuff expanding into some pre-existing emptiness, which we also know is not correct. In short, we are expected to accept as true something we (or at least I) can't get my head around. Free will is the same kind of concept. Doesn't seem possible? Welcome to the club.

            If you are convinced that free will and God's omnis are logically impossible, like square circles, then you are a Calvinist, at least on this point. If you also believe that all us people who believe in free will are just fooling themselves, then all I can say is this: What's absolutely inevitable is that any conversation that proceeds from the deeply held premise that the other party is a fool is not going to be productive.

            Peace

          • Sqrat

            If you are convinced that free will and God's omnis are logically impossible, like square circles, then you are a Calvinist, at least on this point. If you also believe that all us people who believe in free will are just fooling themselves, then all I can say is this: What's absolutely inevitable is that any conversation that proceeds from the deeply held premise that the other party is a fool is not going to be productive.

            If I am a Calvinist on the point in question, then if the Calvinists are correct it was inevitable that I would be. Similarly, if I believe that all you people who believe in free will are just fooling yourselves, then if the Calvinists are correct it was inevitable that I would believe that. And if you are fooling yourselves and the Calvinists are correct, then it was inevitable that you would be fooling yourselves.

          • Why don't you use your real name?

          • josh

            "Can you envision how someone could *allow* something to happen without becoming the ultimate cause of it?"

            This is irrelevant, the question is one of responsibility, not ultimate causes. Cloak-holding is not a pass for a perfect being. (Although, as Sqrat points out, the Catholic God is meant to be the ultimate cause for all effects.)

            "Also, assuming God is as Catholic believe him to be, namely omniscient and timeless, could you envision a possibility where God permits evil to bring about a greater good?"

            No. An omniscient, omnipotent being who created the very conditions for good or evil has no need to permit evil in order to achieve any good. He could just create the good.

            "...then there is no theological problem here, no logical contradiction between the existence of evil and the character of God."

            Whether or not God and evil can logically coexist, it doesn't solve the problem of evil. One has to convincingly show that God and the evil we actually observe can logically exist. Then one has to show that any lesser amount of evil would be logically impossible for God to countenance.

        • S Rajendran

          you better read Roman 11:33--36

    • "To this day (unless I'm mistaken), incidents of clerical sex-abuse are only required to be reported to civil authorities if such incidents are required to be reported by civil law."

      You are mistaken. I've never seen this requirement. Do you have a source?

      "To see this 'we're no worse than most, and slightly better than some' type of defense leaves me wonder just how much Catholics have come to grips with this."

      That's not the claim. The claim is that the Catholic Church has a better record against sexual abuse over the last several decades than *any* other large organization that involves children. Yet the overwhelming majority of abuse accusations and rhetoric still fall against Catholics, and even worse, many people assume that this somehow refutes the Church's theological and moral claims.

      • Paul Boillot

        You might be right that the record of absolute numbers is lower, as a per capita percentage.

        What's your record like on repeat offending?

        What's your record like on ignoring accusations?

        What's your record like on institutionally shutting-up the victims?

        What's your record like on having the rumors of these priests reach all the way to the top?

        What other "large organization that involves children" has had this record?

        Let me know, and I'll get outraged there too. Especially if they claim (succesfully in the eyes of their members) to be THE direct link to GOD and EVERLASTING LIFE, and that their [potentially] offending officers are not only the conduit for salvation and the ways of physically interacting with the deity, but that you need to trust them absolutely; you need to lock yourself into a little box with them and tell them things you cannot, would not tell your family.

      • Andre Boillot

        You are mistaken. I've never seen this requirement. Do you have a source?

        Notice what is required vs. what is allowed.

        "The responsibility for dealing with cases of sexual abuse of minors belongs, in the first place, to Bishops or Major Superiors. If an accusation seems true the Bishop or Major Superior, or a delegate, ought to carry out the preliminary investigation in accord with CIC can. 1717, CCEO can. 1468, and SST art. 16."

        "If the accusation is considered credible, it is required that the case be referred to the CDF.

        "A response will also make provision for the implementation of the appropriate canon law, and, at the same time, allow for the requirements of civil law."

        "Sexual abuse of minors is not just a canonical delict but also a crime prosecuted by civil law. Although relations with civil authority will differ in various countries, nevertheless it is important to cooperate with such authority within their responsibilities. Specifically, without prejudice to the sacramental internal forum, the prescriptions of civil law regarding the reporting of such crimes to the designated authority should always be followed."

        "On the issue of mandatory reporting of abuse allegations to civil authorities, the Vatican also raised objections. But Father Lombardi noted this did not mean church officials should not respect the laws of Ireland, which at that time did not obligate reporting of such cases. Mandatory reporting was a much-debated issue even in civil society at the time, he said.

        Father Lombardi said it was unfair to criticize the church for failing to insist on mandatory reporting in a country that had not deemed it necessary to make it part of civil law.

        "Father Lombardi said the Vatican could not issue universal requirements for mandatory reporting to civil authorities because it also operated in countries with repressive governments. “Each reality is different, culturally and from the point of view of different countries’ laws,” he said."

        Sources:
        http://americamagazine.org/node/127573
        http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1102863.htm
        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/17/world/europe/17vatican.html?_r=0

        Now, if you'll show me where it is required that all sex abuse cases be referred to local authorities, I'll retract my comment.

        The claim is that the Catholic Church has a better record against sexual abuse over the last several decades than *any* other large organization that involves children.

        Was that the claim? I was so distracted by the finger pointing I must have missed it. Ah, I see it now:

        Ninety-four percent of the abuse incidents reported to the Catholic Church from 1950 through 2009 took place before 1990, and there’s a reason for it.

        We're told that reason is that the Church has done even more to eradicate the problem than any other institution. Maybe, but here's something else to consider though, to put some context on what I assume is supposed to be an impressive stat, victims don't always come forward immediately (if at all). While I'm confident that the increased scrutiny alone accounts for a great deal of the drop in this figure since 2001 (how good of them to improve their record after having finally been exposed), at best, saying that 94% of reported incidents in a 70 year span took place in the first 40 years gets you the title of Most Improved.

        • "saying that 94% of reported incidents in a 70 year span took place in the first 40 years gets you the title of Most Improved."

          This is not the claim I made. I didn't claim the Church had *improved* the move. I very clearly said "the Catholic Church has a better record against sexual abuse over the last several decades than *any* other large organization that involves children."

          The American bishops publish an annual report listing every accusation of abuse. Over the last couple decades, that number has consistently been in the low teens (remarkable for a 70-million person Church). Now recognizing that even *one* instance of abuse is too many, the Church's *current* abuse rate--distinguished from the rate of improvement--is the lowest among any other national organization that deals with children. It's lower than public schools, lower than Protestant churches and synagogues, lower than sports teams, lower than boy scouts, etc.

          So again, why does the outrage seem, even today, directed mainly--and often exclusively--at the Catholic Church?

          I've still yet to receive a straight answer to that question.

          • Andre Boillot

            So again, why does the outrage seem, even today, directed mainly--and often exclusively--at the Catholic Church?

            I've still yet to receive a straight answer to that question.

            Absolutely disingenuous, Brandon. I've already answered this, giving several examples of institutions that have recently come under incredible scrutiny for failing in their responsibilities, as well as reasons why I think the Church came under such intense scrutiny.

            http://strangenotions.com/how-to-win-an-argument-with-a-catholic/#comment-1102287621

            As for my question of mandatory reporting, I've yet to receive an answer of any sort.

          • You provided three examples--one a football program and two schools. You didn't provide *any* example of national organizations or sectors being generally maligned the way the Catholic Church has.

            Where are the articles decrying the significant abuse problems in sports *in general*--not just in one or two isolated cases? When the Penn State leaders abused their players, most individuals and news outlets considered it an isolated case and never once thought to issue a blanket accusation to sports coaches in general. But that's precisely the opposite reaction they've taken with the proportionately much-smaller number of priests who have abused children.

            "As for my question of mandatory reporting, I've yet to receive an answer of any sort."

            I'm not sure what your question was. From the citation you posted above, it seems pretty clear that: "incidents of clerical sex-abuse are only required to be reported to civil authorities if such incidents are required to be reported by civil law."

            But what's your point? Which countries are you thinking of that *don't* require the reporting of abuse?

          • Andre Boillot

            If my examples don't live up to whatever standard you've left previously unstated, shame on me, right? I don't see how the examples I gave, so apparently lacking, didn't constitute "straight answers".

            When the Penn State leaders abused their players, most individuals and news outlets considered it an isolated case and never once thought to issue a blanket accusation to sports coaches in general.

            I'm sorry, did the NCAA repeatedly and knowingly transfer child molesters to different schools without alerting anyone? Otherwise, I don't see how your analogy holds. And, if they did, that would be terrible and worthy of outrage.

            I'm not sure what your question was.

            The question is why does the Church not require mandatory reporting, regardless of any countries laws?

            But what's your point? Which countries are you thinking of that *don't* require the reporting of abuse?

            A) How is that your question? 2) Why risk relying on local statutes? III) According to my earlier sources, apparently Ireland was a recent example.

            http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1102863.htm

          • Fr.Sean

            Andre,
            You are right that the church has made tremendous mistakes in moving around child molesters. but i believe studies show that the majority of time when people encounter such a situation they almost always do the same thing. the do something little, but not enough. I suspect it's probably some form of denial or disbelief or something to that effect. the example of penn state leaders attempting to sweep it under the rug is in fact rather common. if in fact you are going to compare them though it's also important to note that the church didn't simply just move the priest after he had been caught, but rather sent him away for some kind of psychological therapy. i think most of the priests they sent for help never did it again, but the repeated offenders makes it appear that every priest who committed such an act continued to do so and bishops continued to just move them around. if the mistakes made by some of the bishops and priests makes you feel that the whole institution is based on a falsehood is a decision you will have to make.

          • Andre Boillot

            Fr. Sean,

            Thanks for your thoughts. As I've said elsewhere in this thread, my main point was to point out that suggestions of equal or better % of offenders is a red-herring. The heart of the outrage is centered on how so few could be allowed to harm so many for so long.

            I've made no claims as to how this relates to the truth of Catholicism.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Andre,
            you're right, it is unnerving that some of them were continuously moved around, and there's no excuse for it. Some of the bishops didn't move them around and put an end to it but naturally those events don't make it in the news.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Some of the bishops didn't move them around and put an end to it but naturally those events don't make it in the news."

            Respectfully, I don't make the news when I do my job either. The police aren't thrown parades for every warranted arrest they make. Judges don't get much fanfare for sentencing the guilty. Such is life.

          • Fr.Sean

            fair enough, i was just trying to point out that it wasn't something every bishop dealing with the issue did. it is indeed sad that a higher percentage of bishops didn't do the right thing.

          • Paul Boillot

            Fr. Sean,

            Also, if some bishops managed to do the right then and put an end to it, it calls into question the argument for the others of "we were just doing what we thought was right," "this was the best option psychology gave us at the time." It also begs the question of if some could manage, why didn't it become an issue where communication spread throughout the organization?

            I applaud those few bishops, whoever they were.

          • "The heart of the outrage is centered on how so few could be allowed to harm so many for so long."

            That's an outrage all of us Catholics, of course, share with you. Nobody is denying the heinousness of these acts.

            "I've made no claims as to how this relates to the truth of Catholicism."

            So you agree with the main post, then? Would you agree that reference the small number of priests who sinned egregiously against young children have no relevance to a discussion about whether God exists, Jesus rose from the dead, or whether the Catholic Church speaks with divine authority?

          • Andre Boillot

            So you agree with the main post, then?

            To the extent that the OP touched on arguments concerning actions of the faithful not necessarily reflecting on the truth of the faith, sure.

            However, I saw much less of that, and much more flippant lumping of "Evangelicals, Agnostics and New Agers" in opposition to the Church, red herrings distracting from what people are really upset over, and attempts to ease any particular blame to be placed on the Church by pointing to the crimes of other organizations.

            Also, I have to say, comments like:

            We did not avoid evil, we fought it, and we let the world see, because we are held to a higher standard than the world. So the Church bore the brunt of the blame, and has ‘cleaned house’ tremendously

            are to be commended for their chutzpah. Yes, you brave souls, carrying the cross, and setting an example for the world. Never mind that so little of this cleansing was pro-active on the Church's part. No, no, it's a good thing that the scandal broke, the veil lifted, and the cover-ups exposed. You got a chance to bear the slings and arrows, keep that chin up, and the stiff upper-lip.

          • gwen

            well actually, a number of pedophile priests were sent for "rehab therapy" in northern NM run by the Servants of the Paraclete. They were often allowed to serve in neighboring NM communities on weekends or during the week, whenever there was need for a priest, since they were considered "cured" or "in therapy." However, they continued to abuse children while the supervisors of their treatment looked the other way.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Gwen,
            Well, i'm not going to make an excuse for the supervisors who looked the other way, but i would imagine many of the Priests who did not continue to molest children probably helped to blind the supervisors to the priests who were continuing to do so.

          • Andre Boillot

            But that's precisely the opposite reaction they've taken with the proportionately much-smaller number of priests who have abused children.

            Speaking of tired refrains, a reminder: it's not about the % of abusers. It's about the # of abused - a number I can't recall ever being discussed by defenders of the Church. It's all well and good that so few priest molest people, but that was never the crux, rather it was a hierarchy that allowed the abuse of so many, by so few, for so long.

          • Andre Boillot

            "To this day (unless I'm mistaken), incidents of clerical sex-abuse are only required to be reported to civil authorities if such incidents are required to be reported by civil law."

            You are mistaken. I've never seen this requirement. Do you have a source?

            This will probably be my last post on this thread, unless I'm answering something directed at me, since overall I think I've said my piece.

            However, I'd like to show that you've gone from:

            "You are mistaken. I've never seen this requirement."
            http://strangenotions.com/how-to-win-an-argument-with-a-catholic/#comment-1102275795

            to, upon being shown the evidence, admitting:

            "it seems pretty clear [...] But what's your point?"
            http://strangenotions.com/how-to-win-an-argument-with-a-catholic/#comment-1102408093

            If you didn't know my point, Brandon, why argue it?

            PS. If anyone does have evidence that the Church mandates reporting to civil law enforcement, I'm happy to be corrected.

          • Geena Safire

            why does the outrage seem, even today, directed mainly--and often exclusively--at the Catholic Church? I've still yet to receive a straight answer to that question.

            Because the Catholic Church claims to represent God on Earth. Because the Catholic Church claims to be the One True Church bestowed by Jesus with primary access to God's absolute morality. Because the Catholic Church claims that it is the best church because it is based on 2000 years of tradition and experience of the wisest and most holy saints and theologians. Because the Catholic Church elevates priests and other clergy as the transmitters of God's communication and God's sacraments to mere humans.

            Because the Catholic Church -- with all its claimed direct God access -- ought to be better than other human organizations.

            Is that answer straight enough for you, Brandon?

  • Ben Posin

    This website gets stranger and stranger. Who is the audience of posts like this? Reading over discussion threads, the "priests rape boys" issue is one brick in the wall of reasons to doubt the truth of Catholic theology. But no one is ducking the goofy arguments re: Aquinas and Aristotle and morality et al. by saying: well, Catholic priests rape boys, so there. Instead the articles on this website tend to get torn apart on their own (lack of) merit. And really your argument is the child rape wasn't all that prevalent, and anyway the Church is trying hard to stop it, which just reminds me of the hey we didn't really threaten to kill Galileo and hey the inquisition wasn't such a big deal articles that have popped up recently.

    Now, that doesn't make the whole "priests rape boys" thing irrelevant. It sure looks like for a long time, at the very highest levels of the church, the Catholicchurch protected and enabled child molestors. While this absolutely doesn't make the Church's claims about Jesus (for instance) untrue, it is absolutely a relevant piece of information to consider when evaluating claims that the Catholic church has some sort of special access to/knowledge of/mandate from God. Again, I'm reminded of the articles here about Galielo and the inquisition: Catholics are doing their best to make arguments to minimize the size of each individual brick, but when you put them all together is it really that unreasonable to start drawing some conclusions about exactly how divine the Catholic church really is?

    • "Reading over discussion threads, the "priests rape boys" issue is one brick in the wall of reasons to doubt the truth of Catholic theology."

      This comment alone means you're the exact target audience. The article's entire purpose was to demonstrate how "priests rape boys" is not "one brick in the wall of reasons to doubt the truth of Catholic theology."

      "But no one is ducking the goofy arguments re: Aquinas and Aristotle..."

      No need for the juvenile and insulting adjectives.

      "Instead the articles on this website tend to get torn apart on their own (lack of) merit."

      I'm not aware of any article here getting "torn apart" through lack of merit, much lest a tendency of that happening.

      "And really your argument is the child rape wasn't all that prevalent, and anyway the Church is trying hard to stop it, which just reminds me of the hey we didn't really threaten to kill Galileo and hey the inquisition wasn't such a big deal articles that have popped up recently."

      I'm not sure what you're claiming here because the paragraph appears somewhat incoherent. But it's full of truth. The rape of children by Catholic priests wasn't all that prevalent, relative to the culture. And the Catholic Church really didn't threaten to kill Galileo (how did you arrive at that conclusion?).

      "While this absolutely doesn't make the Church's claims about Jesus (for instance) untrue, it is absolutely a relevant piece of information to consider when evaluating claims that the Catholic church has some sort of special access to/knowledge of/mandate from God."

      This is a non sequitur, and again, this is the type of bad arguing we're trying to purify here. Even if it were true that Catholics enabled and protected child abuse, how would it necessarily follow that the Church does not have "special access to/knowledge of/mandate from God"? There's simply no logical connection there.

      "Again, I'm reminded of the articles here about Galielo and the inquisition: Catholics are doing their best to make arguments to minimize the size of each individual brick, but when you put them all together is it really that unreasonable to start drawing some conclusions about exactly how divine the Catholic church really is?"

      Yes, it is unreasonable. The interactions between some Catholics and Galileo, the Church's involvement with the Inquisitions, and the small number of priestly abusers in the Church have absolutely no bearing on whether the Church is a divine institution.

      • Paul Boillot

        Brandon,

        You said , "This is a non sequitur." You are wrong. Here's why:

        1. The Catholic Church claims that Jesus is God and founded the CC.
        2. The Catholic Church claims to have special access to knowledge of/mandate from God.
        3. [If a person, or group of people, has access to God, we would expect them to act in "Godly" ways, lovingly, honestly, self-effacingly, protectively-towards-others.]
        4. " It sure looks like for a long time, at the very highest levels of the church, the Catholicchurch protected and enabled child molestors."
        5. #4 and #3 are contradictory.

        Therefore, if #4 is true, then it calls into question #2 since #3.

        #3 is is brackets because those are my words, I put them in...because it's an obvious and understood premise. The conclusion follows DIRECTLY from the argument, there is no "non sequitur."

        • ziad

          I would argue that number 3 is only true when the person is following the Church Teaching. Once they do not follow Church Teaching (for example, Child molestation is against Church Teaching) then they are not following God's way and therefore do not have access to God (until repentance and working hard to not repeat the offense)

          • Ben Posin

            See my response to Brandon above. I could use some clarification on this point: is there any person or group of people who can take action attributable to the church, regardless of what that action is? Your answer seems to be no. To me this seems somewhat akin to saying that a company can not be responsible for what any of its directors/employees etc. do if it goes against their corporate guidelines or charter, which just doesn't fly.

            Also: where to the Church Teachings come from? It seems to me that we should consider the character and actions of the people currently responsible for interpreting (and writing, adding to, expounding on?) Church Teachings.

        • It's a non sequitur because your #3 is not true. Catholic don't believe that just because you identify as Catholic, you magically become loving, honest, self-effacing, and protective. A quick flip through the Bible reveals that *many* people who had direct access to God acted in deplorable ways.

          Also, your #4 equivocates the meaning of "Catholic Church" In points 1 and 2 you use the term in its more institutional sense, to mean "that teaching and governing body established by Jesus Christ", but in point 4 you use it to mean "the collection of people who identify as Catholic." The two are not the same.

          • Paul Boillot

            A few quick bookkeeping points, Brandon. You seem to be responding to a lot of comments here with emotional charges, so I'm not going to jump on your back too much for these, but you've got some things mixed up.

            First: Premise #4 is not "mine." I'm showing you that the argument you called invalid is not...even thought it's not my argument.

            Second: Premise #3 is not based on what "Catholic[s] don't believer" or do. It is simply a statement of logic; that being in the closest-contact-possible with the source of goodness, love, generosity, justice and truth will increase those things in us to an appreciable degree. That statement may be right or wrong, but it is independent of your beliefs.

            --

            "It's a non sequitur because your #3 is not true."

            "Non sequitur," or "it does not follow," is a very specific accusation; it is a claim about logical deductions. It means that even if all the premises were true, the conclusion would not be a logical consequence.

            The premises may be wrong, but that's a separate issue. As it happens, you're wrong in your assessment of the falsehood of the premises, but that is besides the point:

            You accused someone of making a logically invalid argument.

            They did not.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Paul,
            I think you make a good point, that the church did protect child molesters for a long time. I suppose a couple of thoughts are 1. The church claims to be infallible when it comes to teaching faith and morals. Thus one may trust what has been handed down in a counsel etc.

            2. The bible is clear that one cannot confuse the messenger with the message. (ex. King David, Moses, Abraham, Peter etc.) The church is "protected" when it comes to teaching falsehoods when the bishops gather for a counsel, but those bishops are not exempt from making mistakes, or sins in their own lives. (our belief)

            Naturally, the church has made some horrendous mistakes in moving around pedophile priests, and there is no excuse for it. You will have to judge the lack of judgement of the bishops on your own to discern whether you think the Church has a connection with the God, or conveys truth. I believe the article seeks to convey that the amount of priests who are pedophiles etc. is not a higher percentage as compared to the percentage of other professions, or males in other professions. Furthermore, others who are antagonistic towards the church attempt to inflate those numbers to discredit her. and i also believe Brandon was attempting to convey that the church never claimed that her bishops were infallible in making decisions. if the poor decisions of some of the bishops makes you feel the institution is not based on something divine is a decision you will have to make and i don't blame you for such a decision. But if in fact you ever do decide to convert, know that there is nothing you could do that would make God not love you, and God's unconditional love is always a foundation for your relationship with him.

          • Paul Boillot

            Fr. Sean,

            Thanks for the reply. I don't really want to get into all of what you offered, I just wanted to let you know that you're talking to a goat who's left the pen intentionally, not a wandering lost lamb :) So no potential new-faith is at stake here.

            I also appreciate your comments about unconditional love.

            I'll just finish by pointing out that the arguments are not about infallibility or numbers of molestations.

            It's about recognizing that the CC is an organization, a system, and that these abuses are not just the individual offenses to human dignity that they are, but that they were preserved and perpetuated through the workings of that system.

            All your fellow Catholics here arguing and complaining about school teachers, coaches, McDonalds and the WBC are ignoring that. In talking about the 'unfair' criticisms they've been subject to, it seems like they're missing the real and permanent damage done, and the corrupt and utterly disgusting business of cover-up and denial and deck-shuffling-until-it-happens-again-too-often-to-keep-quiet.

            Please don't ignore it too.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Paul,
            I might have to disagree with you there. i think most priests who were sent away for therapy came back and didn't do it again. i suspect the "cured" one's were the common occurrence that perhaps blinded bishops to the ones that were incurable. Needless to say, you're right in holding the church accountable for the mistakes those bishops have made.

            is there anything that could cause you to consider the faith again?

          • Paul Boillot

            Fr. Sean,

            We're at risk of getting into the territory of absolute number of victims, numbers of false allegations, number of un-reported cases of abuse due to shaming, intimidation, or psychological fugue states (denial), number of reports taken serious/followed up on, number of cases covered up/paid off by the bishop, number of cases serious enough for the bishop to force 'rehab', rehab recidivism, motivations for transferal/perpetuating child access, levels/times of knowledge in the various bishop conferences, levels/times of knowledge of the curia and the papal office, actions taken or not taken by the same based on that knowledge.......not to mention the non-reporting of criminal child sex abuse to the police. I don't really want to get into that with you here, and that's not the point of the article.

            As to whether or not I could re-consider the Catholic faith: absolutely!

            If I could make my mind understand the things about it which I currently believe to be contradictory and evidence of a purely human institution. If I have a Thomas moment later this afternoon, I hope and believe I'd have the courage to come back here and tell you all how my understanding has been changed.

            But in all honesty, I really do believe that the CC is a purely human structure. It would take a really big internal shift for the circles to be squared in my mind.

          • Geena Safire

            i think most priests who were sent away for therapy came back and didn't do it again.

            In the first place, that is not true. The therapy is minimally effective and only restricted ministry has been effective in reducing repeat offending, by removing opportunity. Haven't you heard the many stories of priests being reassigned and reoffending in their new diocese?

            In the second place, they should have been reported to the police and subjected to a criminal trial and, when convicted, spent time in jail. Not sent to meditate in some sunny New Mexico resort, out of reach of the civil authorities, while their victims were paid off if they promised to keep silent.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Green safire,
            shortly after the scandels broke there was a number of priests who had committed some kind of an act one time and were removed from ministry. some had done something 40 years earlier but the stance of how to handel such offenders had changed such that any priest who had ever done anything remotely close to pedophlia were removed. of the number of priests who had committed such an act a few were the pedophlia types who could not be helped. they were the ones who's stories most people are familiar with. so if 5 to 10% of priests who had committed such an act were the type that therapy could not help it's natural that they would get lost in the mix. the catholic church is a large organization and i'm sure you can find stories of the .05% of the ones that were moved around, but i think to be fair it's important to acknowledge that a bishop who has seen a positive result with the majority of them might assume those priests would respond positively to therapy.
            Moreover i agree with your position that a priest who's committed such an act once should have been perminently removed from ministry and reported to the authorities. there are consequences to ones actions, thus there is forgiveness but that does not remove the conseqquences.

          • SebastianRodrigues

            I just wanted to let you know that you're talking to a goat who's left the pen intentionally, not a wandering lost lamb :)

            However you perceive yourself in this regard, I doubt if the Fr entertains that such a distinction exists.

            So no potential new-faith is at stake here.

            Don't be so sure! People change, and things you read today can influence your thinking years from now in subtle ways.

          • Paul Boillot

            It's true, before I changed my mind about the CC I was an ardent supporter: I even excelled in apologetics courses where Dr. Kreeft's work was the syllabus!

      • Ben Posin

        Reading your comment (and re-reading mine), I think I should have made it more clear that a lot of my objection to this article is what I see as the claim that atheists are ignoring the church's arguments and relying on argumentam ad child rape to the exclusion of all else. We can both agree that this is not so, I'd think?

        Paul Boillot does a good job of explaining why I and others find the whole rape thing relevant to the Church's truth claims. My gut reaction to your protestations to the contrary is on the order of a spit take, it just strikes me as absurd. But on reflection I think this comes from disagreement or confusion regarding a serious question that we should pick up, which is: what exactly is the Catholic Church? What actions are attributable to it? Do you think any actual person or group of persons actions or decisions can be attributed to the church?
        It seems to me that you're treating the Church and responsibility differently that our society treats any other organization. What are your thoughts on the matter?

        • "Reading your comment (and re-reading mine), I think I should have made it more clear that a lot of my objection to this article is what I see as the claim that atheists are ignoring the church's arguments and relying on argumentam ad child rape to the exclusion of all else. We can both agree that this is not so, I'd think?"

          Thanks for the clarification, Ben! I'd certainly agree that *some* (and probably most) atheists understand that the abuse problem in the Church is independent of her truth claims. But that said, *some* (and, from my experience, many) other atheists don't make this logical connection. That's why we published Marc's article. Hopefully we can all now agree that The WBC tactic is unhelpful, unfruitful, and inconsequential to the real questions at hand.

          "what exactly is the Catholic Church? What actions are attributable to it? Do you think any actual person or group of persons actions or decisions can be attributed to the church? It seems to me that you're treating the Church and responsibility differently that our society treats any other organization. What are your thoughts on the matter?"

          These are all good questions. Let me take them one at a time.

          "What exactly is the Catholic Church?"

          This depends on the context. Most generally, the Catholic Church means "all the people of God". But when we say "the Catholic Church teaches X" or "the beliefs of the Catholic Church", we're typically referring to the Church's magisterial teaching authority. These would be the "official" teachings of the Church.

          "What actions are attributable to it?"

          Again, this depends on which definition you're operating out of. While it's true "the Catholic Church" is responsible for deplorable sins if by "the Catholic Church" you simply mean anyone who identifies as Catholic. But in the more common form, "the Catholic Church"--as the magisterial teaching authority--is only responsible for its official teachings, not for those who misunderstand, misrepresent, or patently ignore them. The Church has always taught "abuse is bad." Those who committed abuse simply ignored the Catholic Church's teaching.

          "Do you think any actual person or group of persons actions or decisions can be attributed to the church?"

          Sure. But we'd have to get more specific. For example, the claim "Jesus is God" or "these certain books have been divinely inspired" is attributable to the Catholic Church. The decision of hundreds of millions of people to attend Mass each week is attributable to the Church. However, if you're asking whether sexual abuse should be attributable to the Church, I don't see how it could. The Catholic Church, meaning the authoritative teaching body, has never promoted, encouraged, validated, or supported sexual abuse.

          "It seems to me that you're treating the Church and responsibility differently that our society treats any other organization."

          I don't think so. Suppose twenty employees of McDonald's were independently found guilty of beating their spouses. Would that mean McDonald's is necessarily responsible for those crimes? Would it follow that McDonald's supports or encourages domestic violence?

          • Geena Safire

            Brandon Vogt wrote: *[S]ome* (and probably most) atheists understand that the abuse problem in the Church is independent of her truth claims.

            This is manifestly untrue. The real, unspoken issue is that Catholicism doesn't work to make people better people.

            The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) claims it is the one true church and that it has a direct line to the deity's will for humankind. Therefore, it preaches, everyone should convert and believe its dogma and follow its teachings to make us better people. But the child abuse mega-scandals prove this to be a lie.

            If the RCC's system of praying and formation and spiritual development worked, then its priests – the result of the RCC’s best system of prayerful selection of promising men and intensive training and lifelong spiritual directionshould be much less likely to be child molesters. And its bishops, supposedly the best of the best, should be able to detect such evil in their midst and either effectively heal it or excise it.

            The obvious fact that – despite claimed divine direction and continuous submission to arcane rituals for character improvement – the RCC’s priests offend at about the
            same rate
            as (or perhaps a little less than) in the general population and its bishops worldwide have been unable to even recognize in advance much less willing to adequately punish these horrific transgressions absent secular legal enforcement shows that the fundamental claim of the RCC to moral superiority is baseless.

          • Ben Posin

            No one, apparently. I pressed Brendan on this point, and it seems the Catholic Church is only represented by its hierarchy when they get together to put forth official teachings--I guess at that point God steps in and inspires this group of people to know and express God's will, even if at other times the hierarchy has acted both immorally and unwisely.

            Of course, this isn't how we view any other organization....

          • David Nickol

            Of course, this isn't how we view any other organization....

            Well, that's not quite fair. Suppose, for example, that that there was a Republican and a Democrat both of whom thought the United States was the greatest country in the world and considered themselves very patriotic. Suppose the Democrat, during the Bush years, hated the president and thought Bush was taking the country in the wrong direction. And suppose the Republican currently hates Obama and believes everything Obama has done is disastrous. In both their cases, even though they disagree with the top elected leader of the country, they would not attribute his actions to the United States.

            Or take the military. Rape and sex abuse are more rampant in the US military—I think it is fair to say—than sex abuse of minors was at its peak in the Catholic Church. And yet most Americans don't attribute sex abuse to the military itself, but to those in the military who commit it or don't do enough to put a stop to it.

            even if at other times the hierarchy has acted both immorally and unwisely

            To the extent the hierarchy in its official capacity, creating or carrying out official policies of the Church, has behaved immorally, it should be judged as an institution. I don't think it is fair, though, to consider that priests who abused minors acted in the name of the Church. So it really is the handling of the matter by bishops and the Vatican that might be attributed to the Church as an institution, and it is difficult to say to what extent many of the bad actors were representing the Church.

            The most serious fact—and I will be happy to be corrected if it is not a fact—is that with all of the mishandling of abusers by bishops that has come to light, not one has been disciplined or punished, and some have been moved out of their dioceses and given loftier positions. That does not speak well for the institution.

          • Geena Safire

            Well, that's not quite fair

            Yeah, it kinda is. If the RCC lays claim to absolute truth and to being the direct connection of people to the divine and to the best teaching and practices to become more holy...

            ...then it is completely fair to point out that it doesn't work.

            The army never claimed it would guide its charges toward sainthood; it trains people for functions. Nor did the American political parties claim that. The politicians may be off the mark when they say they represent 'the will of the American people'. But the church is claiming to represent God.

          • David Nickol

            There are two issues here. First is how to determine what "the Church" does, as opposed to those who are members (including very important and powerful members). Second is what ought to be expected of the Church. I don't think you have dealt adequately with either, although I am not saying a case can't be made against "the Church" regarding its handling of the sex-abuse crisis.

            Regarding the first issue, it is quite clear that there have been "bad popes." Just watch the Showtime series The Borgias! Do the actions of even a bad pope disprove the claims the Catholic Church makes about itself? I don't think so (although some may disagree). In any case, I don't think you have made a compelling argument that "the Church" (as opposed to "some in the Church") behaved immorally in its handling of abusive priests.

            Regarding what ought to be expected for the Church, you are making claims about what ought to be true about a theoretical Catholic Church that the actual Church has never made for itself. The Church claims that it will not teach error. It does not make a claim that because it will not teach error, its members will never be guilty of significant wrongdoing. In fact, I don't believe the Catholic Church claims that because it knows with certainty and teaches infallibly a certain body of doctrine about faith and morals, that as an institution it cannot do anything wrong. If it did make that claim, there are better examples (for example, almost two millennia of anti-Semitism) that would prove that claim false.

          • Vasco Gama

            “The real, unspoken issue underlying the child abuse scandal is that Catholicism doesn't work to make people better people.”

            That is your perception (surely unbiased). However, only our deluded imaginations could lead us to expect that the clergy would be constituted by perfect beings. Then the realization that these are people that share the same nature as the other humans beings is hardly a mystery.

            It is not just the unbelievers that are shocked with these problems, the believers also are deeply shocked. Our contempt by the wrong deeds doesn’t alter the human condition.

            The Church has asked for forgiveness for these type of actions, and is trying to avoid that those errors persist.

  • Paul Boillot

    The first thing we should do here is be clear:

    "And this is good, because one abuse-case is one too many, and I don’t give a damn how embarrassed it makes Catholics, all this attention the Church has paid to the issue—if it’s what it takes to keep children safe, it’s worth it."

    This is a lie.

    • Randy Gritter

      You know this? You know that Marc Barnes does, in fact, care about how embarrassed Catholics get over changes made to prevent abuse? I suspect it is hyperbole. He does likely have some concern about the feelings of his fellow Catholics. The point is he sees child safety as much more important than people's discomfort in talking about the issue. Are you saying that is a lie? You think that is clear?

      • Paul Boillot

        If you don't give a damn about how uncomfortable the house-cleaning process is, you don't write an article whining about 'baseless stereotypes.'

        Here comes the important bit.

        Even if they are baseless stereotypes, you ignore them, you keep your head down and take it because you're focused on what's important, because ultimately "this is good, because one abuse-case is one too many," because "if it's what it takes to keep children safe, it's worth it."

  • I'll be happy to never talk about this issue here again and instead talk about the many serious problems I see with official Church doctrine.

    Others will not be so accommodating. And they don't need to be. If Marc Barns's interest is in having arguments, then he can avoid talking to them. If his interest is evangelism, then he'll need to confront the sign-wielders and sloganeers with peace and with humble apologies. Because they're not waving the signs out of a desire to start an argument. They're waving the signs because the Catholic Church hurt them. And it's the Church's responsibility to make things right.

    Benedict understood this. http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2010/09/18/pope-apologizes-for-unspeakable-crimes-of-sexual-abuse/

    • "I'll be happy to never talk about this issue here again and instead talk about the many serious problems I see with official Church doctrine."

      Great, Paul! Thanks. Here's hoping this article will help others end the tired refrain, "....but the Catholic Church promotes child abuse."

      • Paul Boillot

        If I had done something bad, or if I were a part of an organization which had already admitted to having done something bad, I want to believe that I would spend less time talking about "tired refrains."

        Your lord tells you that you'll have to suffer unjustified slings-and-arrows for him, and that you should do so joyfully!

        In a way, I think that it's easier to bear the burden of false accusations because you know their untruth. No matter how much the howling masses shriek their insults at you, you can remain calm in the eye of the storm, knowing your innocence.

        In other words: they sting less.

        • I am calm, and I personally don't mind the accusations. But when they distract from getting to the truth of much bigger questions about God and the Church--a truth I hope all my atheist friends to arrive at--then I'm unsettled.

          This refrain isn't doing me any injustice; it's doing injustice to those who ignore or dismiss the Church's claims because of this poor excuse for an argument.

          Does that make sense?

          • Paul Boillot

            Brandon,

            This is going to be a tough reply to write. I want to answer your question honestly, but I know you can be prickly when it comes to harsh criticism. I hope you'll believe me when I say that I've thought and thought about this, and re-written this response several times.

            --

            "Does that make sense?"

            I can well imagine the motivation behind the OP and your defense of him. On a purely argumentative/logic level, I think you make a thoroughly awful case. But that's not the point, I understand why you're doing it.

            If your guiding principle is what I understand the best parts of the Gospel and Church teaching to be, you have 2 tasks: get yourself to heaven, get others to heaven.

            You do this by
            -loving god first
            -loving others as god loves you
            -turning the other cheek
            -being a light to the world (not basket-covered)
            -not losing your saltiness
            -being unafraid of the lion's den
            -not casting stones
            -loving ridicule for Jesus' sake
            -etc....

            A person -and I have met many many good, 'holy' people- who tries to follow that rubric, whose guiding principle is the heart of the 'good news' would never write the OP. They would never defend the OP.

            First they would take care of their own spiritual needs/problems, dealing with the pain and anger surrounding these "false" claims (remember, your soul to heaven first) and the frustration of knowing the potential spiritual harm to innocents those false claims could do.

            Next, in dealing with those making the claims, they would wear the armor of love. They would try to understand what was at stake, where the reaction was coming from. If it was a purely hate-based, destructive attack, they would simply take it with open arms ("they know not what they do"), if it was a pain-based lashing-out (however unjustified or irrational), they would try to acknowledge, understand, and heal that pain.

            Barnes attacks his attackers. With pot jokes, shoddy analogies, setting up straw-men, anemic association with the WBC (terrible logic/debating tactics all) he tries to shut up anyone who would criticize the Catholic Church, and it's handling of this gruesome, ongoing, scandal.

            Then, for good measure, after all his terrible reasoning, bad statistics, red herrings and illogical metaphors -- he assures us that he's outraged too. He writes a piece trying to ridicule any and everyone who's angry at the CC...and then claims that he thinks that anger is great if it ends up helping.

            Seriously, anger and outrage are good, now could we please just all shut up about it. But....go kids!

            And then you defend him; "it doesn't upset me personally, but I worry about souls".

            There was a post a couple of weeks ago by "New Apologetics" which really struck me. It was the sort of thing I think I could've been proud of if I were still Catholic.

            You honestly believe you have the Word of the living God. You honestly believe that he comes into communion with you every day that you experience the sacrifice of the Mass. You honestly believe that he has redeemed us all, and that your Church is the best way to claim that salvation.

            If I still felt that way, I hope I wouldn't let the WBC pull me down to their level. You don't lose souls, you don't get non-believes LESS interested in your message when you practice what you preach.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Paul, If you'd like to start a thread on a serious problem with official Church doctrine, I'll be happy to discuss it.

      • If it's here, I'd prefer to wait until someone writes an article about one of the topics (I'm sure it's only a matter of time). That way we won't be talking in a vacuum.

        Otherwise, since we're Facebook friends now, just send me a message sometime and we can chat about whatever we like in real time.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Will do.

    • Geena Safire

      "They're waving the signs because the Catholic Church hurt them."

      This!

  • John Bell

    Here is another, very recent example of the church harboring a known child abuser.

    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2013/09/clergy-abuse/

    "In public statements, the archdiocese expressed regret for "the pain caused by clergy misconduct" and offered support to victims. And it emphasized that it immediately reported the allegations to police. "They did the right thing," Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in September 2012.

    The message from the archdiocese was clear – this wouldn't be like the many horrific clergy sex abuse cases that rocked the Roman Catholic Church a decade ago. Times had changed. The safety of children mattered more than the career of a predator priest.

    The reality was far different. This wasn't the first time Wehmeyer had been in trouble. Top archdiocese leaders knew of Wehmeyer's sexual compulsions for nearly a decade but kept him in ministry and failed to warn parishioners, according to canon lawyer Jennifer Haselberger, who resigned in April, and dozens of other interviews and documents."

    This has been going on for decades (maybe centuries) and I seriously doubt that it has or ever will stop.

  • gwen

    Maybe there should be a follow-up piece by someone from the SNAP organization? (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

  • DannyGetchell

    An article which attempts to link legitimately felt concerns about child abuse to the worldview of the Westboro Baptist Church is either Olympic-caliber strawmanning or outright disingenuousness, I'm not sure which.

    • picklefactory

      Why choose?

  • robtish

    I'm starting to see a pattern in these articles: they address one point while ignoring the larger, more relevant point.

    In this case, the article addresses the conduct of individual molesters while giving little attention to the culpability of the Church hierarchy and it official policies. (I call that the bigger issue, because a complaint against an individual is less relevant for our purposes here than a complaint against the entire institution.

    Similarly, a recent article tried to explain why God does not condemn all evils in the Bible, while ignoring the more serious issue that God sometimes commands these evils.

    Fortunately, these omissions are raised in the comments section, but I wonder if this might be a good suggestion: Whenever one of your writers is going to answer a criticism of the Church or Bible, perhaps they should run it past a critic to make sure they're getting the criticism right.

    • Randy Gritter

      A bishop who did not act on a report of abuse and allowed it to continue or to move to another parish. Is that an individual complaint or is that an institutional complain? I think that is key because the Catholic understanding of the church is that the whole is the body of Christ but every individual member, including bishops and the pope, every member is a sinful human being. So bad acts by bishops are still individual bad acts.

      • Geena Safire

        It was many, many bishops in most dioceses around the world. And the cover-up was and still is institutional. It is manifestly not a few bad apples.

        Years of legal battles are still required to force each diocese (most recently Los Angeles) to reveal the true extent of the abuse, evasion of criminal law, cover-ups and the making inaccessible funds for reparation. The rot goes all the way to the top, including Ratzinger's failure to assent to defrock many abuser priests, including a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin.

        At all costs -- including the cost of soul murder of the victims -- bishop after bishop strove to protect the church from scandal and the risk of damaging the faith of the members and the loss of funds fairly due to victims.

        When the church cardinals and bishops claim, "We didn't know that child molesters can very rarely be rehabilitated. We didn't know the extent of damage to minors from sexual abuse. We didn't know our lack of actual training for celibacy was necessary. We didn't know there were so many victims. We couldn't have known." and so forth, ..

        ...I can only think of the RCC claim of their main line to the source of all good and of absolute truth and wonder "If y'all admit you didn't have divine guidance on all those issues, after 2000 years, but instead figured them out at the same time (or after) the rest of humanity, then how can you claim celestial wisdom about any of the rest?"

        • Geena, I'm afraid you are straying from the facts to make a point. I see some loose statements about "many bishops" and "most diocese" and the Middle Ages (for crying out loud!) which taken literally are either untrue or at least purely subjective.

          As a result, this whole conversation is becoming useless. We have people pointing to acts that everyone agrees are evil; This is Proposition 1. But then people want to make inductions in different directions. The pro-Church faction makes one
          set of inductions (the Church as a whole is not evil). The anti-Church Faction makes the opposite induction. Then each side argues about the validity of the inductions, with occasional sneers and crucial but indefensible generalizations. Other than venting spleen, where is this going?

          People keep talking about "the Catholic Church" as though it is the Roman Empire, with an almighty emperor disposing of the least minion accruing to his personal whim, and all the Cardinals and Bishops following his will like the Nazgul. The rights of the accused are respected in the Church, and have been for centuries, http://strangenotions.com/history/inquisition/. On top of that, the members of the clergy, from priests on up, are responsible for the salvation of souls. At least some of the bishops were trying to do right by both the victims and the perpetrators.

          And before you continue demonizing priests, tell me how many you’ve known. I’ve known a bunch, good men all, including the one who was falsely accused of molestation and unfairly driven from his parish by – ready for this? – his bishop, who was afraid of what the press would do to him if he stood up for an innocent man.

          So tell me you believe that every last member of every last diocese is a criminal or a pervert. Say it straight up, or deny it
          if you have the backbone. But stop throwing around invective. You're an intelligent and sophisticated person. It’s beneath you.

          • Geena Safire

            I didn't say anything about the Middle Ages.

            In my comments, I have not demonized priests. I have always noted that abuser priests represent a very small percentage of priests. I have also noted, as the John Jay report has found, that much of the abuse is correlated with emotional or psychosexual immaturity of the clergy.

            Every Catholic priest I have known has been either marvelous (most) (including the one that molested a teen) or at least a fine person (few).

            My main issue is with the bishops and the rest of the hierarchy.

            They greatly exacerbated the problem by disbelieving or blaming victims, by enforcing eternal silence, by focusing on protecting the reputation of the church above the rights of the victims.

            They also created the problem by their deep denial and misunderstanding about human development and the need for intimacy due to their insistence on already possessing "the truth," which allowed the vast majority of all their priests to be, lifelong, emotionally and psychosexually immature.

            I'm also tired of the No True Scotsman fallacy, the refrain of "The church is right, but the people in it are but mere frail humans." The church does not possess "the truth." If they possessed "the truth," such disasters wouldn't happen. Catholicism doesn't work. If it worked, as claimed, its people would be better.

            I'm not saying the church is any better than any other human organization. But the church is saying that, and the church is wrong. It lays claim to having the only direct line to God and so forth, and it is wrong.

            I'm not saying the church's system for human development/formation is no good. I'm saying it's not better than anyone else's.

            My main issue is with the church's hubris.

          • Fair enough. And I do think the word "demonize' was too strong. But still, when you claim ' the vast majority of all their priests to be, lifelong, emotionally and psychosexually immature," I think you are unfairly generalizing.

            That's really what the lead article is about. These kinds of generalizations about the Catholic Church are irrational in the same way that hateful stereotypes against blacks, Jews, women, and others are irrational. There are many signs of this kind of generalizing in this comment section.

            To the rest of your comments, I have to think of the old saying that the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for Saints – or a private club for only the perfect people. Asking you to understand this is, I believe, a reasonable thing to ask.

            Peace

          • Geena Safire

            Peace to you, Glenn. I do understand that many people misunderstand what happened in the child sex scandal, so I can understand that you might have 'read' something I didn't write.

            I understand the Catholic church is filled with regular human beings. If you would read what I actually wrote, I am specifically commenting on the church's hubris, in this matter and generally.

            As to my 'claim' regarding the development of American priests, it is not a 'claim'; it is reporting. Here is a good summary of two of the main sources on this topic:

            "There have been significant warnings to church leaders about the impending exposure of celibacy violations. Dr. Conrad Baars and Dr. Anna Terruwe presented a scholarly paper to the 1971 Synod of Bishops at the Vatican and shortly afterward to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Citing 40 years of combined psychiatric practice treating about 1,500 priests, they concluded that 20-25 percent of North American priests had serious psychiatric difficulties and 60-70 percent suffered from emotional immaturity. They concluded that the psychosexual immaturity manifested itself in heterosexual and homosexual activity.

            The following year, Kennedy and Heckler's study was published and their findings concurred with those of Baars and Terruwe, concluding that just 7 percent of American priests were psychologically and emotionally developed; 18 percent were psychologically and emotionally developing; 66 percent were underdeveloped; and 8 percent were maldeveloped.

            Kennedy and Heckler stated that the underdeveloped and maldeveloped priests (74 percent) had unresolved psychosexual problems and issues that are usually worked through in adolescence, adding: 'Sexuality is, in other words, non-integrated into the lives of underdeveloped priests and many of them function at a pre-adolescent or adolescent level of psychosexual growth.' "

            'Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2000-year Paper Trail', Thomas P. Doyle, A.W. Richard Sipe, Patrick J. Wall, 2005, p 57-58

             

            "Less than 5 percent of the priests with allegations of abuse exhibited behavior consistent with a diagnosis of pedophilia (a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by recurrent fantasies, urges, and behaviors about prepubescent children). Thus, it is inaccurate to refer to abusers as 'pedophile priests.'"   The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States 1950-2010', John Jay College, 2011, Executive Summary p 3

          • I’m familiar with Father Doyle and his work on behalf of the victims of sexual abuse, and also the Jay report. I don’t know the book you referenced, and I can’t find any mainstream reviews of it.

            I have to say that this appears to be simply another case of the problem of generalization I wrote about earlier. The opinions of psychiatrists necessarily involve subjective judgments: this does not make them wrong or unreliable, at least not in all cases, but it is a cautionary note about accepting them uncritically or applying them universally.

            I find myself feeling that this evidence doesn’t support the fairly sweeping conclusion I think you are trying to draw. It seems like saying that most trees have caterpillars, so we should cut down the forests, or my local youth symphony orchestra doesn’t really play that well so it should be disbanded.

            And I would offer this contrary evidence: the many millions of people, myself included, who were successfully educated, healed, fed and/or spiritually guided by the same group of priests. There certainly are things wrong with “them” — now I’m generalizing — but they are doing a good deal right, too.

            Peace -- and I do mean that!

          • Geena Safire

            That particular book just happened to have a good quote to grab for you. But the work by Conrad Baars and Kennedy & Heckler is quite well known. Also, one of the authors of the book is Richard Sipe, who has done a lot of well-known work on Catholic priests and the issue of celibacy.

  • robtish

    "The Wiccan and the Darwinist can set aside their mutual contempt for each other and smoke a few bowls over the Church’s position on abortion. It happens."

    Really? I'm not sure you're doing yourself any favors by publishing a jocular article on child molestation, complete with humorous graphic.

  • Paul Boillot

    By the way, Mr. Barnes links to an article which contains a damning account of how the general public has ignored the morally and practically equivalent scandal of teacher rape in public schools, refusing to acknowledge that the Catholic church is not the only organization with an institutional problem of abuse, denial, obfuscation and lies.

    At least so I presume; I can't be sure because the link doesn't work.

  • Geena Safire

    Dr. Thomas Plante, a Professor of Psychology and an Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University
    School of Medicine...

    Wouldn't it be nice if authors didn't try to mask their sources?

    Plante is, primarily, a professor at the very Catholic Santa Clara University, which position Barnes neglected to cite. He also happens to have a contract that allows him to teach a course from time to time at nearby Stanford University School of Medicine -- that's what an "adjunct professor" is.

    In addition, Plante is the director of the Spirituality and Health Institute through which he has counseled, inter alia, dozens of abuser priests.

    I have no issue with abuser priests getting excellent counseling. My issue here is that Plante has an apparent conflict of interest. Barnes was either trying to avoid the implications of this conflict or was trying to dress up Plante as working at the more prestigious Stanford, or both.

    More importantly, is Plante a statistician or a researcher? No. Should the article then be quoting interpretations of statistics from him or the actual statistics from the source that Plante used? Journalism 101 says that the original source should be cited; otherwise, the information is called "hearsay."

    • gwen

      Excellent points. Dr. Plante doesn't even cite his "magical" statistics on the page linked in the article. I don't know any statistician or bio-statistician who would ever, ever, mention a statistic without proper citation. Anyone with a doctorate who teaches in academia knows this.

      • Geena Safire

        Dr. Plante's article was not a research paper but an opinion piece, and thus I don't think Plante's article needed to cite sources, although he should have them documented and at-hand if asked. But Barnes was wrong in citing Plante as his source.

        • gwen

          perhaps, I still find it sloppy research, sloppy scholarship not to cite/mention sources.

      • Geena Safire

        Dr. Plante's article was not a research paper but an opinion piece, and thus I don't think Plante's article needed to cite sources, although he should have them documented and at-hand if asked. But Barnes was wrong in citing Plante as his source for data.

  • Geena Safire

    The misquoting, misinterpretation, mis-sourcing, and second-sourcing in this article would have earned Barnes a failing grade in any writing class -- except creative writing. Good sentence structure, though.

    Barnes quoted Plante as having written “available research suggests that
    approximately two to five percent of priests have had a sexual
    experience with a minor.”

    Plante actually wrote -- likely based on the 2004 John Jay study (p 27) -- "approximately 4% of priests during the past half century (and mostly in the 1960s and 1970s) have had a sexual experience with a minor (i.e., anyone under the age of 18)."

    Barnes thus misquoted Plante's "4%". (As noted in a separate comment, Plante is a biased, non-research secondary source that Barnes shouldn't have been using for statistics in the first place.) Perhaps Barnes was referring to the percentage of offenders among diocesan priests (5%) and religious priests (2.7%) (2004 John Jay study, p 4), but this was nowhere in Plante's linked article.

    Barnes also quoted Plante as writing "is lower than the general adult male population that is best estimated to be closer to eight percent.” This number is nowhere in Plante's article, although Plante does say that the 4% prevalence is "lower than the general adult male population which may double these numbers." First, this is a misquote of Plante. Second, "may double" means something quite different from "best estimated to be closer to eight percent." Third, Plante didn't cite his genpop source and Barnes didn't search for an original
    source.

    The actual genpop numbers have been very difficult to estimate; sources I've
    seen are all over the map, from two to twenty-four percent. The range is due in part to differing definitions (from reported serial abuse of pre-pubescent children to anonymous, self-report of any inappropriate sexual behavior with a person less than 18 years old, even once, where the person is five or more years older). The range also depends on the quality and effectiveness of the survey questions.

    Importantly, the 2004 John Jay study evaluated reported allegations. It did not survey priests to discover, in confidence with anonymity, how many priests had actually ever engaged in sexual behavior with a minor. This should be taken into account in any comparisons.

     

    Of note: the 2004 John Jay study found that the rate of clinical pedophilia among Catholic priests was relatively constant during the 52 years of the study and remains so. "Less than 5 percent of the priests with allegations of abuse exhibited behavior consistent with a diagnosis of pedophilia (a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by recurrent fantasies, urges, and behaviors about prepubescent children). Thus, it is inaccurate to refer to abusers as 'pedophile priests'."

    (The 2004 John Jay study is "The Nature And Scope Of Sexual Abuse Of Minors
    By Catholic Priests And Deacons In The United States 1950-2002." The 2011 John Jay study is "The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010".)

  • Geena Safire

    Why is there no stereotype against public-school teachers?

    Because public-school teachers are teaching math and social studies and chemistry.

    But RCC priests are representatives of God on earth, specially anointed in apostolic succession from Peter, and trained for years in righteousness according the best methods developed over two thousand years with divine guidance at every step, trained to live sexually celibate and to serve and teach God's people.

    Math smarts isn't much defense against inappropriate sexual desire and behavior.

    After careful selection as worthy to serve, a priest's seminary education and on-going spiritual/human formation and prayer and devoutly practiced attention to God's will ought to defend against inappropriate sexual desire and behavior. But they don't.

    Selection of a priest to be a bishop is also done with ardent prayer and divinely-inspired organizational methods, with advanced training. These should be the best of the best, and should be the best shepherds to the flock. Instead, bishops first defend the institution and its wealth and income stream, and first protect of the abusers instead of the abused.

    If the RCC is the repository of absolute truth and divine command, why aren't its best better?

    • vito

      this is an excellent post. Sort of what I said, but better articulated.

  • Mikegalanx

    "Thus we see record numbers of Anglicans and Lutherans becoming Catholic,
    incredibly improved relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church, and, in
    general, great strides towards Christian unity...."

    Is this an attempt at irony? Record numbers of Lutherans and Anglicans are becoming Catholic because they share Westboro's and the Catholic Church's intolerance of gays (and misogyny, too) . Ditto for Putin's Church.

    "..while Evangelicals, Agnostics and New Agers all sit together on the
    sidelines with identically incensed “you-don’t-allow-birth-control?”
    expressions on their faces."

    Is the author totally unaware of what is actually happening? Evangelical Churches never used to oppose birth control ( they weren't particularly anti-abortion either) but they have become much closer to the Catholic Church on this issue as part of their political alliance, i.e. opposing the Affordable Care Act's provisions for insurance covering contraception.

    "The Wiccan and the Darwinist can set aside their mutual contempt for
    each other and smoke a few bowls over the Church’s position on abortion.
    It happens."

    From the commenting rules:

    "The rhetorical assault known as ad hominem, Latin for "to the
    person," is one of the most common fallacies online. Instead of engaging
    actual arguments, the culprit criticizes, insults, belittles, judges,
    or mocks the person making the argument. He blasts the opponent's
    character, intelligence, education, background, motivations, or
    sometimes all of the above. Attacking persons is fallacious and
    uncharitable and will not be permitted here."

    Addendum: Unless it's a Catholic attacking non-Catholics; then it's anything goes.

  • Geena Safire

    Ninety-four percent of the abuse incidents reported to the Catholic Church from 1950 through 2009 took place before 1990,

    First, Barnes' article should state or link to (better) the source of statistics. In this case, that would be the The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002. Specifically, Table 4.3.1 on page 78. FTFY.

    Second, the report (as seen in the title) runs from 1950 to 2002, not 2009.

    Third, the report also notes (on page 5 in the Executive Summary), "But, these conclusions have to be qualified because additional allegations for those time periods may surface in the future." That is, not all of the incidents from 1990 to 2002 that will ever be reported have yet been reported.

    Fourth, as Barnes notes, these are reported abuse incidents. Barnes didn't mention that a significant percent of cases of child sexual abuse are never reported. "73% of child victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year. 45% of victims do not tell anyone for at least 5 years. Some never disclose." (Smith et al., 2000; Broman-Fulks et al., 2007)

    The situation has gotten much better over the last two decades. But Barnes' statement, in addition to being wrong, is wrong in a way that overstates the amount of improvement.

  • Geena Safire

    We did not avoid evil, we fought it, and we let the world see, because we are held to a higher standard than the world.

    Let's just rewrite history, shall we?

    For decades, and likely for its entire history, the Catholic Church has squelched all rumors of child sex abuse by clergy. The first defense was a good offense: The child is making it up, accusing the good Father, who could imagine such a thing? (There are many stories of children being severely punished at home or at school if they reported their abuse.) When there was evidence of abuse, such as tearing or sexually-transmitted disease, deflection was the tactic: Someone must have hurt the poor dear, but it couldn't have been the good Father; the child must be confused or too afraid to name the real perpetrator. If deflection was unsuccessful, then the rule was to blame it on the child: Children become so emotionally attached to priests so it's not surprising they would become physically attracted also, taking advantage of the priest's pastoral affection with seductive behavior. Or the child was a tool of the devil sent to tempt the priest.

    But above all, the command from the Vatican was for absolute secrecy, even for the abused child, on pain of excommunication -- or under threat of not paying damages until a secrecy oath was signed.

    It was only when more and more victims of Catholic clergy spoke out about their abuse across the United States and the world (especially as the stigma of abuse and of same-sex behavior decreased) and the emerging scope of the scandal became obvious to all that the Catholic Church finally took decisive action.

    We did not avoid evil, we fought it, and we let the world see, because we are held to a higher standard than the world.

    The Catholic Church did not "avoid evil" or fight it. It evilly denied and hid evil acts.

    The Catholic Church did not "let the world see." The victims let the world see and had to force the church to see. The Catholic Church is held to a higher standard, and it failed miserably.

    And despite great strides in reducing current child sex abuse, the church still fights tooth and nail, year after year in diocese after diocese, against any subpoena or other legal request for disclosure of information about abuser priests and the actions taken (or not taken) by their superiors. (A recent example is Los Angeles, finally force to disclose after many years of fierce legal deflection.)

    The Catholic Church finally took aggressive action, but it only took aggressive action because it had no choice.

  • Jun

    "The truth is that child-molestation is not a Catholic problem. It is a problem of western culture in general."
    It is of course a Catholic problem and of western culture as well(in general).
    But I don't see any surprise, from a Catholic point of view, a generalization of what the Church really is. The existence of this problem does not necessarily follow that the Church is no longer.

  • vito

    it's not about the rate at which priests rape boys compared to other professions or parents or whatever. It's about institutional cover-up. Stop pretending you do not understand that.
    And what concerns birth control, Catholics are in no way different in the actual practice of contraception and abortion compared to the rest of the population. Why you chose to mention that as some distinguishing feature? I live in a predominantly Catholic country, with nearly 4/5 of the population Catholic, and contraception has never been an issue here. Although our bishops never issued a formal recommendation to "follow your conscience" as the Conferences of Bishops in Germany and Austria, the continuing silence on this topic in church clearly has the same effect. I would easily bet most Catholics here do not even know the Church is even against it, let alone it being "grave sin."

  • Guest

    You want to solve this problem purge the gays for the rank of the priest, bishops and cardinals. Just get the gay filth out of the Church by any and all means, my own nephew was harassed bay gay cleric when he was 17. I can assure threats of violence towards would be abusers work wonders...

  • Baron Kaza

    Purge the gays out of the Church, especially in the ranks of the Priesthood, just get the gay filth out of the Church... then you will solve this problem ...

  • Patrick Lahey

    You jump on the condemnation bandwagon when you proclaim "If a man commits a crime as heinous and hideous as child molestation, he deserves all the ..., excommunication, and punishment prescribed." Where is the mercy? Where is the redemption? Where is the allowance for the good man who was weak and struggling emotionally or psychologically and fell into a horror from which society allows no tolerable escape? If he doesn't have a place where he can go for help when he recognizes his problem, he becomes locked in with no possibility for escape.

  • Jeremy

    I had been on the border of agnosticism for a while, but finally left the Catholic Church for good after revelation of the sex scandal. I had been raised and confirmed a Catholic, told that God worked divinely through His Church. Yet, it was within His Church that such horrors -- rape, molestation, torture -- were allowed to occur. Why, oh why, would I believe in an intervening God when such atrocities were allowed to be committed by His Church?

    The Catholic Church is a man-made organization, with all the same flaws as any other. There is nothing divine in it. If God would not answer the prayers of a faithful follower of His Church, raped by a priest, then why would I or anyone else ever burden His ears with a prayer again?

    Through all my years of Catechism, all my years in the pew at mass, everything I ever heard from the priest and the Bible seemed to be fanciful, wishful thinking. The sex scandal provided empirical evidence of what I felt in my heart: The God of Abraham is a fictional creation.

  • David Hennessey

    We would never apply a stereotype to all critics of Catholicism but "...while Evangelicals, Agnostics and New Agers all sit together on the sidelines with identically incensed “you-don’t-allow-birth-control?” expressions on their faces."

    Yes, all non-Catholics are just like the Westboro Church, that's the perfect argument to draw them to the true Church, insult them, tell them they have ONE philosophy, love of abortion, tell them they are simple-minded children to make what point?

    All agnostics didn't accuse all Catholic priests of pedophilia, neither did the others, most of those accusations come straight from Catholics, the victims, remember them? So you ignorantly accuse others of all using stereotypes by using a stereotype far worse and more untrue yourself, find someone to look at that log in your eye, it must hurt.

  • Alexandre Lacombe

    how to win an argument against a catholic:
    you basically tell him religion is there to keep living a miserable life in the hope you get to go to heavens. It basically runs on the biggest fear of people: Death. It helped governers keep control of the population for centuries by lying to them and giving them a reason to keep up like they are going. It brings answers to questions that nobody could be able to answer and take full benefit of it. Canadians have left their beliefs behind in the past, but not americans. Id like to ask myself why...