Monday, November 05, 2007

Kevin Johnson Argues (Amazingly) That Episcopal Ecclesiology is a Key Explanation of the Allegedly "Systemic" Tragedy of Molesting Priests

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I couldn't believe my eyes when reading this latest post (and subsequent comments in the combox) from Kevin Johnson, the Grand Poobah at ReformedCatholicism.com (note the eloquent title, too. I have often documented his swipes at the Catholic Church and Catholics, and converts and Catholic apologists, and Cardinal Newman (see my Catholic Apologetics page in the "Anti-Apologetics" section).

Kevin has become increasingly shrill and irrational in recent months (while at the same time he kow-tows to James White more and more). I have noticed that he loves to (especially) mention the sad sexual scandal that has occurred in the Catholic Church at every opportunity, as a means to discredit the Catholic Church. I won't even bother to document this. If anyone cares to delve into Kevin's irresponsible rhetoric, they can easily document the many instances.

But his latest round surpasses all the other comments by far, because now he is connecting the scandalous behavior to the very structure of the Catholic Church. He thinks having a priesthood at all, and bishops (episcopal Church government) can explain the scandal, as causes, in and of themselves. I know this is hard to believe, but he is actually "arguing" this. I urge folks to read his article and the combox thread in their entirety, but here is the proof that he is "arguing" in the fashion that I have described (the words below are all his except for a few of my interjections in brackets):

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It is often within the purview of many “converts” to Rome to do everything possible to show the world how legitimate their transformation is but one wonders what happens after the years have sunk in and time has passed long enough for them to actually understand what they did and in many cases, how wrong they were about these sorts of things. In my view, converting to Rome is the most Protestant of all acts. Returning to Mother Church in America is a return to the fundamental identity of Protestantism for it is only in a conscious turning of the mind toward Rome that one fully realizes the power of what some have termed “private interpretation”.

In truth, many conversions are ill-informed and quite likely has something other to do with things than making the right decision.

. . . I would like to believe many of my more Anglo-Catholic or Roman friends about apostolic succession and the need for episcopacy but the fact is that over the last thousand years our bishops in large part have been not just a problem in the Church but the problem.

And so we have Catholic priests rightly and duly called and ordained by limousine driving bishops serving the Body of Christ while molesting the little ones that Christ died for. Yeah, a real HIGH view of the sacraments. Only as high as they can lift their cassock.

Millstones around the neck for those who offend the little ones. No doubt.

* * *

[Before starting my documentation of Kevin's equally asinine and stupid combox comments, I'd like to recognize the refreshing protests against Kevin's atrocious "argument" from "St. Worm" (Anglican): one / two / three / four]

[Poster Randy Tucker -- among other vigorous critiques of Kevin's rotgut / crackpot "analysis", noted a recent article about Protestant clergy and sexual abuse. I have a post myself, that documented a great deal of research along those lines, too. I don't know any Catholic that has written on the topic, who has not expressed outrage at the scandal; that is not at issue. I made a strong statement early on, on my "Scandals" page, and for a few years, had a long listing of Catholic articles decrying the abuses, but also correcting media and Protestant distortions of what happened and false conclusions based on the scandal]

The mention of Eli’s sons brings me to the comments concerning Roman priests. I must be frank and direct here and my words are strong here and I truly hope you don’t take unnecessary offense at them. It saddens me that both you and Albert are unduly worried about the reputation of the priesthood and individual priests when the systemic destruction and sexual abuse of children exists in the Roman communion and the equally heinous scandal of her bishops in covering it up only adds buckets of salt to this grevious [sic] and gaping wound. Shame on you both for defending Rome’s own here at the expense of the victims of these horrendous acts who undoubtedly can’t look at any priest again and see anything but horror and shame whether that priest is personally responsible or not. Shame especially and so much more on the guilty priests who deserve the punishment they will undoubtedly receive save the boundless and incomprehensible mercy of God intervening in their cases.

. . . I am sure there are good Roman priests out there and my comments are not meant to slight them unnecessarily. The Lord over the history of the Church has had a habit of preserving a remnant among the severely wicked and depraved. Those that are doing legitimate ministry in that environment are to be praised for their faithfulness but let us not get carried away and forget about the horrible abuses that wicked men in Rome’s communion commit in the name of a priesthood that was never really theirs in the first place. May our Lord protect His little ones!

. . . I realize it is a common thing to argue that the problem is not the form of government but really the people who exercise that government. I wish I could believe that such was the case but we must realize that a systemic problem like the abuses in Rome are very much helped by the ecclesiastical system that works as it does. People are no doubt at fault and perhaps chiefly so but it would be naive to say that the institution that is Rome had nothing to do with the horrendous acts of evil and wickedness that I note above.

I would also note that it is tragic that very few Catholics are willing to speak up and discuss these issues openly, sadly. But, that too is representative of the nature of the institution and makes my point only all the more.

. . . I don’t doubt that there is abuse in Protestant churches and I wouldn’t want to be party to minimizing anything in that regard though I question the numbers provided in the article you linked to and the size of the sample as to whether that information is quite as relevant as you may claim.

The more important question that I have brought up to St. Worm however begs to be answered and that is whether or not there is a systemic problem with abuse in Roman circles. I believe the answer is undoubtedly yes.

. . . But a faulty understanding of the nature of ministry undoubtedly lends itself to produce environments where abuse can and does happen.

Pretending that there is a special sacerdotal class with “sacramental magisterial authority” that rules over a lesser flock undoubtedly leaves room for abuse and takes advantage of the weak. [Kevin's own bolding]

Add to that another level of bureaucracy in an overprotective episcopacy, a system of canon law designed in some sense to protect Rome’s own, and a seminary system that indiscriminately recruits men into the priesthood that have or develop a proclivity towards deviant sexual behavior for a variety of reasons (not the least of which being a life of celibacy) and the situation becomes even more obvious as to the nature of the clerical abuse that occurs.

No doubt sectors of Protestantism struggle similarly in more authoritarian environments such as conservative Presbyterianism and the results may find themselves out not necessarily (but possibly) in child abuse but in abusive relationships and legalism or in excessive concentration on doctrinal matters over and above the greater concerns of the gospel of Christ.

Finally, it is fair in one sense to point the finger elsewhere (ie. to Protestantism and its problems) but I daresay that Roman Catholics would be much better off actually admitting the problem and doing everything possible to solve it.

. . . Cardinal Law is still in Rome, is he not? Priests are still in Italy and elsewhere protected from prosecution because the Church shields their whereabouts or keeps them from being appropriately prosecuted. . . . Rome has not only been slow to do anything about this problem, she has generally ignored it and even perpetuated the continual shielding of priests by the bishops.

And, amazingly, you talk as if the abuse is over and the scandal is done–as if the Roman Church has moved past this when it is still occurring and still a problem. Dioceses are going bankrupt here for a reason and until Rome changes the situation itself will not change. In other words, this is — as you refuse to recognize — a systemic problem that has exactly to do with the identity and nature of Rome as an institution including the people and the identity and nature of the offices she claims for herself.

You can assert that the Catholic priesthood is a legitimate understanding of ministry all you like, but an assertion is no argument. I have provided for all to see arguments contrary to your understanding. If you are interested in real discussion instead of pulpiteering for Rome’s priesthood, you will take the time to answer them. Otherwise do us all a favor and leave your propaganda about the positive image of the Catholic Church in regards to her abuses on some Catholic apologetic website where people will actually believe you regardless of the facts.

. . . What you haven’t done is deal with my original assertion yet again regarding the systemic nature of this sexual and other abuse in Rome with any amount of seriousness.

. . . You must never read your Bible. The Apostle Paul wished that men would cut their penises off before becoming false teachers in demanding circumcision of others (Galatians 5:12) and I have no doubt that he would say the same of those who today actually use their organs to violate and injure little girls and boys in the name of Christ and by the authority of Rome!

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