Monday, November 05, 2007

Kevin Johnson's Latest Slander: Catholic Apologists Care Little -- If At All -- About Children Who Have Been Molested by Evil Priests

The Whore of Babylon, from The Apocalypse, 1498
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528)

I've already noted in my last installment, the abominable post from Reformed Protestant (oops, "Catholic") polemicist Kevin Johnson. It "argued" (if indeed such absurd ranting deserves to be described in such a dignified fashion) that the sexual scandal in the Catholic Church was caused by "systemic" problems of episcopal government and the papacy. The very structure of the Catholic Church is largely to blame for the tragedy, so sez Kevin. Now Kevin has blessed us with another of his increasingly vapid, fatuous jeremiads, adding even more asinine insults: some directed (in a cowardly veiled fashion, but unmistakably) to myself.

He didn't have the guts to even make a link to my last critique when he replied, nor to even mention my name. Yet he came here on my blog (assuming it was him and not someone simply using his name) and referred us to his latest post. I am not allowed to comment on his blog (having long since been banned). So I can only challenge him to give me the rudimentary courtesy of linking to my post(s), since I can't announce them on his blog. Meanwhile, I am afforded no small forum to reply to his slanders and damnable lies here on this blog.

I shall now reply point-by-point. His words will be in blue (all italics are his own):

In the last few days I’ve been all too frank and even crass.

I agree. I would also add, stupid and ignorant and slanderous . . .

I’m sure it’s shocked some.

I can't say -- sadly -- that I'm one of them.

It’s certainly provoked some predictable reaction in certain pro-Roman circles and the readers who haven’t been careful enough to examine everything I’ve said in this regard seem to think I’ve become “increasingly shrill” and even “irrational” towards Rome.

And how are we supposed to react to lies and slanders about our Church? Kevin's analysis doesn't even attain to heights of the most elementary logical understanding. It was a judgmental piece of garbage so bad that I've rarely seen actual anti-Catholic propagandistic manure sink so low (Kevin is not anti-Catholic; he is gracious enough to claim us poor Catholics as his brothers in Christ, despite all of our manifest shortcomings that he writes endlessly about).

There’s a reason, however, for the harsh criticism I’ve been offering. The abuse is real. Children have been and are continuing to be molested by the priests of Rome. It ought to stop.

Sin ought to stop wherever it occurs. I agree. Is there a child somewhere right now being molested by a Catholic priest? Sadly, perhaps so (I don;t know how often it happens). But that is not the only place where such sins are occurring. To single out the Catholic Church as if it is far and away the most responsible party in the evil practice of child molestation is absolutely outrageous. One can cut some slack for emotional outrage, for sure, due to the disgustingly evil , tragic sins and ghastly acts under consideration. But there is a line that should not be crossed. When someone is willing to shamelessly lie and distort because he sees it as an opportunity to score "theological points" then it should be vigorously opposed and exposed, as the case may be.

It ought to be a shameful thing that demands more attention

No one is denying that it is shameful (the sin itself). No one who is not a child molester himself or some kind of moral moron would deny it. What is questioned are the claims made: as if the sin continues on unabated in the catholic Church and nothing is being done about it; that it is actually "systemic" and perpetuated by the structure of the Church itself.

. . . than whether or not the instrumentality of the sacrament is affected by the conduct of a priest who practices such wickedness. It ought to be more important than discussing the legitimacy of a priestly office in the Roman communion.

The problem is that Kevin is arguing completely illogically. He uses a scandal and corruption among a tiny group of corrupt priests to condemn the priesthood, episcopacy, even the papacy. Since he has made that unwarranted jump, others (most not even catholics, but fair-minded and logically consistent) are arguing against it, and then Kevin, in his mighty cerebral glory and righteous indignation, turns right on them, too, and accuses them of placing abstract defenses of a particular belief about ecclesiology above the concerns of child victims.

Attempts to defend Rome’s priests and the priesthood in this regard ought to stop and instead a demand should go out from all that the bishops and priests of Rome work to stop and root out this sort of abuse from her ranks.

Who disagrees with that? It's an old trick of sophistry to pretend as if one's opponents and targets of mockery and ridicule and disdain are not doing what in fact they clearly are doing. As long as the lie works, it is used.

It’s shameful as a Roman Catholic to read my comments and then point your finger at the abuses present in Protestant communions.

The only reason I mention similar abuses among Protestant clergy is to make the rather obvious point that sin knows no institutional bounds, and can be found anywhere. Any kind of sin can be found anywhere and everywhere. Kevin seems to think it is more prevalent in Catholic circles. This is not the case. I produced strong documentation on that, complete with scores of case studies, some time ago. Others have recently produced similar evidence. Kevin doesn't comprehend this. He thinks it is a tactic we are using to put our head in the sand about our own scandals, when in fact, it is he who is putting his head in the sand about equally serious problems in his own house.

Catholic apologists, were they actually apologists for the catholic faith “once for all delivered to the saints”,

Right. The Catholic Church isn't really "catholic"; only Kevin's own makeshift, make-it-up-as-you-go form of pseudo-Reformed pseudo-"Catholicism" can be that.

would be championing the cause of the widow and the orphan and exercising true religion by uprooting and condemning sexual scandal in their own communions wherever they find it.

Isn't that what we have been doing? This bears some examination. I will use my own case, since I am one such apologist with a fairly well-known website (and Kevin later takes direct potshots at me). It so happens that I have spoken up against this outrageous scandal almost from the beginning. If Kevin would take more than five seconds to actually look through my web pages sometime, instead of doing things like making fun of my books by inane one-liners without even reading them, he would notice a page I have, called Inquisition, Crusades, & "Catholic Scandals". On that page I have had a "statement" regarding the scandal for several years now, in which I have not minced words at all.

Kevin claims that Catholic apologists are doing nothing about the scandal, and trying to ignore it and sweep it under the rug. I currently have a link on that page to a book entitled Shaken by Scandals: Catholics Speak Out About Priests' Sexual Abuse. The editor is Dr. Paul Thigpen, currently editor of The Catholic Answer magazine (that specializes in apologetics). Paul was the co-author (with myself) or The New Catholic Answer Bible (more apologetics). He has been the editor of Servant Books.

Now who else is included in this book? Oh, just folks like Raymond Arroyo: well-known from EWTN television programming, Kristine Franklin, frequent speaker at the Defending the Faith Conferences at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and also an EWTN co-host; Al Kresta, a good friend of mine who has a nationally-syndicated Catholic radio show and two apologetics books published; Michael Novak: very well-known Catholic scholar and political commentator, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. (EWTN; debates James White on apologetic topics); and Mark Shea: prominent Catholic apologist. Does that sound like Catholic apologists are doing nothing at all about the problem? We protest by writing. That is what we can do. That's what I did. And it is not nothing.

I also still have a link on my Scandals page to an article by the Jewish writer Michael Medved. He writes:

As the platoons of political correctness pile on regarding priestly pedophilia, it's important to keep in mind another "p" word: perspective.

An objective analysis of the situation suggests, first, that the Catholic church is no worse than others when it comes to the incidence of child molesters in its ranks. Second, whatever the failings of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with this appalling problem (and they are legion), those sins pale in comparison to the blatant hypocrisy of the Church's enemies on this issue.

. . . Plante cites research suggesting that among the general population, 8 percent feel sexually attracted to children – a higher percentage than among priests or other clergy. Such numbers, or course, reflect those who feel sexually drawn to contact with kids, rather than indicating the percentage who actually act upon this inclination [the same source estimated the percentage among priests as 5%, and another source: 2%].

. . . Then there is also the status of the Catholic Church as the most visible, powerful religious institution in the world: General resentment of organized religion will often focus on the Church of Rome, the most centrally organized and hierarchical faith on earth. [wow: almost a premonition of Kevin's nonsense!]

. . . As a non-Catholic, I feel confident that the Church will eventually clean house and deal with the problems of its clergy. But leftwing critics of the Church may never come to grips with the obvious internal contradictions in their own irrational ideas.

But try to find open discussion on the websites of Internet-enabled Roman Catholic apologists about the sexual sins of the Roman priesthood and the episcopacy’s contribution to the same by covering it up.

I'm delighted that Kevin has made this challenge. I had, for many many months, a great (linked) collection of articles about the scandal, including the very hardest-hitting ones, particularly those by Rod Dreher, a columnist at National Review who was so horrified by the scandal that he claims it as a major reason why he left the Catholic Church and embraced Eastern Orthodoxy. Now, if I were so afraid about "open discussion" why would I do that?

Lest Kevin or anyone else doubt this, I can prove it by means of Internet Archive. The Boston sex abuse scandal broke in January 2002. According to Internet Archive, I didn't have anything posted on it as of 8 February 2002, but that's still pretty early on. But sometime between that time and 11 June 2002, when the next archived version of that web page is available, I posted quite a bit of information. The page indicates its latest revision taking place on 22 May 2002, so no later than that, I had all of this material up.

This included my own "statement" that I have retained to the present day, as well as a collection of no less than 44 links to related articles, many by well-known Catholics and Protestants and political commentators alike, including five from Rod Dreher: at the time, the most vehement Catholic critic of the conduct of the bishops involved in the scandal. Anyone can see that my collection of frank articles about the scandal remained on that page until the last archived edition on 12 November 2006, or nearly four -and-a-half years since the earliest documented appearance. I only removed them when I moved all my papers to my blog and was trying to cut down on links, since they are much harder to update on my blog than they were on my old website.

Now, perhaps some other Catholic apologists have tried to sweep this under the rug. But I certainly have not. And those who contributed to the book I mentioned above, have not. Catholic Answers: the largest Catholic apologetics apostolate in North America, did not do so. It had a lengthy article on the topic by Fr. Roger Landry in its May-June 2002 issue. That's some kind of cover-up or laxity? An extensive Q&A on the topic was included in the November 2002 issue. I know that Mark Shea has written many articles on his blog about it as well.

Nor has the bishops' role been ignored or papered over. For example, the Q&A just cited has this section:

How can we excuse the bishops and their actions in handling reports of sexual abuse?

Unquestionably bishops made mistakes. Nevertheless, media reports frequently painted the bishops' actions and motives in the worst possible light. That some priests were assigned to new parishes was widely reported as the deliberate, systematic enabling of continued abuse. In fact, in many such cases psychological "experts" had assured bishops-in keeping with the thinking of the time-that the priests in question had been treated successfully, and they presented no further danger. Subsequent wisdom is that such sexual disorders are far too deep-seated to be cured by a month's stay at a treatment facility. The Christian call to forgiveness and to giving someone a second chance following conversion from even grave sin also played a role.

What about the fact that bishops didn't report allegations of abuse to the police?

The absence of reporting in particular cases is not de facto evidence of malice. Many victims and their families did not want the matter reported to the police and would share what they knew about a given priest with the diocese only on the condition that they not be put through the trauma of a civil investigation and trial.

What you’ll likely find is a defense of the priesthood that blames the individuals who commit such acts and ignores any sort of culpability on the part of the system that produces and forms the character of those same wicked men.

That's not what the above article did, is it? But it doesn't make the ridiculous leap that Kevin makes, by moving on to assert that the system itself produced -- and is the primary cause of -- corrupt, fallen, pedophile priests. The Catholic Church neither made these men homosexuals (as most of them were) nor pedophiles. They did choose that sin on their own. Now, it's true that the Church (because of the huge liberal / modernist crisis that we have been dealing with for 50 years or so) was not vigilant enough to prevent practicing homosexuals from becoming ordained priests. But that has been strongly dealt with in the wake of the scandal.

Then you’ll also be pointed to abuse in Protestant communions to draw attention away from the scandal in question to rest confidence back into Rome’s unquestionably spotless leadership.

No, you'll be pointed there in the same sense that Jewish writer Michael Medved pointed to it: because the reality is that this is not simply a catholic problem or even a problem mainly of Catholic priests. It is a societal problem and a sin problem that crosses many categories.

Ministerial abuse wherever it exists ought to be put down but especially when it’s a matter of taking advantage of the weak and the innocent. The priests of Israel were condemned for similar behavior (Ezekiel 34) and it’s no accident that Paul issued the warning he did about the branches in Romans 11. If only the Church of Rome would heed the warning the Apostle gave to her two thousand years ago!

If only Kevin would apply this to all Christians, rather than just catholic Christians!

More honesty and forthrightness on this subject by Catholics the world round would help this problem. We ought to be ready to discuss the weaknesses of episcopacy and a sacerdotal priesthood as much as we are willing to discuss its strengths especially when the very system that purports to be Christ’s witness and mediation on this earth winds up protecting child molesters and pedophiles.

Okay, fine, Kevin. Let's start taking steps immediately to dismantle the episcopal structure of Eastern Orthodoxy, too, lest it face its own scandal supposedly brought on because of its ecclesiology, rather than the sins of the perpetrators.

What good is it to note that in the first five hundred years of the Church apostolic succession and episcopacy saved the Church from delving into a myriad of heresies when the very same episcopacy has become the fountainhead for all sorts of corruption not the least of which being the sexual scandals that have rocked the Roman Communion in the last so many years?

Right. We need to adopt Presbyterian government right away! That will clearly solve the problem! Why do we delay?

Can we really say that the great Athanasius or the mighty Augustine would have stood side by side with Cardinal Law in Boston while he continued to defer and allow children to be molested by priests in his diocese? Would they have fled with him to Rome?

Is Kevin saying that Pope John Paul II knew what was going on in Boston the whole time and let it continue with his full sanction?

What has gone unanswered by Catholics in regards to this line of questioning by yours truly (and others) is whether or not there is any systemic issue here in the Roman Communion in terms of its leadership. Has the episcopacy any culpability in these matters?

If Kevin thinks that it does, let him produce the evidence, rather than shoot off his mouth with none.

Is the system itself that is in place currently helping or hurting the situation? I find that it has encouraged silence and tragic tolerance by the laity, a free hand for priests to do untold evil in their sacristies, and a bishopric that outdoes the cosa nostra in scheming against the law enforcement authorities of our day in allowing wicked priests a free hand.

Is that so? So Kevin wants to claim that this is still going on after all the reforms that have been put in place? Where is the evidence?

To add horrible insult to unspeakable injury, it appears that the only reason things have changed for the better if at all is because the bishopric and its priests got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

Sadly, this is how sin always works. I don't see the high-profile Protestants who have been caught in scandals, confessing before they were caught, either. Jimmy Swaggart sure did give us a bunch of crocodile tears after he was caught and "repented" on national TV (and then was caught several times more with prostitutes after that).

It seems to me that many Catholics have an inability to look at their leaders and the communion that is theirs with any sort of critical eye and as a result men like Cardinal Law get a free pass.

I don't give him a free pass at all. I think it is disgusting. I don't fully understand the policy regarding him now. Mark Shea apparently offered an explanation in the book mentioned above. I would like to see it myself.

Oh. And children continue to get molested. And popes and bishops do little if anything to stop these things. They essentially become powerless. We ought to be able to ask whether or not Rome’s understanding of her own infallibility and the nature of the Magisterium as she sees it has anything at all to do with how the laity are silenced and men can rise up in leadership and abuse them.

What does all that have to do with the sinful acts herein discussed? Obviously, if the same sins occur elsewhere (in greater numbers, by many accounts), not under the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church: in many Protestant environments (with their 10,000 differences and in the general public, then how can hierarchy per se be such a huge cause?

What I would like to know is where are the bishops in Rome–like Athanasius contra mundum–that are standing up and fighting with all their might against this abuse in their churches and dioceses? Please…You Catholic Apologists. Stand up and tell us who they are and what they have done to remedy this situation!

I'm sure a great deal has been done. I haven't been following it lately. One cannot do everything. One cannot personally fight every evil that is out there. But I have done my part in speaking out and offering resources for people to work through the issue. If I wanted to turn the tables on the implied unfair condemnation, and reason as idiotically as Kevin does, I could just as easily say,

"Please... You Presbyterian Pastors. Stand Up against abortion. What are you doing about its growing legality all around the world? What about fornication and co-habitation? What are you doing about that? How about world hunger? How about the situation in the Sudan and other trouble spots of the world, where people are being killed by the thousands? How about wife-beating and rape and the problems of the inner-city and poverty and education? How about the many thousands of fathers who molest their own children? How about divorce? How about unethical business practices and organized crime, and the drug problem, and the economy? WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Nothing? How can you be so lax and cruel and heartless? Presbyterian church government must be the cause of your sinful compromise!!!"
Etc., etc. ad nauseum . . .

Why doesn’t the Holy Father spend more time protecting the weak and the innocent and less time holding hands with one of the Patriarchs or the Archbishop of Canterbury? Where are the laymen and women in your church championing the cause for these little ones?

Is Kevin saying nothing is being done? What does he know about it? I'd like to know?

To our Roman apologist friends…so you’ve written 25 books defending the faith. So what.

A pretty clear swipe at me (with my 15 books). Perhaps it directed towards Scott Hahn, though . . .

What have you done to protect the weak, the orphan, the innocent, the widow, the ones who can’t protect themselves?

Well, in my own case, I have been arrested five times, went to trial several times, spent many hours in a jail, participated in some 28 pro-life rescues, that involved civil disobedience and the breaking of laws, for the sake of saving children from torture and butchery and slaughter. I traveled to Washington, D.C. for a national rescue in 1989. In 1990 I went to Vermont for a planned participation in another rescue, and was willing to spend many weeks and maybe months in jail for that purpose, away from my wife. As it happened, events transpired (beyond my control) so that I wasn't able to participate. But I think this shows that I was willing to do something for the sake of "the weak, . . . the innocent, . . . the ones who can’t protect themselves".

There are people literally alive today (about 17-19 years old now) that would have been killed if the rescuers that sat at the clinics had not been there. My wife entered an abortion clinic to go through the process of appointments, in order to gather information. I have had a pro-life page on my website for over ten years. I've picketed abortion clinics. I've displayed posters of graphic abortion photos on college campuses such as the University of Michigan and Wayne State University in Detroit and many times at the Ann Arbor Art Fair (one time I got into the Ann Arbor News, complete with a photo). I've argued the pro-life cause in college classes and MENSA meetings. I've written many papers on the topic that have been read by thousands of people. I've written a book about sexual issues. I've helped educate people about the importance of electing pro-life political candidates.

That's what I've done, Kevin. What have you done about the all-important abortion issue? We can't all do everything. And we can always do more, on a variety of issues. But I can hold my head up and say that I have certainly done something. I've literally helped to save human lives. Have you done that? And where do you come off implying that I care so little that I haven't done anything about these sorts of issues? Who made you my judge?

Have you championed their cause in your own communion or are you just interested in continuing to defend an institution that to this day still can’t stop this evil in your own ranks?

More unsupported assumptions . . .

Tell me you’ve written, phoned, or gone to see your bishop on behalf of the victims of sexual abuse in your diocese. Tell me you’ve talked to the priests in your parish about how they bear the judgment of God were they ever to hurt a little one.

I have done what I could as a writer. That is my role. All Rod Dreher is, is a writer. I doubt that Kevin would condemn him because he "only" wrote about the problem. I advertised his articles (extremely critical of the bishops, and by extension, the Church) so that many thousands more people could read them. That is doing something. I could just as easily accuse Kevin of failing in his responsibility to deal with the many cases of Protestant clergy sexual abuse, as well. I doubt that he has done anything of the sort. But because the Catholic Church is a big, huge target, it's easy for him to take shots at us.

Tell me you’ve had frank discussions with your fellow Catholics well beyond what has now been mandated by many in local law enforcement about how to avoid such things in your parish and diocese. Tell me you’ve formed groups to communicate en masse and in force as the laity to the bishops and others in your dioceses about how these problems need to end.

I haven't personally, no.

Where is the outrage by Catholics over this abuse?

It's all over the place. Where has Kevin been these past five years?

I have to believe for some Catholics they most certainly have done these things and perhaps more.

Oh, great. How magnanimous of Kevin . . .

My guess is that these special and faithful ones in Rome’s churches are not the ones writing myriads of books on this or that arcane topic defending the Church from the errors of Protestantism.

Of course. It could never be that the righteously indignant Catholics who are working to reform this problem could also be interested in apologetics! That would violate Kevin's artificial boxes that he has been trying so hard to put Catholics into. I'm one of the Bad Guys. Therefore, Good Guys who care about the children (man, doesn't this remind you of political liberals and their sanctimonious disdain for conservatives and pro-lifers?), -- since Bad Guys like me obviously don't --, can't possibly read apologetics or (worse yet) actually write about that dreadful and "arcane" topic!

They’re also likely not the same ones who send me fundraising emails ten times over.

I don't send fundraising e-mails at all. But if Kevin has Catholic Answers in mind, I have shown how they have spoken out forcefully on the scandal. I'm sure they've done a great deal behind the scenes too. This sort of thing (reform efforts) would tend to not be public in the first place, so why would Kevin assume he would necessarily hear about it in the media?

But maybe someone could prove me wrong here.

What is there to prove? If you make an idiotic, completely unreasonable argument, why would anyone try to seriously interact with it? My present paper is only for the purpose of exposing the sheer prejudice and irrational emotionalism that causes a person to write such worthless drivel.

Finally, you mistake my intent if you think this is anti-Catholic wrangling.

No; it's just vapid stupidity and nonsense, cloaked in the mantle of a righteous indignation that no one disagrees with in the first place.

I appreciate the wonderful things that Catholicism has brought to the table of our fellowship here together in terms of theology, history, and practice and many of us on this site have written often about how we have learned from Catholic theologians and historians.

Yes, your admiration of our Church stands out loud and clear!

But that appreciation is undoubtedly tarnished by the wicked acts of men who represent Rome while they do the unthinkable things they do to children and it is further tarnished by the systemic nature of the continued failure of Rome’s hierarchy to do everything possible to root this evil out of the Roman Church.

How wicked we are. Become a Protestant today so you and your children can be assured of being sheltered from sexual victimization from those wicked priests!

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