Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Moral Order Of The Hierarchical Mindset Is Not Moral

Cardinal Levada decries media bias, defends Pope in PBS interview
Catholic News Service - April 28, 2010

In an interview that appeared on the PBS television show NewsHour, Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, criticized media coverage of the clerical abuse scandal while defending Pope Benedict and upholding the US bishops’ 2002 Dallas charter as a model for dealing with the issue.

I don't want to scapegoat anybody or have a conspiracy theory, but I do think that the American media in particular … the question has been driven by information given by the plaintiffs' attorneys who are looking for ways to involve the Pope somehow in a court process or something like that, which are I think bound to be futile but nevertheless I think that has driven a fair amount of the media coverage, if I may say so,” said Cardinal Levada. (I just love 'but' statements. They are so useful for introducing exactly what you first said you aren't saying.)

“I think the causes, we will see, go back to changes in society that the Church and priests were not prepared for, particularly changes involving how to be a celibate person in a time of the sexual revolution, that's one of the causes I'd say,” he added. (There have been no changes in clerical culture. Clerical sexual abuse has been a problem for 1500 years. The changes in society which really hurt the Church were those that freed people to report their abuse.)

“With regard to the work of the Pope here at the Congregation [for the Doctrine of the Faith], those criticisms I think were basically unfair criticisms,” he continued. “I think that they were biased in the sense in trying to find an accusation of the Pope's mishandling a case back then. I don't think that that's true. I think that many people have spoken, given a reasonable account of what happened, and it's not a question of the Pope's mishandling. He was following the practice of the congregation at that time. These were cases that went back 20 and 30 years before, they were not dealing with children in harm's way at the time, and I don't think that the pope can be rightly criticized in those cases.” (That's the whole problem. He was following, not leading, and as the head of the CDF he theoretically could have changed the policy long before media pressure forced changes. The implication here is that that the Pope can't be held accountable for maintaining the immoral policy of his predecessors.)


In this interview Cardinal Levada manages to hit all the usual excuses with the exception of gay priests. When asked point blank about the case in the Munich diocese which involved Cardinal Ratzinger, Levada had this to say:

CARDINAL WILLIAM LEVADA: Well that I can't speak for him but I mean in my analysis of those two incidences that you bring up, I think his case in Munich, it does not strike me as unusual behavior for a bishop in those circumstances to let whoever is charge of that particular work and office in the archdioceses to make the decisions about a particular priest and I think that was the case in Munich.

This is quite a statement. If sexually abusive priests who have confessed to pedophilia and have been accepted in a diocese for treatment purposes aren't an issue which demands the attention of a bishop, then what does demand the attention of a bishop? So much for the whole idea of bishops having a 'parental' relationship as Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos wishes us to believe. I'm confused. Are we to let bishops off the hook because they were acting like parents, or are we to let them off the hook because they were acting like delegating CEO's? Or are we supposed to let them have their excuses any which way they want?

Fr. Geof Farrow has a very insightful blog post, written by a psychiatrist, that makes some important points about the abuse crisis. It is well worth reading. The author makes a very critical observation which directly pertains to Levada's interview. It has to do with hierarchical structures:

I for one suspect that the hierarchy’s different ordering of values has something to do with the very notion of hierarchy-—that the mutuality and equality that orders life for those of us who maintain intimate adult relationships is at odds with the hierarchical order of Roman Catholic clerical life, and the idea that one’s subordinates should accept bearing a cross for the good or the aggrandizement of someone or something greater seems more in keeping with moral order when everyone is one up or one down, and never straight across the breakfast table from you.

Virtually everything Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict has done in his ecclesiastical career supports this very notion of the moral order of hierarchy. That to me is what is so frightening about him. When he was subordinate to JPII, he did whatever JPII wanted, even if it disgusted him. Now that he's Pope he allows his subordinates to hang for him, possibly even coerces them to follow this moral order.
He places obedience before love as the prime Catholic virtue because obedience underscores his notion of hierarchical moral order. He raises suffering to a noble endeavor because that makes noble suffering the justification for the unjust pain inherent in his ideal of moral order. In other words, in his moral universe, shit rolls down hill and suffering under the load saves our souls. Silently and secretly enabling 'filth' for the sake of the moral order is a salvific strategy.

No, actually it's much closer to a satanic strategy. Rank and file Catholics are being asked to choose. Do we accept the supremacy of the hierarchical moral order, or do we start making breakfast and insist on equal seating at the Lord's table? It seems to me it's way past time we said "The shit stops here."


  1. Changes in society? Problems with "how to be a celibate person in a time of the sexual revolution"? Really!!! Back in the 4th century when St. Basil wrote about it??? And in the 11th too??? Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Apparently the sexual "revolution" is being back-dated... even as we write.

    Do they not teach these cardinals that assertions cannot substitute for facts? He's just giving a train of assertions. And mustering no facts at all! No wonder the plaintiff's attorneys want to sue!

    And by the way, no plaintiff's attorneys have contacted me. And I've been writing about this a lot!

    Personally I think part of the hierarchy's "moral order" is nothing less than what happens in fraternities. It's like hazing: We had to do it! So should you! It's the business of making something "exclusive" and "special" and "not easy to join" and "we're all in the know".

    Mr. TheraP loved the part of the interview where Margaret confronted him when he tried to minimize the abuse by saying the boy scouts do it too. And she just wondered to him if the church shouldn't be held to a higher standard!

    The longer they work at spinning this, the worse they ALL look!

  2. They are piling it pretty deep and heavy and the more they do it the more people will choose to say no more, not for me.

    And then maybe we will start to see some real Christianity come to the forefront.

  3. I'd love to know what Levada (and other who make the same argument) thinks the "sexual revolution" actually was.

    Does he think people didn't know what sex was before then? Does he think people didn't have sex drives? What do they think happened during the sexual revolution that would give anyone the idea that it was okay to abuse children?

    And why don't journalists ever ask these questions?

  4. Prickliest Pear:

    I guess "hierarchy" also means that you don't have to submit to hard questions from reporters... but let's hope they gather courage.

    Honestly, if indeed the lawyers WERE behind the press and media, surely the press would be "pressing" the cardinals much harder! Cardinals: Just wait till you get your wish and it's lawyers prompting the media questions!


    How is it I have managed to be faithful to one man during a time of sexual revolution? And nary a child abused either... Or do priests succumb to temptation more easily?

  5. What a crock of bull crap from Levada! P U - He stinks because he is rotten to the core!

    The longer Levada and his cronies stay in denial and excuse upon excuse the more they stink and the quicker the new right wing VI Church he represents rots and sinks in the sand box of delusion and despair!

    I honestly don't know how these men in the Vatican sleep at night or can even look at themselves in the mirror without any shame at all for their wicked deeds. My guess is that they are taking a lot of meds to get some rest, for surely the Lord will not give them rest as long as they keep up with their excuses for themselves to be immoral pedophile enablers.

  6. You might want to read this. There's an interesting section on the meaning of hierarchy;

  7. Wonderful paper on clericalism. This pertains so much:

    "that one must run away from power, any power, that it is always a temptation, always from the devil. Christ freed us from that power – “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18) – by revealing the Light of power as power of love, of sacrificial self-offering. Christ gave the Church not “power,” but the Holy Spirit: “receive the Holy Spirit….” In Christ, power returned to God, and man was cured from ruling and commanding.8 In the sixty-first year of my life, I suddenly ask myself: How has it all become so perverted? And I become afraid!"

    "Schmemann’s understanding of the Church is sacramental, rather than legal or institutional."

    That says it all!

    I wrote about "caste" differences at TPM. And I think the RC "celibacy" promotes an EXTRA kind of "caste" difference, on top of the clerical "caste" distinction (& effect of clerical clothing on OTHERS - not just the one wearing it)

    At our little Orthodox parish the priests celebrate Liturgy in bare feet. This came about due to the large Ethiopian presence we have. But just this morning I was thinking how "that difference" is such a positive one. It says something about the Holy Ground. But it also speaks to simplicity, humility. Our pastor mostly wears jeans and no collar. Puts on his cassock for scheduled services only. He shovels snow in winter.

    There's also the effect of a spouse and children on a priest's humility!

  8. "Virtually everything Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict has done in his ecclesiastical career supports this very notion of the moral order of hierarchy. That to me is what is so frightening about him. When he was subordinate to JPII, he did whatever JPII wanted, even if it disgusted him."

    Yes...and no.

    Colleen, what you are observing & referring to here is partially true, yet based on the public perception of what Ratz did as JPIIs 2nd in command. However if one observed closely & read between the lines of those 20+ years, amuch different picutre emerges.

    The inner circle which surrounded & stage-managed the pontificate of JPII consisted entirely of persons who were members of Opus Dei. Please bear in mind that this description includes those who are 'associate/collaborator/cooperator' members. Who are not counted in the 'official membership numbers. And whose numbers are MANY times greater then the 89K they claim (which is old news anyway).

    All you need to do is to re-examine what they did to & with JPII to see the truth emerge. They used, manipulated & controlled him. Over time they literally mind altered him to 'do things their way'. That is easy to do when one of the top men in the circle is a psychologist with experience in advertising subliminals & mental manipulation (Navarro-Valles).

    A description of that inner circle comes into focus from the account of some who met them in the context of private papal audiences with JPII: they literally hated him. There was a seething, palpable resentment & hatred lying just under the polished facade of manners. They hated him personally for his faith in Christ & spirituality.

    There is no link for this - take it or leave it, as you see fit.

    Anon Y. Mouse

  9. Hmmm, I have to say that generally I don't share the overtly negative tone of criticism that you have adopted here towards Benedict XVI. While I do think that for a time he was indeed part of the problem I think he's had a conversion of sorts and is doing anything he can to prevent these heinous abuses from occuring in the future?

    Can we forget that at some point in history he was on the other side of the equation--dillusionally continuing his self-denial? No, but I don't think it's productive, when he has implemented the zero tolerance policy that became the norm here in the U.S. to castigate Benedict XVI as some type of monster.

    Yes, Benedict has made numerous mistakes during his lifetime, but so did St. Peter himself for goodness sake! =/

    It may seem like I'm just trying to make excuses for the Pope but I simply think that we can't turn his record as Cardinal Ratzinger vs. Benedict XVI into a strictly black or white affair. We have to justly observe and condemn the mistakes he has made but also applaud the good decisions that he has decided to carry out. In this way, I guess I echo John Allen's "middle of the road, objective" approach.

    And I don't want to be seen as one who's simply in the can for the Vatican, because by al means I'm NOT! I know that numerous forces in the Curia were responsible for covering up these acts over the course of several decades. But I don't think we can jump to conclusions and say that Cardinal Ratzinger's castigation of Cardinal Hoyos was merely his way of throwing him under the bus for the sake of saving his own image. Could he not have in fact had a profound conversion after laying his own eyes on all those rippling, hideous, first hand accounts of abuse that streamed across his desk day after day?

    I feel crticism is extremely useful but we must also owe credit where credit is due.

    On the other hand, when it comes to Cardinal Lavada's comments, it seems he's simply playing the blame game in a variety of courts and doesn't seem to know which side to pick. Playing, the "big, bad, secular" media is no way of acknowledging to the world that individuals in the Church have indeed committed grave crimes and heinous sinful acts which cry out to God by molesting these harmless, innocent children.

    Again, it just seems like another occasion where leader sin the Church are quick to deny but not so quick to admit culpability and their own degree of guilt to which they were personally involved in sheilding the reality of these acts from the public.

    In order to move forward--even if it is hard, and it shreds to some degree the credibility of the hierarchy--specific individuals in positions in authority must come out and say "mea culpa." It's sad that the only degree to which this has actually occured has been in the case of prelates resigning rather than explaining their own contrition to their flocks--with the notable exceptions of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, and perhaps a few scant others.

  10. I don't know Phillip, maybe I'm just an older cynic, whose been around the block too many times to buy into what the Vatican is attempting here.

    The idea seems to me to keep hierarchy and it's power in tact. They will give on some issues, or at least seem to, but nothing will really change.

    Benedict's adoption of the US policy is basically a preferenc, and isn't even operative in countries who don't have a mandatory reporting policy. There is absolutely nothing concrete to hold abusive priests accountable except for the victims themselves going to the police. We could very easily see bishops hiding and transfering abusive priests and justifying it just as Cardinal Castrillion Hoyos suggested in his letter, especially in countries which don't have a secular law requiring reporting.

    This is a world wide crisis that the Vatican seems to prefer would stay concentrated on the supposed anti Catholicism of North American and European Media, homosexual priests, secular influences, and greedy lawyers.

    The problem with accountability and transparency is the hierarchy and clericalism. Neither of which is addressed in the Dallas Charter because the bishops exempted themselves from the Charter. Benedict is all on board with maintaining and keeping this structure just as it is. I don't buy the window dressing, no matter how much of a personal conversion he might have had. It will be a cold day in hell before he does anything to reduce the power of the clerical caste and hierarchical system. The abuse crisis is a function of a power imbalance and until that's changed abuses will continue to occur at an alarming rate--especially when the abused are adults.

  11. One last thought. The accountability and transparency issues also apply directly to the financial end of things--as in there really isn't much and it gets worse the futher up the food chain one moves. The Maciel case directly points to this incredible lack of accountability, as does the Vatican bank scandals, amongst others. We are not talking peanuts here.

  12. More and more I am convinced: The whole thing must fall by its own weight. These cardinals know NOTHING of making a living. Pull the financial plug, they have no way to move around or make others do their bidding. More and more lawsuits will do their part. And daily the world is losing respect for a tarnished, hypocritical hierarchy which really offers nothing of "value" to the world.

    The nuns offer value. The people offer value. Some priests offer value. Hard to see a value that Jesus would endorse either! More like he'd throw them out of the Temple.

  13. "The changes in society which really hurt the Church were those that freed people to report their abuse"

    That says it all.

  14. I think clerical celibacy was maintained most strictly during the period stretching from Trent to Vatican II, some 400 years. (This was a reaction to the 15th century, when celibacy had been discredited.) Levada is right to say there has been a big change since Vatican II. Celibacy suddenly lost its aura and the sexual revolution swept in.

  15. Rather than just making assertions about "what happened to celibacy" - we need evidence! The Vatican HAS the evidence. But have they opened their files to scrutiny? Only when they do can we test a theory that says celibacy worked during any particular period. In the absence of evidence we can more likely assume that problems that have come to light in our day are indicative of ongoing problems which date back to at least the early centuries of the church.

    The problem, in my mind, with the defenses that anyone puts forth for the abuse is that the Vatican and its supporters are using "assertions" alone - absent evidence. This is so typical of how the Vatican communicates. And it's just not going to work any longer!

  16. "I think clerical celibacy was maintained most strictly during the period stretching from Trent to Vatican II, some 400 years."

    ...please...put down the crack pipe!

    1) While the Vatican has done its best to rewrite & twist history, the facts of history, viewed objectively, show a completely opposite picture! The KNOWN & REPORTED sex abuse cases date back to ther 1920s. In Ireland we see a vast amount of pre-V2 cases.

    2) The 1917 Code of Canon Law cites clerical sex abuse of minors as a crime meriting defrocking. Indicative of the FACT that sex abuse was known of & considered serious enough to cite thus, a century ago.

    3)The clerical sex abuse scandals in the Piarist order in Spain of the 1600s tends to aid in placing this assertion on the dung heap, where it belongs.

    Or do we need to re-hash ALL of the incidents of seduction/molestation of boys & girls (and your adults) by Bishops, Cardinals & certain Council of Trent???

    A common phrase, used by US priest amongst themselves for many decades, going back long before Vatican II is:

    "They are not vows, they're only promises....and promises were made to be broken".

    Anon Y. Mouse

  17. Seems to me there are parallels between between the current crisis and the persecution of Galileo. Instead of basing conclusions on objective facts, the Vatican (and its apologists) want to fall back on dogmatic assertions - which are in blatant contradiction of the facts, as Anon E. Mouse states so well above me.

    Vatican: clinging to fantasies. Trying to ram them down throats - a kind of rape of logic, to my mind.

    It's indicative of a failure of higher reasoning powers - to continue the same strategies over and over - which aren't helping their case and are only demonstrating the deficiencies in logic and ethics and morality that got them in this mess to begin with!

    Their efforts to defend themselves are akin to spreading tacks on a road they need to drive over.

  18. TheraP sometimes I wonder if it's a failure of higher reasoning processes, or no real development of higher reasoning processes.

  19. Colleen, I think that there has been "no real development of higher reasoning processes" from the Vatican in 1500 years. There are but a handful of Saints who were truly Saints in that time frame, and they were not in the Vatican to my knowledge.

    This lack of development of higher reasoning processes shows itself in the history of the last 1500 years. It seems in every generation there is more bloodshed by Christians and among Christians. That to me says "no real development of higher reasoning processes."

  20. In response to the psychoanalyst linked to by Fr Farrow:

    “The failure of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to contemplate that maybe there is something about the church and the priesthood itself that breeds the sickness of pedophilia is exasperating in the extreme.”

    Is pedophilia a sickness one develops?

    “The easy answer they prefer, that it is cultural permissiveness about sexuality that fosters the sexual abuse of children, is so lacking in insight and rich in smug self-regard that it makes me nearly apopleptic.”

    If they say it is ONLY sexual permissiveness that is to blame, but do they? Pedophiles acting out, and sexual abuse of minors in general, may well be more frequent in sexually permissive times, much though we would like to believe that our permissive culture favors adult relationships and thus disfavors abuse.

    “The idea that mastery of a sexual life might be what guards against the trends that end in sexual abuse of children” – only “might be”.

    “their doctrine that sexuality is sinful unless it is subordinate to procreation” – not quite right; within marriage sexuality has a unitive purpose as well, which is now regarded as co-equal with the procreative.

    “While we know the large chasm, and many differences, between the activities of a pedophile with a child and the consensual, respectful, tender activities of two adults who are motivated by many things but not by any wish to conceive a child, the church hierarchy conflates them in an instant, and points to our tolerance for the supposed evils of the latter as breeding ground for the former.”

    I think most bishops see child abuse as much worse than sexual misbehavior among adults. The "breeding ground" idea may come from observation of their own clergy, whom they see acting out sexually in all kinds of ways that would have been unthinkable before Vatican II.

    “Psychologically, this happens to be the exact opposite of the truth,” – I’m not sure that this is correct; if sexual permissiveness meant that people would all practice mature sexuality, one could talk about psychology and ignore sociology and statistics. The questions whether our sexually permissive culture favors child abuse cannot be answered by psychology alone.

  21. “Pedophiles cannot manage the rigors that adults in functional, intimate, ongoing sexual relationships with other adults must rise to.” But to portray pedophiles in this way is a bit like portraying homosexuals as failed heterosexuals. It appears rather that pedophiles often are just not drawn to fellow-adults affectively and sexually. They are drawn only to children, at a level more primordial than that at which one makes moral decisions about how to build relationships. Given these basic dispositions, many pedophiles probably do restrain themselves by invoking moral choices analogous to those mentioned by the author, but applying them to their own troubling affective relationships. If the author's theory is correct he should be able to point to pedophiles that he has helped become mature adults in sexual relationships with other adults. If he cannot report much success of this kind, then the problem must lie deeper.

    “Pedophiles, on the other hand, are terrified of vulnerability. They either avoid it entirely, or keep an internal running score of acts of domination that compensate for what they feel are the accumulated humiliations of interpersonal relations, and so lead split lives of seeming normalcy alongside hidden perversity that, in their view of things, equalizes the psychic imbalance. It is the capacity to accept ourselves as imperfect and messy and perhaps at times ridiculous in our own eyes, and in the eyes of at least our chosen intimate partner, and the ability not to judge our imperfections too harshly, that makes us capable of sexual intimacy in its most moral form. It is the inability to tolerate any such thing that prompts the pedophile to do what he does.”

    This all sounds implausible. Before the pedophiles “does what he does” there is a prior stage when he “feels what he feels”. The considerations about vulnerability do not seem to have any bearing on this.

    “ The teaching that sexual relations for purposes that are not procreative, or even masturbation, are evil in the eyes of God does not help any individual prepare for sexual or interpersonal maturity, or to direct their sexual energies into channels that are consistent with health instead of the tortured path of sickness and depravity.”

    This is probably true, and it certainly prescribes a radical reform of church sexual ethics.

  22. Anon. Y. Mouse, when I said the celibacy regime was maintained most strictly in the Tridentine period, I mean "most" as a comparative. Of course celibacy has always been attended by many breaches, but relatively speaking, the Tridentine centuries were the period in which it was most strictly observed. Read the historical study "Montaillou" for a hair-raising vision of medieval clerical sexual mores.

  23. The psychoanalyst is very good on the difficulties for men to form solid, stable monogamous relationships (with particular reference to clerics and gays who have been formed in directions not conducive to such monogamous commitment); it might apply to priests who have a childish interest in older teenagers, but it would not, I think, apply to the pedophile in the strict sense; "commitment in an adult relationship" would seem to be off the radar screen for him. On the other hand there are people who fall in love with children, wait till they come of age, then ask their hand in marriage and treat them as their child-wife thereafter (a sort of Victorian scenario). I just vaguely recalled the name of Ruskin, and looking him up on Wikipedia I find this: "During this period Ruskin became enamoured of Rose la Touche, an intensely religious girl, whom he met through his patronage of Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, a talented watercolourist. He was introduced to Rose in 1858, when she was only ten years old, proposed to her eight years later, and was finally rejected in 1872. She died in 1875. These events plunged Ruskin into despair and led to bouts of mental illness."