Monday, May 31, 2010

A Medical Model Has Lessons For The Catholic Priesthood

The "saintly' Dr. House and his fellow medical enablers. Narcissism is narcissism in clerics or doctors, and abuse is tolerated and enabled--and all for the cause of the greater good.

Vatican's sex abuse prosecutor says church must amputate to heal
by John L Allen Jr on May. 29, 2010

When the innocence of children is “trampled upon, broken, sullied, abused, and destroyed,” then “the earth becomes arid and the whole world sad,” the Vatican’s top sexual abuse prosecutor said this morning in Rome.
Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna indirectly critiqued the clerical culture in which abuser priests were routinely given second chances.

Christian friendship, Scicluna said, is “submitted to the law of God,” so if a member of the church is an “occasion of sin,” then a believer “has no other choice … but to cut this tie.”

Weeding out abusers, Scicluna implied, is a form of “divine surgery” intended to save the body by amputating a diseased part.

Scicluna, a Maltese priest who serves as Promoter of Justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, spoke as part of a service of reparation for abuse committed by priests and for healing within the church organized by students at Rome’s pontifical institutions. The service took place this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Altar of the Chair of Peter.

Scicluna delivered a homily for the service. Widely considered the Vatican’s top expert on the sexual abuse crisis, Scicluna rarely speaks in public – making his comments this morning all the more significant.

Tapped by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, today Pope Benedict XVI, to handle the canonical response to charges of sexual abse against priests, Scicluna is widely seen as the architect of the more aggressive approach to the crisis which emerged in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith after 2001. (Really? Wasn't it just last month that you yourself wrote that Joseph Ratzinger was the architect of this more aggressive strategy? Why do I suspect the honor of who owns this strategy has changed because part of the strategy necessitates casting blame on POPE JPII?)

This morning, Scicluna delivered a largely spiritual meditation on the relationship between Jesus and children, saying that “the church, the spouse of Jesus, has always had a special care and solicitude for children and the weak.”

According to the fathers of the church, Scicluna said, a child was “the eloquent icon of innocence.”
In that light, Scicluna argued, destroying the innocence of a child makes the entire earth “arid” and “sad.”

Quoting St. Gregory the Great, Scicluna suggested that such sins are especially heinous when committed by priests. (Absolutely true.)

“After having taken a profession of holiness, anyone who destroys others through words or deed would have been better off if their misdeeds had caused them to die in secular dress, rather than, through their holy office, being imposed as an example for others in their sins. Without doubt, if they had fallen all by themselves, their suffering in Hell would be easier to bear.” (I know this homily was given to seminarians, but the language is so Trentan priesthood, and that's a notion of priesthood which has great appeal to narcissists with a religious bent. Note to Brooklyn diocese. You be should screening for narcissism, not orientation.)

Scicluna contrasted the innocence of children with arrogance and careerism in the church.
“How many sins in the church [have happened] because of arrogance, insatiable ambition, abuse of power and injustices committed by those who abuse their ministry to advance their career?”, Scicluna asked.

He denounced the “futile and wretched motives of vainglory.”

The remedy to such scandals offered by God as the “Divine Surgeon,” according to Scicluna, is to “cut out [disease] in order to heal,” and to “amputate in order to restore health.”

Beyond such drastic measures, Scicluna also proposed the “preventive medicine” of solid formation for future priests, calling on them to be on fire with the faith, making them salt and light for the world.

This morning’s service of reparation included an hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a period of guided prayer meditation led by Scicluna, and concluded with a solemn benediction. Students who organized the event said they decided to do so “in the wake of the media attention given in recent months to abuses perpetrated by priests. and in response to the Holy Father’s call to penance in his Letter to Ireland.”


A lot more than amputation of abusive priests needs to be done. A bone marrow transplant would be a better approach. The scandal is more symptomatic of a blood born leukemia, rather than an isolated cancer in one body part.

Sometimes the hierarchy's approach to this scandal reminds me of Gregory House's approach to the amputation of his leg on the TV series House. Dr. House is too body fixated and narcissistic to tolerate the total loss of his leg, so he insists only some of the muscles be removed. He then spends most of his life limping around with chronic pain and suffering from the consequences of various inept strategies to deal with it. This in turn leads to seriously flawed relationships with patients, staff, co workers, and friends. Projection, projection, projection leads to enable, enable, enable. No one wants to believe Dr. House truly has virtually no capacity to empathise with the pain of others precisley because he's in so much pain himself.

I love this show for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is how it portrays House's ability to manipulate all those around him because his unique charismatic brilliance is the excuse others use to justify or blind themselves to his manipulation and cover up all his excesses--especially other doctors. Just in case anyone thinks women bishops might have handled the abuse crisis differently, Dr Cuddy's relationship with House is a legitimate portrayal of how that might not be true. Narcissists seem to instinctively know how to manipulate all kinds of relational and sexual issues in others.

I encourage readers to check out the link in my comments in the above article. It leads to a New York Times article on weeding gays out of seminaries. There is a quote from a male Catholic psychiatrist on the panel which screens applicants for the Brooklyn diocese. After assuring the journalist that there are no gays in the seminary system, he then says: "I'm pretty sure of it."

Then there is this quote:

“The best way I can put it, it’s not black and white,” said the adviser, the Rev. David Toups, the director of the secretariat of clergy, consecrated life and vocations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “It’s more like one of those things where it’s hard to define, but ‘I know it when I see it.’ ”

In the final analysis it comes down to personal 'gaydar'. Great. My advice to the USCCB is to spend the next week watching House. The clerical abuse problem is not in your 'gaydar'. It's in your inability to detect narcissism in a priestly system which enshrines it.


  1. Colleen, thanks for posting this. Allen's analysis and the medical analogy (whether amputation or marrow transplant)are far more relevant than the headlines picked up by the MSM, the observations on the "special place in hell", which just feeds the popular stereotype of Catholic clergy as a class who can only think in terms of hellfire and damnation.

    Thanks also for referring to the NY Times piece on seminaries, which is important - but so depressing I just don't know where to start.

  2. I know Terence. When it comes down to 'gaydar', it comes down to nothing more than gender stereotyping.

  3. No comment yet, but a question. Do you have comments for the John Allen piece on your computers? I only have one. Is this my computer's problem, or NCR's pace of vetting and posting? Thanks.

  4. It's NCR's vetting. I showed only one comment as well. It might be fully updated by tomorrow.

  5. Colleen -

    Your "House" analogy is great!

    Now as to the use of 'gaydar', I have heard such assertion before. Both from self-satisfied churchmen, prelates & useful idiots (translation: lay ringkissers).

    As to their contention that there are no gay seminarians, et. al., I must conclude that either:

    a) they are lying.

    b) their gaydar is non-existent or broken.

    "b" is possible, if one is truly & willfully blind to painfully obvious reality all around you. "a" is standard operating procedure....

    Back in the 90s there was a certain Seminary Dean who was arrested, some 15 miles from his Seminary. He was found in a car parked with 3 other men in it - and enough cocaine to kill a small horse! The quantity was obviously no for personal use; hence they were dealing it.

    The MSM was all over the Seminary - and, naturally, "we did not observe anything in his behavior to indicate something to be concerned about".


    One does not just 'happen' to be in that situation. Obviously Father knew the men & was stranger to cocaine. Plus - several guys + lots of coke doth tend to = something sexual.

    So....was Father brought before a grand jury, tried & convicted & sent to jail?

    No.....despite the media coverage, no charges were even filed. 'Father' went then to live in the Cardinal's mansion, where the latter would help to rehab the former. Was Father sent to a halfway house or formal rehab? No.

    ....Father was then assigned as pastor of a parish with lots of kids. And a thriving drug trade in the vicinity. Then made a Domestic Prelate (Msgr.). Then promoted to pastor a large, wealthy suburban parish.

    The Prelate(s) who protected & promoted this cokehead priest were very conservative & cozy with Opus Dei. Strongly Pro-Life; anti Gay rights. Pro family.

    It should then come as no surprise that these Prelates have sheltered & honored a priest whose name was all over the P2/Vatican Bank scandals; a known Opus Dei priest/Vatican contact for Roberto Calvi, making that certain Msgr. the pastor of an affluent parish.

    My point: both a & b are true. And that connivance & criminal conspiracy are SOP for the Vatican, to protect their hegemony at all cost.

    Anon Y. Mouse

  6. wow,
    I just did a google search for "catholic priest cocaine" and I got an incredible number of news stories from within the last 15 years and all around the country. In many cases, Father was dealing from the rectory!

  7. also, EWTN regular Fr. John Corapi often tells his cocaine filled life story.
    Now that I think of it, I've never heard him protest against the War on Drugs and the millions of people incarcerated for drug possession. God must have protected him from the police because he was called to the priesthood, no?

  8. Well somebody protected him Orlando. Might not have been God though.

    Mouse I have to admit I haven't done any research on cocaine trafficking through Church auspices, but given all the other connections amongst rightwing groups, intelligence agencies, the history of the Mafia with the Vatican bank, Maciel etc it wouldn't surprise me in the least. In fact, one would almost be forced to conclude it's abscence would be an aberration--and that's a truly sad statement.

  9. Collen -

    Good observation! While my tale was of one priest & two US Cardinals, the widespread trafficking is no joke.

    Years ago on Saturday Night Live (in the 70s) they did a skit about cocaine smuggling through US Customs in an airport. Everybody was interrogated, searched & some even arrested for having one joint.

    ...but the Catholic priest with white powder on his nose, a trail of it coming from his suitcase & that of the pregnant nun with him (who was leaking powder from her habit), were saluted, smiled at, & not even examined. Walking freely through Customs.

    A fictional comedy sketch. But all comedy is based upon reality; making light of very real ppl & situations (even if exaggerated). So they got the 'idea' from somewhere......

    Without going on a long rant, there is much connectivity between Opus Dei in Latin America & the US drug trade. Does 'Iran-Contra' mean anything? :) Or the painfully obvious links to the CIA in such enterprises?

    What funded the political theater of the breakup of the Soviet Union & Eastern Bloc nations? Drug money, laundered through Opus Dei - and some even through Mother Teresa.

    The articles from other NY papers seem to have vanished from the web, conveniently. There were more then 2 in the car. And the 'deal' worked out by then Cardinal O' Connor has vanished too.

    The location where this happened is known for Columbian & Dominican dealers. Obviously, White was well known to the other suspect & trusted. FIve bags...would indicate either dealing and/or a serious habit. Indicating familiarity with drug culture. You do not meet such persons in CCD meet them in bars & clubs. And though others who are into this 'scene'.

    Corapi....just subsituted one addition for another: Fanaticism

    Anon Y. Mouse