Everything here is just like a simile, and almost completely alliterative.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Popes, Inquisitions, and Chametz

I'm supposed to be scouring my house for chametz and getting ready for Monday's ‎seder (10 people! in my house! ack!) and all I can do is sit among the piles of laundry ‎and moan about the stupid Pope. Who isn't even coming to my seder, for that matter. ‎Stupid Pope! Stupid chametz! Grrrr.‎

I suppose it's genetically impossible for me to examine any issue from a non-‎theological point of view. I'm just not capable of it, I guess, and if it's a failing of mine I ‎don't know how to fix it. But I've started collecting articles and links and documents -- ‎I've read the relevant selections of both Crimen sollicitationis, the 1962 ‎document detailing how sexual crimes relating to priests are to be dealt with, and ‎‎De Delictis gravioribus, the 2001 emendation to that document, and I’ve studied ‎them in the Latin. I've combed through articles about the abusing priests, testimony ‎from the abused, documentaries about the systemic nature of it, and I've sifted all of ‎this like I'm trying to find a reason. Because there must be a reason, right? A ‎reason why the culture of the Church is particularly prone to this?‎

It could be as simple as what Andrew Sullivan suggests:

‎"Has it occurred to Versaldi [Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi, emeritus professor of canon law and ‎psychology at the Pontifical Gregorian University] that the repressed, contorted sexual teaching ‎of the church leads so many priests, gay and straight, directly into dysfunctional and, ‎yes, disordered sex lives, alone or with others? Does he realize that forcing gay Catholic ‎kids to hate themselves and then to seek refuge in a celibate priesthood as a cover for ‎their unconquerable nature is just asking for later breakdowns and acting out, with ‎teens and kids as the victims?" ‎

But the oppression/repression tells you just half the equation -- maybe, maybe it ‎tells you why these men wanted to do what they did, why their dicks needed that ‎particular thing to get off. It doesn't explain the compulsion to compound the abuse ‎with silence -- why? Why would so many men engage in that kind of conspiracy of ‎shame? Why didn't they recoil in horror, call the cops, kick the offending scum away ‎from them like dog shit they had stepped in on their way to Matins?‎

My hypothesis is a little different from Sully's. I think the answer to that latter question ‎lies in ecclesiology -- that is, the theology of the Church qua Church. "Tu es Petrus," ‎proclaim the words emblazoned around the interior of St. Peter's. "You are Peter, and ‎upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." ‎These words (a wildly fantastical insertion, if ever there was one) establish an ‎institution known as The Church(TM), Ecclesia, and at the same time endow that ‎institution with divine favor and protection. Indeed, according to the Church's vision of ‎itself, the Church becomes the Body of Christ Himself: the institution becomes, in a ‎very real sense, God. ‎

And here Catholic theology goes the Supreme Court one better, because in their ‎landmark Citizens United ruling in January, the justices ruled that a corporation, an ‎organization of people, could be an individual endowed with the same rights and ‎liberties as other individuals. Catholic ecclesiology does better than that, though, ‎because the Church (since it literally IS God) is a sort of Super-person, with MORE ‎rights than you (as individual church member) could ever possibly have. By investing ‎an organization with personhood -- and even with Personhood -- Catholic ecclesiology ‎made it possible to look at ordinary people and say, look. It's very sad what happened ‎to you, and of course we all regret it a great deal, but the important thing here is that ‎we must protect the Church, because she is Holy, she is Our Mother, she is the Very ‎Presence of Christ on earth. And next to something like that - well, what could the ‎needs of a puny 9-year-old kid possibly mean? What could a tiny little boy's sobs ‎possibly mean, next to the Presence of God on earth?‎

So that is what underlies Papa Nazi's insistence, in "De delictis gravioribus" (the ‎document written by him and issued when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the ‎Propagation of the Faith, otherwise known as the Holy Office, otherwise known as, ‎yeah, THAT Holy Office, back before the Inquisition got re-branded) when he clarified ‎some points in "Crimen sollicitationis." In DDG he specifically insisted that ALL ‎instances of sexual abuse involving minors be remanded to the Holy Office, and the ‎Holy Office would instruct the tribunals how to proceed from there. The only possible ‎reason for this is to keep a tighter rein on things, and to squelch any whisper of scandal ‎before it could even draw a good firm breath. And it's this 2001 document, I believe, ‎that was the real impetus behind Papa Nazi's 2005 elevation to the papacy. His election ‎was an act of acclamation for the one who had protected the Church, the one all these ‎other little boy-fuckers (and I think it's likely that the preponderance of Cardinals have ‎either engaged in or been party to boy-fucking) knew they could turn to for protection ‎in the future. The one who would always put God first -- which is to say, the one who ‎would always put the Church's interests above petty human interests, and whose heart ‎would not be swayed by the anguished clamor of mere mortals. ‎

And even if I'm right, and it's a flawed ecclesiology that led them there, that doesn't ‎answer the real question, which is why do I give a bleeding monkeyfuck? I'm not a ‎Catholic. But of course, behind that statement lurks the whispered any more, and ‎it's that any more I'm so afraid of, that clutches at my chest and makes me think, ‎will I never be free? Will I never stop caring so desperately? What must be wrong with ‎me that I can't stop caring, can't stop obsessing over this? Why can't I be like other ‎people, and shrug and step around this like it's something messy and unfortunate on ‎the sidewalk?‎

In my better moments, I think, maybe I don't have to stop caring. Proud Jew though I ‎am, I don't have to pretend that I didn't come from, well, where I come from. Though no ‎documentary attribution of this can be found, there's a saying of St. Augustine's* that’s ‎circulated for hundreds of years: "The Church is a whore," he is reported to have said, ‎‎"but she is my mother." Just because I've moved away, doesn't mean I don’t still phone ‎home now and again, and worry about how things are going -- especially when things ‎are tough at the home place. As I get ready for Pesach, I expect I’ll still be thinking ‎about these things as I’m chopping the apples for my charoset and nibbling the maror. ‎Maybe next year. . . in Jerusalem, for all of us. ‎

*did not fuck little boys.

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