Monday, April 19, 2010

Vatican Abuse Scandals-A Cause for Outrage or Excuse for Bigotry?

The sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church are, unfortunately, nothing new. The U.S. Catholic Church has been dealing with the aftermath and subsequent media exposure for at least the last decade. However, this year we've been finding that there's more than meets the eye. With new findings in Ireland and Germany, as well as the revelation of more cover-ups in the U.S., Catholics and non-Catholics alike are angry. At the same time, there are those arguing that the media is persecuting the Church, that the Church is doing something good, but that no one appreciates it because Catholics are society's favorite scapegoat these days. Any call for justice is met with accusations of "vengeance" and "not respecting the seal of the Confessional," while any criticism is met with accusations of anti-Catholicism or, if one is Catholic, disobedience and pride.

In all honesty, I'm surprised more Catholics are not outraged.

Main reason: Sex abuse of children is horrific. It's even more so when committed by a spiritual leader, one who is supposed to have moral authority. By itself, this crime destroys the trust of children and manipulates their desires for affection, love and attention. Adults guilty of this misuse the tendency of children to obey and look up to their elders. This crime harms a child's ability to bond with others in many ways and can impede with their ability to have healthy relationships (platonic and not) when they are of age. When committed by a spiritual leader, this can harm a child's ability to relate to God and connect to their faith. These children grow up seeing God as someone who thinks they are sinful and worthless, only to be the plaything of His representatives. How can we not react with anger?

Pro-life ethics: As Catholics, we are called to uphold the sanctity and dignity of life. This includes ensuring justice, especially for the innocent among us. If we are so horrified by abortion, horrified enough that excommunication is the automatic punishment, we must also protect children after they are born, preventing them from harm and violent crime. We have failed in this. In order to save reputations, the Church instead relocated "problematic" priests to other parishes or sent them to ineffective therapy treatments, even when the psychiatrists themselves said it was ineffective. When children are in our care, we have a sacred and moral obligation to keep them out of harm's way, before or after they are born. How are people supposed to believe that we're right on saving the preborn if we refuse to protect the born?

Punishment: Some Catholics seem to think that my advocacy for punishment and justice is a call for revenge. Not so. Forgiveness is something we must all strive for. I never once declared that these priests and those who aided them deserved to burn in Hell. At the same time, we need to send a clear message to society that this crime is not acceptable. Is it not just to remove an offending priest from priestly duties, turn him to secular authorities and forbid him contact with children? This is not about eternal condemnation or hatred. This is about keeping children safe and sending a warning to others who may be tempted to abuse their power. Punishment serves as a deterrence. Confession is great, but does not suffice for society. Society needs to see that this crime is a crime and that no one's clerical status excuses one from the consequences.

Bigotry: While I will not deny anti-Catholic prejudice in society and through the media, I feel that accusations of using someone else's trauma as an excuse for persecution are misplaced. First, it is a slap in the faith to Catholics who are truly being persecuted or murdered by their governments (China, some Middle Eastern nations, etc). Second, while journalists and outlets bring biases with them, I'd highly doubt that no Catholics are present on any of the staff and could not at least fact check. Third, how is it bigotry to admit that our leaders did something wrong? If our leaders are truly the successors of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, should we not hold them to that standard? Is it not loving to keep them accountable?

To all Catholics: Criticizing a policy is not the same as promulgating heresy. We have an obligation to protect the innocent and to keep each other accountable on the path to Heaven. This is not unforgiving, prideful, or wrathful. Instead, it conveys humility, justice, and the courage to do what is right (as opposed to what is politically convenient at the time). Dear Catholics, we make a vow at our weddings to raise our children to know Christ through His Church. Let us make their journey one that edifies and uplifts their precious souls as they mature in His name. Let us ensure that they are not abused in the Holy Name of God, for that would be our greatest scandal.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mawwaige! Mawwage is what bwings us togethah today!!!

Excuse my Princess Bride reference but it seems I'm surrounded by weddings. I'm attending the wedding of a dear friend of mine this weekend. Another is getting married over the summer and two more in October (sadly, I will not be able to make these, but I should note them). I am very happy for all of them, that they're ready to take this next step in life. Of course, others want to know one thing, "Why are they getting married SO YOUNG??"

Maybe I just come from a young family, but I never thought young marriage was a bad thing. With my parents, it was expected. You found someone you loved, you knew you'd be together, you married them and that was that. It didn't matter if you hadn't yet opened your retirement accounts or if you hadn't gone to grad school and had an amazing career yet. It didn't even matter if you hadn't dated a ton of people. You struggled through various events, raised your kids, and enjoyed old age together.

Before you color me rose, I should acknowledge the couples who did and divorced later on. Yes, there are those who should have taken time to figure out life, to learn how to stand on their own two feet, who should have explored other options beforehand. I'm not saying everyone should marry young, but I am saying that young marriage does not automatically equal a bad marriage.

Now, I will attempt to answer some of these myths surrounding young marriage.

1. You need to have a career first: While I do believe you should both learn how to live independently and become financially stable, I don't think building a glamorous career is a prerequisite to marriage. First, we change jobs and careers so much now that we'd never marry if we took this advice. Second, when did marriage become an impediment to having a career? I'm pretty sure that if someone loves you enough to want to make a life with you, they should support you in following your dreams. Also, dreams can change. As long as you both are on the same page, I don't see this as a problem.

2. You need to shop around: What's the point? I don't buy the whole, "You need to kiss a ton of frogs before you find your prince." I'm pretty sure kissing is an acquired skill, one that comes with lots of practice, so if that's what you're worried about, fifty to sixty years could bring a ton of joy in that regard ;-) Second, I could get to know tons of people as friends and, if there's commonality and chemistry, THEN decide to take it to the next level. If I find that they truly are the one for me, why do I need to go out with someone else if I have no interest in them? Finally, if I'm preparing for a lifelong commitment, I find "serial monogamy" to be an impediment.

3. Young people only get married for the sex: That may be true for some people. However, I doubt this is true in all cases. First, I find that the people who say this often advise young couples to "know how the other is in bed" before you marry them. I don't think I need to repeat my "practice" comment here. Second, I know plenty of young, engaged couples who are sexually active now. I would conclude that they are getting married for more than just sex. For the ones who aren't, they understand that sexuality is fluid and that they can learn from each other. For both sets, they know that their "better half" is the one they want to be with in every way. Why should they delay it arbitrarily?

4. Young marriages always fail: Given the statistics for divorce combined with the rising age of marriage, I'd say that half of all marriages, young and not so, are doomed. No, you cannot know what will happen in the future. Yes, people change with age, with children, with life and it's not always good or bad. When you marry, you make a commitment and take a risk. However, if we didn't take risks, we'd never leave. The only issue that arises is if a couple is ready for such a risk. Some young people are, some older people are not. It depends on the person.

There are pros and cons to both marrying young and waiting. Marriage is a much bigger commitment than a career or a house. Yet delaying marriage for the sake of delaying is nonsensical. Only the couple can determine whether or not they're ready. Let us give support to those entering such a commitment, as well as those who've made it. Let us give warnings when there is cause and affirmations when things are well. Finally, let us raise our glasses and celebrate with our friends and family!