True, there is, beginning with the opening lines, which are apparently meant to impress all of the other eighth-graders chewing gum and texting in study hall:
Yup, we need a Nope. A nun who is pope.I suppose we can be happy that the Angry, Dour One didn't try to somehow work in a street-wise rhyme using "pope" and "grope." No, instead she immediately utters a statement of solemn and official pulp infallibility:
The Catholic Church can never recover as long as its Holy Shepherd is seen as a black sheep in the ever-darkening sex abuse scandal.
Really? Well, that settles it: Dowd locuta est, causa finita est. Dowd has decreed, the case is closed. After all, Dowd has a B.A. in English from Catholic University of America, so there is little reason to doubt her ability to foresee the future of the Catholic Church.
Dowd, not surprisingly (considering her employer and her dislike for orthodoxy), plays fast and loose with many of the facts—or supposed facts—perhaps a by-product, again, of showing off in study hall ("Why should I be studying facts when I can, like, make my friends giggle by mocking old men in positions of authority?") Surprisingly, the Times took enough time from its Pope-hunting excursions to publish a short column by John Allen, Jr., which suggests that Benedict XVI is "a major chapter in the solution" to the atrocious, sickening scandals involving priests preying on (mostly) boys and young men. (Allen's piece is an abridged version of a much longer piece, "Will Ratzinger's past trump Benedict's present?", posted March 17th.)
So, for example, Dowd writes:
The cardinal did not answer. The archbishop wrote to a different Vatican official, but Father Murphy appealed to Cardinal Ratzinger for leniency and got it, partly because of the church’s statute of limitations. Since when does sin have a statute of limitations?
Yeah, folks, why did Cardinal Ratzinger, immediately upon hearing of Fr. Murphy's case, free the priest to go do whatever he liked, resulting in dozens of other victims? Oh, wait, that's not what happened. In fact, Fr. Murphy began abusing boys in the 1950s (while Ratzinger was pursuing doctoral studies, by the way), and continued to do so into the 1970s. The March 24, 2010, New York Times piece reports:
Father Murphy not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims. Three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told that Father Murphy was sexually abusing children, the documents show, but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities.
Instead of being disciplined, Father Murphy was quietly moved by Archbishop William E. Cousins of Milwaukee to the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin in 1974, where he spent his last 24 years working freely with children in parishes, schools and, as one lawsuit charges, a juvenile detention center. He died in 1998, still a priest.
Archbishops, police, and prosecutors in the U.S. either ignored or covered up Fr. Murphy's evil acts during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s—but the man who is really responsible, Dowd insists, was the man who was first told about the situation in 1996: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, working in Rome. If this makes sense to you, congratulations—you are hereby certified to be an op-ed columnist for the New York Times. As the SoCon or Bust blog notes, "If then-Cardinal Ratzinger had permitted this priest to continue in his public ministry, that would have been an entirely different matter. But as it stands, the Church had only two choices regarding Murphy. Remove him from public ministry and let him live out his remaining days to reflect on his heinous crimes, or remove him from public ministry and let a sickly and old man (who died four months later) go through with a canonical trial."
Fr. Murphy stated in his January 1998 letter to Cardinal Ratzinger that he had repented of his past transgressions. Now, Dowd asks, "Since when does sin have a statute of limitations?" I know this is one of her empty rhetorical devices (and I'm guessing she would never say something similar about, say, the impeccable, if bloody, pro-abortion record of the late-Sen. Ted Kennedy), but let's take it seriously in order to make a serious point, something Dowd doesn't accomplish in her column. First, if Fr. Murphy truly did repent of his sins, he was truly forgiven of those sins; that is the teaching of the Church:
The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible. (CCC, par. 1455)
Fr. Murphy was never, unfortunately, charged by the police with any crimes, and Church authorities in the U.S. had, egregiously, put him out to pasture essentially in the early 1970s. By the time he wrote in 1998 to Ratzinger, Fr. Murphy was on the edge of death (he died four months later). What would Dowd have had Ratzinger do? Find a way to put the dying 72-year-old in jail? Turn him out on the street? Make him read Dowd columns every day until he died of hyper-accelerated cognitive dissonance? (Of course, if Fr. Murphy had been a prominent Catholic politician who had spent decades zealously supporting the killing of really young children, he would have received endless, shameless praise from those within and outside the Church and had a massively lavish Church funeral. Go figure.) Dowd writes, "Because [Benedict] did not defrock the demented Father Murphy, it’s time to
bring in the frocks." One can (and should) recognize the deviancy and perversity of Fr. Murphy's actions, but also recognize that God is able and willing to forgive any and every sin that is truly confessed. It might be that if Fr. Murphy's situation had come up in, say, 2007, he may indeed have been defrocked. But to imply, as Dowd does, that certain sins cannot or should not be forgiven, and that this decision means Pope Benedict should resign, is the height of stupidity.
No, wait, maybe there are further heights. We have competition, from Dowd herself: "The pope is in too deep. He has proved himself anything but infallible." Really, how clueless can one be? Pretty clueless, judging from another screamer in her March 20, 2010, column, about certain nuns and the health care debate: "The nuns stepped up to support true Catholic dogma, making sure poor people get proper health care." Which means that in Dowd's world:
• Canonical judgments about defrocking priests somehow directly involve papal infallibility, even when said judgments took place many years before the Cardinal in question was elected pope. (Hey, I get it: Pope Benedict could infallibly declare that his 1998 decision as Cardinal was terminally fallible, thus somehow or another disqualifying himself from being infallible in the future, which means Dowd is Queen of the Western Moors of Mars...or something like that.)
• Making sure poor people get proper health care is a matter of Catholic dogma. "I believe in one God, Father Almighty, and proper health care for poor people. But forget the lower middle class—they don't deserve it!" St. Athanasius, pray for us!
The real motives are easily identified, and they are same tired bits of sacred secularity that nearly every former Catholic, progressive Catholic, and snarky heretic trots out upon hearing the name of the pope:
Pope Benedict has continued the church’s ban on female priests and is adamant against priests’ having wives.
[Hold on a second. Will someone please tell all of those many Catholic priests who are married that the pope is adamantly opposed to them to being married? Thanks.]
He has started two investigations of American nuns to check on their “quality of life” — code for seeing if they’ve grown too independent. As a cardinal he wrote a Vatican document urging women to be submissive partners and not take on adversarial roles toward men. ...
If the church could throw open its stained glass windows and let in some air, invite women to be priests, nuns to be more emancipated and priests to marry—
More "emancipated"? Like Mary Daly was, to the point of leaving the Church? Joan Chittister, who is constantly rejecting Church teaching? There's another term for "emancipated" religious orders: emaciated. As in, dying for lack of loyalty and orthodoxy. And we (that is, those who pay attention) know the same gruesome phenomenon takes place in Christian groups that ordain women.
Dowd is correct (no, really, she is) in saying the Church must "banish criminal priests and end the sordid culture of men protecting men who attack children..." And if she paid attention and read what John Allen and others are saying, she would recognize that Benedict XVI is actually undertaking these tasks. But Dowd is so locked into her obsessive women vs. men meta-narrative, she simply cannot consider acknowledging the good being done by the Vicar of Christ. And so, having run roughshod over reputations, facts, theology, and commonsense, she finishes by writing: "The nuns have historically cleaned up the messes of priests."
No, not really. No, it is holy and humble people—laity, deacons, nuns, priests, bishops, popes, perhaps even an occasional newspaper pundit—who have cleaned up the messes of those who have abused children, abused the faith of good people, and abused the Faith, period. They have taken the hits, carried their crosses, endured the taunts, embraced the path, and followed in the footsteps of Suffering Servant. Not by their own strength, not because of their innate purity, and not for their own glory.
Dowd wishes the Church to be humiliated by hatred, but God wishes the Church to be humbled by holiness:
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you.Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11)
Finally, for more on the New York Times and the Fr. Murphy case, be sure to read Father Raymond J. de Souza's post on "The Corner."
• "Come to your right mind, and sin no more." (March 26, 2010)
• If the Pope is responsible, what about the Secretary of Education? (March 17, 2010)