I have a buddy in Los Angeles, a Catholic, who married a nice Jewish girl. And one night, over dinner he tried to explain to her why Catholics remain in a church that demands their money, molests their children and reminds them at every turn that the church belongs to the clergy and not to the members. "You have to look past that," he said. "You have to see all of the charity work, all of the good works the church does in spite of the hierarchy." I agreed with him, and Mother Teresa's name got thrown around for awhile. But I am now officially and totally fed up with Catholic Church. I'm sure my opinion doesn't matter much to them, but the Bishops of Massachusetts have just put themselves beyond the pale, so to speak. They have now openly chosen doctrine over Christianity. And the stench of their hypocrisy should be addressed by the EPA.
The sex abuse scandal began in Massachusetts back in 2002, when subpoenaed records showed the hierarchy had transferred priests they knew to be child molesters again and again and again, with no word of warning to the parishes they would then victimize. The myth is that the church was trying to adhere to its philosophy that confession and contrition and forgiveness would cure the problem, but their policy also looked like a cover up to protect the church from unpleasant lawsuits.
The final payout to abuse victims has now reached an estimated $1 billion, but we'll never know for certain because the church doesn't share records willingly. They talk about the mystery of the church, as if it were a religious component and not a legal ploy. But the payouts were so large that in December of 2005 the archdiocese in Boston announced it was closing 50 parishes in Massachusetts because of lack of funds.
Churches people had attended all their lives, churches good and faithful Catholics had supported with their donations for generations, were ordered shuttered with very little input from the parishioners themselves. Lay Catholics began to agitate for a bigger voice in church affairs and decisions. They wanted to know where their donations had gone, what they had been used for. The priests made moves to listen but the Bishops remained protective of their power, and gave few answers to the faithful.
It was largely because of angry Catholic politicians that a measure was introduced into the state Senate "An Act Relative to Charities in Massachusetts". The law would have required all large religious charities in the state to annually open their books to outside scrutiny. The measure passed the Senate but the Catholic Church and other religious groups rallied a campaign of organized letters and half truths. The measure failed in the House, 147 to 3.
But make no mistake the measure will be back because shortly after its defeat in January of 2006, yet another scandal swept through the Catholic empire of Massachusetts. Charges were made on the pages of the Boston Globe that a special fund collected to support retired priests had actually been drained and used for other purposes. The Church denied it but again the mystery of the church required that no actual records be opened for public review.
And then came the letter from seven bishops requesting that the Catholic Charities, the larges private charity in the state, should be exempted from a state law requiring that they not discriminate in finding adoptive homes for needy children, specifically same sex adoptions. They have only handled 13 such placements in the last 20 years, but they still felt the need to make an official request.
Now that is not something you see every day, a Christian group seeking state permission to act in a way that negates the sacrifices of the martyrs' in the coliseum. But the bishops have decided that after 20 years of placing orphaned children into same sex homes, they must stop. You see, there was yet another memo on doctrine from Rome. This one called adoption by gays "gravely immoral."
I guess the Vatican was motivated by the hundreds of children suing the church for having helped place them with loving parents who happened to be either both male or both female. Or perhaps the Church was concerned because of all the peer reviewed scientific studies which showed the damage done to innocent children who were adopted by people who could never be good Catholics. Or, since there were no such lawsuits and no such studies, perhaps the Vatican decided that the words of Christ required them to punish these children by denying them homes, because of the perceived sins of all those would-be fathers and mothers. Or, since no such words of Christ exist, perhaps the Vatican just felt the need to throw a little weight around, to remind lay Catholics in North America and Europe just who makes the rules and who decides who is and is not a good Catholic. Perhaps, in the fight for Catholic identity the children have become sacrificial pawns.
In protest over the bishop's letter eight members of the Board of Catholic Charities resigned in protest. Their joint statement said, "The course the bishops have charted threatens the very essence of our Christian mission. For the sake of the poor we serve, we pray they will reconsider." Notice the letter did not say Catholic mission, but Christian mission. That sounds dangerously like lay people who have been reading the holy book and thinking for themselves, evidently a very un-Catholic pastime. In public the Boston Archdiocese portrays the entire issue as a matter of religious freedom, and discrimination against them.
However, a spokesman for the Catholic Church's political arm let a more pragmatic note slip into the debate. "The first responsibility of the bishops," he said, "is to see that Catholic doctrine is adhered to."
Republican Governor Mitt Romney has indicated that he leans toward supporting the Church's request to be intolerant. Of course he wants to be President and has now shown himself willing to cave in to any religious group that chooses to blackmail him - ala George Bush and Karl Rove. But his Lt. Governor, Republican Kerry Healy, who wants to replace Romney, issued a statement saying she thinks anyone who engages in a state regulated activity should abide by the laws and regulations of the state, "...and our anti-discrimination laws are some of the most important ones."
Meanwhile, in Washington, a statement of principles issued by Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives, saying that although faith is a primary motivator, representing non-Catholics requires that they sometimes must disagree with church doctrine, was inspired, according to the Catholic News Service, by frustration with "...the way the church used the holy Eucharist as a political weapon..." during the 2004 elections.
The Massachusetts Department of Social Services has 682 children in foster care right now, all looking for permanent homes. Let's hope they're all good Catholics. Otherwise, God help them. Because the Catholic Church has decided it no longer will.