The iron cauldron of anti-Catholic bias continues to simmer. Between the creepy music, half-truths, outright falsehoods, lack of balance in the narrative, and strategic editing, it was difficult to tell whether I was watching a documentary or The Da Vinci Code.
Summary: Both truth and untruth form a tremendously nauseating 90 minutes of public television. I should have turned it off as soon as I saw the “Viewer Discretion Advised” thing. You can consider my conscience shocked, yet I remain firmly ensconced below deck aboard the Barque.
The true parts were nauseating because they’re true: countless children and young people were sexually abused, primarily by priests. Many in the hierarchy compounded the evil by trying to cover it up, which had the effect of multiplying the numbers of victims and amplifying the gravity of the scandal and damage to the Church. May all the victims, including those who shared their story on this program, be brought peace and healing, and protection from further exploitation.
Other true (and truly) nauseating things in the Frontline episode: certain individual churchmen committing financial crimes such as money laundering and gay priests in Rome hiring male escorts, cavorting with them in gay clubs, and celebrating Holy Mass the next morning before driving the escorts back to the airport. This is all bad, evil stuff, but it is unfair to imply that the reasons are institutional rather than individual.
What’s missing from Frontline’s treatment is an honest approach to portraying the Church or the pontificates of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. The reductive logic employed by the Frontline producers is that scandals perpetrated by individuals constitute a basis for condemnation of the whole — rather broad brush-strokes indeed.
We must stop hoping that there will ever be an acknowledgement from those who attack the Church that — as Msgr. Ronald Knox noted — “one of the reasons why our Lord chose Judas to be an apostle was because he wanted us to be prepared, from the first, against every possible shock to our consciences.”
There will never be acceptance from the MSM that it is the obstinate refusal to repent of our sin that defeats the salvation of the soul, and brings scandal to the Church, or that this obstinate refusal is personal on the part of the actor, and is not attributable to the Church herself. It is in spite of the holiness of the Church that people sin, not because of it.
The untrue parts of the program were also nauseating, because there were already enough true parts. It should remind us — we should consider it penance — that even if there weren’t as much scandal involving sexual crimes, financial corruption, institutional incompetence, and moral depravity among (some) in the Church, there would still be an effort to impugn and undermine the good works of the Church, and misrepresent its positions and teachings. Some examples:
- Frontline repeats the claim at least once that Cardinal Ratzinger changed the Catechism so that it stated that homosexual orientation is “objectively disordered”, no attempt is made to support this claim with facts. It certainly doesn’t acknowledge that the language in the Catechism cites the CDF document Persona humana, promulgated in 1975 (i.e., pre-Ratzinger), or that the 1992 version of the Catechism was provisional and therefore still in revision. Or further still that the source of this teaching is scriptural (Gen. 19:1-29, Rom. 1:24-27, 1 Cor. 6:10, 1 Tim. 1:10). What this is really about is making the man who became Benedict XVI into an anti-gay bigot.
- Frontline implies that John Paul II ignored or disregarded Ratzinger’s warnings about the disgraceful and evil conduct of Legion of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel — and even more egregiously — suggests that John Paul II did so out of interest in the financial and vocational success of the Legion of Christ or out of calculated disregard for the victims, it ignores journalistic integrity by assuming that John Paul knew about these things, when his secretary unequivocally states he did not.
- Frontline mentions — a la Da Vinci Code — that the Vatican’s “Secret Archives” (again, without even so much as an attempt of offering a scintilla of evidence) house records of the horrors perpetrated by the Church, which the Church manages to shield by virtue of its status as a sovereign nation. Never mind that minimal research (try Wikipedia for a start) would verify that “secret” doesn’t mean “confidential” or that scholars are actually permitted access to the archives upon presentation of their academic credentials.
- Frontline attempts to argue (revealing its own agenda and through those interviewed) that clerical celibacy is the primary cause of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, when the statistics from the John Jay Report indicate that 81% of the minors abused by priests were male, 95% of which were adolescent (post-pubescent), and that therefore the problem has more to do with homosexuality in the priesthood.
- Frontline posits that Pope Francis has no problem with gay sex, citing the extensively misused quote, “Who am I to judge?” or that the Holy Father is more relaxed on the Church’s teachings on abortion, contraception, marriage and sexual morality than his predecessors. In fact, these claims are also completely false.
In other words, the Church isn’t despised because of the sexual abuse crisis or any other scandal (this is just delicious opportunity); she is hated because in spite of the sin and hypocrisy of all of her members, she always holds to what is true, even while all of us individual Catholics perpetually fall short. Even if every one of the untruths were in fact true, none of this would prove the claims of those who attack “The Church”.
For all the guilt and shame the institutional Church deserves for its hand in the past generation of scandals, what it will never receive from the MSM — no matter how sparkling clean it becomes under Pope Francis — is a fair trial in the court of public opinion. And it shouldn’t matter, for in cleaning up the hierarchy of the Church — and ensuring the protection of every one of her innocent members — we are only doing what we were always obliged to do. (Luke 17:10). We should expect no congratulations from the MSM just as we should expect none from Jesus.
Ultimately, if we are truly a people of faithful believers in Jesus Christ, we will remain confident in His justice, and His judgment, realizing that we will all be called before Him to account for ourselves. Even without such scandals, His mercy is always more than we deserve.