Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Shame on the Church ... for slipping into Freudianism

It's always amusing to hear the enemies of the Church criticize it on grounds that are inconsistent with their own world view. In the recent "scandal" over the sexual abuse by priests, one of the problems was the fact that the Church bought in to the very methods of dealing with such things those outside the Church were pushing.

In several comments on Monday's post pointing out the distortions and half truths being leveled at the Pope over the homosexual priest child abuse scandal in Milwaukee, both Thomas and Francis Beckwith make a great point this.

One of the other problems is that many of these bishops relied on "experts" in psychiatry and psychology on how to deal with these wicked men. Too many churchmen, therefore, took a matter of sin and medicalized it. This is the modern way of doing things, the sort of posture that Dawkins, Brayton, and others suggest we emulate in every aspect of our lives.
Other than isolated cases of corrupt bishops (like the one in this case), the problem was that many American bishops were consulting psychologists, who were reporting some of these priests "cured". Considering also the fact that the rise in abuse cases corresponded with the sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's, the problem seems to be that some areas of the American Catholic church were too liberal and not Catholic enough. That's a harsh indictment from the Catholic perspective, but it's hardly the criticism that Brayton and other liberal critics want to make.
In other words, the Church screwed up, but it screwed up by accepting a secular theory of the human person that was contrary to the traditional Catholic view. Had the Church been more scrupulous in the theories it accepted (and, let's face it, in the 60s and 70s it went in for every psychological fad that came down the pike), it might have been more successful at dealing with abuses by its own priests.

Thomas makes a great point about the hypocrisy of the Church's critics, who are accusing the Church, ironically, of hypocrisy:
An interesting way to approach the problem might be: whose view of sexuality is more opposed in principle to child abuse, the liberal-permissive view or the Catholic view?

Or another way: whose view of sexuality tends to lead more towards child abuse?

On the one hand, we have an institution that upholds chastity as the highest ideal, that holds that sexuality ought to be teleologically subordinated to things other than personal pleasure, that it in fact ought to function selflessly, and so on.

On the other, we have a movement that wants to break sexuality free from the traditional institutions which serve to moderate it, a view that people ought generally to do what is satisfying for them (even if this entails infidelity and broken homes).

I have to wonder if the popular attempt to brand pedophilia by the press as a Catholic problem is an attempt to convince oneself and others that the more noxious fruits of the sexual revolution are not the responsibility of the liberal movement, but instead are the responsibility of religious people.
The secular world criticizes the Church for being old fashioned and intransigent about the way it does things, and then when it unadvisedly does what the world says it should do, they criticize it for the results.

So maybe one of the lessons of the priest sexual abuse scandal is that the Church should just stop listening to the world altogether--including their current criticisms.


Unknown said...

Even though it may be correct to say that the Catholic Church “screwed up by accepting a secular theory of the human person that was contrary to the traditional Catholic view,” it feels out of place in light of what was perpetrated against countless young boys, and more importantly perpetrated against the name of God. (Romans 2:24 For “THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written.)

Rather than lamenting about distortions, exaggerations, and unfair judgments in the media, the Catholic Church and its apologists should be humbling themselves before God. Any other response - especially defensiveness - seems so inappropriate.

Thomas M. Cothran said...


You would have a point if anyone here were defending true accusations. However, what's being objected to are false and fraudulent accusations. If anyone else were being falsely accused, no-one would suggest that it's wrong to point it out.

Unknown said...


My point had *nothing* to do with the truth or falsity of these accusations. There is a time for defensive responses, and there is a time when a different sort of response is called for. My point is that in light of such egregious sins committed by the clergy of the Catholic Church, it seems the appropriate response at this time from the Church and her apologists should be humility – not defensiveness.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

So if I were to say that President Obama has directly protected pedophiles in the school systems (where it in fact is a much bigger problem than in the the Church, Catholic or otherwise), one should not point out this is false? You'd say there is a time for defenses and this is not it? If you really believe this, you've taken leave of your senses and of your obligation to stand up for the truth.

I suspect your standard on this point is contingent upon the innocent accused being a Christian or a Catholic.

Unknown said...

Hello Thomas,

You are correct to note that my point is contingent upon certain things. Because of what the Catholic Church purports to be she is subject to commensurate standards that simply do not apply to others. Whatever false and fraudulent accusations are being made absolutely pale in comparison to the betrayal of trust that has occurred. As such, it seems so hollow to hear the Catholic Church and her apologists aggressively defend against accusations under the guise of “standing up for the truth,” especially when these accusations are a result of the Church’s own significant failures. There just does not seem to be the moral ground to stand on.

I am not trying to bash the Catholic Church. I am just very saddened by all of this, and think humility is the appropriate response right now – not defensiveness. In the end, you and I may have to agree to disagree. If so, then I am content to be on this side of the point even if it means I have “taken leave of my senses.”

Thomas M. Cothran said...

So the United States should not live up to a standard that excludes child abuse in schools?

The effect of what your inconsistent standard is to implicate innocent people alongside guilty people, and to dilute the true claims of abuse with false claims, watering down their impact. And it it takes the position that one should not defend an innocent person from false allegations of complicity in child abuse.

Propounding the view that innocent people should be accused of complicity in child molestation without impediment has nothing whatsoever to do with humility. The Catholic Church ought to be humble in the respects in which it failed (which are, of course, many), but it ought to stand up for its falsely accused members. Perhaps you can explain to me why a church ought not defend those who are falsely accused, as well as how in the world this relates to humility.

Martin Cothran said...


I think I understand your main concern here and I largely agree with it. And I also admit that in this particular post I was engaging in a little hyperbole on this point--hyperbole that I think was self-evident and that I would submit is balanced by my comments in other posts in which I say that the archbishop in this case was very much at fault for how the case was handled on the local level.

I agree with your point about humility, but there are two points which I think you are not taking into account here.

The first is that you cannot take my post--which is admittedly defensive on behalf of the Pope on this point--as any kind of indication that the Church has not itself practiced humility on this issue. For one thing I don't speak for the Church. For another, I don't speak for the Pope. And, finally, I'm not even a Catholic.

Second, the Church--insofar as it is represented by the Pope--has practiced humility on this issue. The Pope has already said that the actions that have resulted in child are abuse are "evil" and a cause of "deep shame."

If you are going to take the position that the Church is being defensive and not humble, I think you cannot use comments on my blog as evidence for this and you are going to have to take account of these other considerations.

Martin Cothran said...


I should also point out that my post was a defense specifically of the personal attack on the Pope. It just seems a great irony to me that the man who has done more than any other Church official to deal with this problem more effectively is the one being attacked for it.

It is also an irony that the guy who has been doing so much to tackle the problem is--despite his own role in counteracting it--the one doing the apologizing.

If that's not humility, I'd like to know what it is.

Unknown said...

Hello Martin,

I agree with you that I cannot take your posts on this blog as any kind of indication that the Catholic Church has not shown humility. Also, it was not my intention to assert that the Catholic Church was in fact behaving without humility. I can see how one is left with this impression, and for that I am sorry. I simply was trying to make the point that the situation calls for humility – not defensiveness.

Martin Cothran said...


Then I think we are agreed. Thanks for posting.