The Catholic Right, Part Five: The Everyday Implications of Theocracy
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 04:18:51 PM EST
If the Religious Right were to succeed in establishing an American theocracy, or anything even close, the devil would be in the details. A preview is now being played out between the Catholic League on the theocratic Right and the Voice of the Faithful representing a full spectrum of mainstream centrist, liberal and conservative Catholics.
In the last installment of this series, the role of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights was discussed. By most objective standards, the League actually spends little time on defending the rights of ordinary Catholic individuals. Their definition of protecting Catholic civil and religious rights is increasingly limited to defending hierarchy and dogma: a self-evident fact that plays out in the Church's pedophilia scandal.  

When the scandal broke several years ago, the Catholic League rightly expressed indignation that sexual abuse was visited upon our children. But it was in its subsequent pronouncements that it reverted to its automatic reflex to shield Church hierarchy from even justified claims of abusing power. As recently as June 7, 2006, the League placed an advertisement in The New York Times .  Besides misrepresenting the age range of the majority of victims--describing 81% of the victims as "postpubescent," "male," and "not little kids"--almost as if that makes the abuses less heinous, the League attempted to change to the focus of the Church's responsibility by comparing its track record to other institutions.  

To its credit, Voice of the Faithful issued a press release in response. VOTF correctly described the real issue at hand not as, "...how the Church is doing in response to the sexual abuse crisis compared with other organizations." Instead, The organization noted, "The issue is what changes has the Church implemented and how are they being followed to dramatically reduce the chances that children will be abused by priests in the future." Additionally, VOTF demonstrated how the League misrepresented the findings of the Cara Study by explaining how at least 83% of the victims were minors under the age of 18. (i)

And as USA Today reported, "The board's analysis, written by Washington lawyer Robert Bennett, sharply criticizes the nation's 296 bishops' "shameful" failings including: failure to grasp the problem, "unwarranted presumptions in favor of accused priests"; "excessive reliance" on therapeutic programs; greater concern for church legal and financial liability than for victims; and lack of accountability by bishops." (ii) This was a conclusion the Catholic League conveniently failed raise in its New York Times advertisement.

But why should a pedophilia scandal matter in a discussion about the Religious Right's ongoing attempts to break down the walls separating church and state?  

Well, actually it matters a great deal.

We who have studied the political agendas of Dominionist and Reconstructionist Protestants as well as their ultra-Orthodox Catholic counterparts understand the obvious dangers they present to our democracy. To this end we constantly warn of their intentions to erode privacy rights as well as wanting to subjectively impose limits upon freedoms of expression.  But perhaps even we have failed to grasp the everyday implications of a theocratic society. If certain denominations are allowed to be elevated to a co-equal status with government as society's lawgivers, subjective orthodoxies may well replace objective notions of justice. That problem arises with many on the Catholic autocratic Right who see the church as a sovereign institution that should be able to handle its own problems internally, free from the oversight of a local secular government.  

Such a scenario runs contrary to our cherished notion of Equal Protection--treating similarly situated persons or institutions in the same manner. But a more ominous, but less commonly anticipated result of such reduced scrutiny could be catastrophic. We as a society must consider what would happen when either the inner workings or internal self-interest of any given denomination runs contrary to objectively held notions of the common good. It could foreseeably end in the dissuasion of accountability in ways that directly affect the security of the family structure, leaving the most vulnerable---our children--at increased risk.  

But what is it that causes the Catholic League to attack any group with such ferocity, especially when those targeted have the best interests of minors as their priority? It is simply because VOTF members want the clergy to consult them on what the church is doing to prevent further abuses. They want accountability. And true accountability requires a reasonable measure of transparency.  

In order to understand the Catholic League's scorched-earth policy toward lay groups such as VOTF, it's President William Donohue's view of the church sovereignty must first be understood. Both he and the League operate under the antiquated belief that the Church's dirty laundry should be washed internally, even out of the eyes of its own congregants, the same congregants who pay parochial school tuition, fill the Sunday collection plates and ultimately pay the price for settling court case resulting from this scandal. Indicative of this belief is a Catholic League press release issued on April 22, 2005, entitled "Time For Non-Catholics To Butt Out," in which Donohue bitterly complained about non-Catholics interfering in internal Church Affairs.  

Nor is Donohue alone in this belief. Ultra-traditionalist and former Bush administration confident Deal Hudson starkly called VOTF "...simply another group of dissenters, plain and simple" as well as "...a wolf in sheep's clothing." (iii)  It is also a belief commonly held among many of the Institute on Religion and Democracy crowd that makes up the Catholic League's Board of Advisors, notably, George Weigel.

Weigel, like Donohue, has also miscast the pedophilia crisis as one due primarily to "a culture of dissent" he derisively describes as "Catholic Lite." Weigel's proposed remedy is for the faithful "... to recover...a sense of the great adventure of orthodoxy." According to Weigel, a significant part of this "great adventure" is not to ask any inconvenient questions. As he told the Zenit News Agency in 2002:  

"By 'culture of dissent' I mean men and women -- including priests, women religious, bishops, theologians, catechists, Church bureaucrats, and activists -- who believed that what the Church proposed as true was actually false. If you really think that -- if you really believe that the highest teaching authority of the Church is teaching falsehoods and is leading the Church into error -- you're not in full communion with the Church. And that has consequences, including behavioral consequences." (iv)

Such an incomplete diagnosis is both inaccurate as well as self-serving. It is inaccurate since it fails to explain other incidents of pedophilia that occurred well before the 1960s, and it is self-serving in that it is being used as means to stifle justified dissent. But beyond that, it is an unvarnished attempt to evade the very thing VOTF is after: simple accountability.  

Bill Moyers recently observed, "An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only on partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy -- or worse." (v)

Well, that is what the William Donohues of the world do. They use dissembled propaganda to confirm bias and they do so not in the pursuit of commonly held notions of justice, but instead to achieve special dispensation from protecting the common good, in this case, the safety of our children.

And this brings us back to why the Founding Fathers desired the separation of church and state. It must be remembered that the American Revolution was a conflict born of the Enlightenment and that our Constitution was a direct product of the Age of Reason. While many of the Founding Fathers were themselves religious, they were also cognizant of Europe's recent past where Catholic and Protestant populations often waged long bloody wars against each other. They understood that such upheavals severely disrupt domestic tranquility. But beyond that, they also did not want to reestablish a society where any one denomination was the sole arbiter of morality and to be able to use that power to shield the transgressions of its individual members. We are citizens first, replete with duties and responsibilities owed too each other. If we fail to understand this, the result could be a time in the future where fundamentalist Protestantism and Opus Dei Catholicism would be given extreme latitude to impose their brands of Christianity upon the national will without the attendant accountability.

An extremely scary thought indeed.

THE CATHOLIC RIGHT: A SERIES By Frank Cocozzelli :  PART ONE PART TWO  PART THREE   PART FOUR

Notes

(i) The John Jay study pointed out that 40% of the victims were boys between the ages of 11 and 14.
(ii)  USA Today, February 29, 2004, "Catholic Abuse Reort Paints Disturbing Picture," Link: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2004-02-29-abuse-reports-usat _x.htm
(iii)  Catholic Commentary, "A Close Look at Voice of the Faithful;"
Link: http://www.catholicity.com/commentary/hudson/voiceofthefaithful.h tml Hudson was in charge of Catholic outreach for the Bush 2004 reelection campaign until the National Catholic Reporter ran an expose' on a sexual liaison he had with an 18-year-old student in 1994, an action that at Fordham University. The incident cost Hudson his professorship as well as his advisory position with the Bush campaign.
(iv)  Link: http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0568.html
(v)   Speech to the National Conference for Media Reform on May 15, 2005




Display:
I believe by putting our message about the Religious Right within the context of personal security we can better reach the American mainstream.

Many working folks may question our warnings about privacy rights, but they will clearrly understand protecting the safety of loved ones. And it is our duty to explain how a society that even begins to approach a theocracy will adversely affect even our basic notions of security--especially to our youngest members.

I would like to know your thoughts on this premise.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 07:19:05 AM EST


Frank-

Thanks once more.

Kathy

by khughes1963 on Wed Jun 21, 2006 at 10:57:25 PM EST

It's nice to know that the message is getting out there.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Thu Jun 22, 2006 at 07:26:42 AM EST
Parent


was never a fact limited to the American Catholic Church. or any particular Church. It is not the fact such a criminal is discovered, but the opportunity for the criminal to be attracted and supported, that virtually guarantees the crime will arise, if or when the crime is outed at all.

That a spate of specifically American Catholic Priests were outed, is much more of an indicator of the opening of American legal paths to expose such behavior, faced with a determined power structure to hide it. The Boy Scouts, and Big Brother to name just a couple are no less vulnerable, and have had their own problems and successes.

However it is in Non American venues that that such societies generally and Catholics especially (since that is your special concern) would not have such "paths to expose" but all other factors are the same, how can there be anything but huge such scandals, no less an outrage for lack of exposure? I know of only one case of a gay man who lays the origins of his lifestyle to being molested in Cuba, pre-Castro, but other than being open about it to those who know him, his story was never made public.

The single situation does not make a trend, even if all the man says is true. But the abuse of power unchecked does not need individual case study documenting every abuse to prove it exists at all, or even that honorable unchecked power is not the exception. The very existence of unchecked power, in any place it occurs, is prima facia evidence of a problem, and the likelihood that secrecy is hiding perversions (sexual and otherwise) that is only limited by the tastes and imagination of the one in power.

That is not to say that only knowledge that others are checking keeps people honest. But the knowledge that they are not attracts the predator, and tempts those who have only the slightest interest otherwise.

by FreeDem on Mon Jan 29, 2007 at 09:33:00 AM EST



WWW Talk To Action


"The $1-Billion-a-Year [Religious] Right-Wing Conspiracy You Haven't Heard Of"
In honor of the 2014 incarnation of the event known as The Gathering, I've given an interview with Jay Michaelson, writing for the Daily......
By Bruce Wilson (2 comments)
(Un)Fantastic Five: A Remembrance Of Values Voter Summits Past
The Religious Right's annual "Values Voter Summit" (VVS) takes place this weekend. Americans United staffers Simon Brown, Sarah Jones and I will be there.......
By Rob Boston (5 comments)
The Christian Right's Voter Mobilization Strategy for 2014
My latest post at Political Research Associates is about how this weekend's Values Voter Summit fits into the Christian Right's wider electoral strategy for......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
NYT's David Brooks to Speak at Antigay Luncheon of Billionaires Who Fund Racist Preacher
Recently, government-encouraged outbreaks of mob violence against LGBT persons in countries from Uganda to Russia, and draconian new anti-gay legislation in those countries too,......
By Bruce Wilson (2 comments)
D'Souza's Downfall: Religious Right Favorite Sentenced For Campaign Donation Violations
Yesterday conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza was sentenced to five years of probation and a term of community service for violating federal campaign laws. He......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Short Takes -- Taking Action Edition
Banned Books Week is being celebrated this year from Sept. 21-27.  Yes its time for the annual celebration of the Freedom to Read, sponsored......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Archbishop Schnurr Throws Cold Water on the Ice Bucket Challenge
The Ice Bucket Challenge has been an outstanding success in raising both awareness and research money needed to find a cure for Amyotrophic lateral......
By Frank Cocozzelli (1 comment)
The Secret Antigay U.S. Money Behind The WCF and the Global Evangelical War on LGBT Rights
[note to readers: this is an excerpt from my first installment in a Twocare.org/Center Against Religious Extremism series that will examine extensive ties -......
By Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Race as Religion
Reading Edith Beer's book, The Nazi Officer's Wife, I ran across an interesting account of her fake marriage license.  She married a Nazi officer......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
Dark Discussions on the Christian Right
The Neo-Confederate movement has been trying to jump start itself of late.  It has been an especially heady few months for the League of......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Oath Oaf: Religious Right Columnist Calls For Religious Tests In Military
Bryan Fischer, the director of issues analysis for the American Family Association (AFA) is like a demented, right-wing geyser: You can count on him......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Deeper Background on Dominionism -- Revisisted
In the Fall of 2011, there was an extraordinary -- and extraordinarily scurrilous -- wave of criticism aimed at those of us who had......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Fall From Grace: What The Religious Right Should Learn From The McDonnell Scandal
Leaders of Religious Right groups are fond of telling us that if we elect more fundamentalist Christians to office, we'll have less corruption. Biblical......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
A Visit To The Reality Community: Americans Have Sex. Americans Use Birth Control. Let's Move On.
Over the weekend, Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Greg Lipper took part in a panel discussion about the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision at......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
Thomas DiLorenzo's Rebel Yelling
I have written a great deal in the past few years about the odd phenomenon of Catholic Neo-Confederatism.  Let's add one more name to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)

Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (3 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
John Hagee: Jews will make deal with Antichrist before End Times
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy.  An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different.  On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Doug Phillips Resigns From Vision Forum over "Inappropriate Relationship"
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.