Archbishop Gomez, Archbishop Roger Mahony, Arnold Toynbee, Bishop Thomas Curry, Burkean Conservatism, Canonical Law, Catholic Church Pedophelia, Communitarianism, Institutional Corruption, James Kunstler, Just Price, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, Mercantilism, The Enlightenment, The Master Meme, Thomas Aquinas, Veil of Ignorance
We got the white line fever
Become a grave compulsion
We got a taste of evil
A cannibal addiction
We got the rictus cheekbones
We got the death row moves
Stuck in a retro nightmare
We do the speed freak groove
We got cocaine hysteria
Tripping the light fantastic
We are the sex war children
We got amphetamine logic
We got the warp drive headf*ck
The sonic defecation
Implant the bio-electrodes
Into the funeral nation
To add to the usual calamities of rampant unbridled capitalism, environmental destruction, and resource depletion, we have the recent news that the US Supreme Court has rejected the 2 decade-long crusade by the Catholic Church to suppress some 77,000 pages of transcripts regarding men ‘o the cloth, as they disclosed their child molesting ways to therapists and church officials.
Of course, we’ve always known in a general sense the sordid overview of their perverted transgressions, mainly from lawsuits and allegations filed by the victims numbering in the thousands. This particular series of events in the last week or two is specific to the largest Catholic Diocese in the US, that of Los Angeles, CA.
I find these events not only shocking, but instructive in a way that gives some insight into what has been called by James Kunstler as the Master Meme, or in other words the baffling tendency for all to heel to the notion that all is well, in the face of pure rottenness.
In considering this multi-decade atrocity, it is helpful to consider the full breadth of the Church, in terms of size and impact in the theological landscape. Roughly 100mm Americans have been baptized Catholic, or about 1/3 of the entire population. The Catholic Church is a corporation, although listed as a non profit. The size of this global multi-national is truly staggering, its spending is estimated at $170 Bn annual, roughly on par with General Electric. It employs an estimated 1mm people worldwide.
So this is no group of fringe cultists, it is a substantial part of the fabric of American life, as well as most other developed countries.
Now given the size and monetary (as well as mutli-national) status of the Church, it is tempting to fit this into the anti-Capitalist narrative, and indeed this might make an interesting post but as a thought exercise I decided to suspend any suspicion that there are “free market forces” at work and simply take the events of the last two weeks at face value, a Rawlsian veil of ignorance so to speak.
I found the results of this viewpoint to be fascinating, in effect an exposed Petri dish of Conservatism and Communitarianism gone bad, with the release of the carefully shrouded documents, we can see the transparent machinations of an institution obsessed with carefully preserving itself in spite of clear damage to the host organism.
And it is this same strain of conservative and communitarian thinking that is infecting the story of the environment, the story of resource depletion, and the story of capitalism. With this Church debacle revealed, we can see how it all plays out in a soup to nuts danse macabre.
To set this up, let’s briefly examine some of the key tenets in Communitarianism, and have a look at a brief history of the Church and its role as keeper of the kingdom for more than 1000 years before the Enlightenment. Firstly, let it be said that the mere premise of acting as a centralized repository of human knowledge for century after century has to be taken seriously. These guys were no dummies, and any serious research into the history of the Church reveals many nuggets of significant learning, for example, the likes of Thomas Aquinas and his theory of Just Price were intellectual milestones in the constructive framework of Mercantilism, while Arnold Toynbee provided much of the intellectual consolidation of these early efforts into a modern (19th century) interpretation.
These are but two of the more interesting examples of how Church thinking presaged modern ethics, economics, and morality. This was of course, precisely what the Church was supposed to be doing (at least in between Crusades). I think it fair to say that given the technology available of the day, these guys had a fairly advanced understanding if not of the scientific subject matter (Ptolemaic thinking comes to mind) but certainly with regard to morality, and the intersection of morals with a variety of subjects in the human condition.
In the context of Communitarianism, this philosophy recognizes the tremendous value of the 1000+ year knowledge base of humanity that has been collected by the Church, or any other community of significant duration. It also introduces the notion (real or imagined) that this knowledge base is simply too large for any given person to itemize and rationalize in a single lifetime. It’s just too much data to deeply investigate each and every topic- so we need trusted advisers, mentors, what have you, who have domain expertise in these areas of morality to advise our reflexive behavior.
Now, within this framework we have a key conceptual underpinning, and that is the history of the community standards as the defacto rule of law. The standard of community is perceived as correct as it is the beneficiary of centuries of human proof. You can think of it as making value decisions based on the 200 day (or 200 years for Church matters) moving average of the stock market, it (Communitarianism) tracks long term trends, and does not reflect day to day volatility. This speaks to the wisdom of human learning and history, and defaults to long term community standards as arbiter of right and wrong. The advantage to this approach is that in moral and ethical matters, the community is to ignore day to day noise and other pop culture sensibilities that in hindsight prove to be poorly formed, and thereby avoiding the whipsawing of an entire culture until cooler heads prevail. In this fashion, the moving average gradually allows adaptation of a culture in a time proven manner.
Conservatism (in the Burkean sense) is quite similar, but is more ideological, property based, and does not necessarily contain the moving average mechanism of Communitarianism that allows incremental advancement of community standards.
For the record, I find some elements of both Burkean conservatism and Communitarianism quite useful, I do not however, consider any of the current crop of self identified small government “conservatives” and free market evangelists to be credible in any way shape or form- they are certainly not Conservatives in the Burkean sense.
These ideologies are most useful in stable, change resistant societies that do not undergo rapid technological advancement. Rapid technological advancement places matters with important ethical repercussions into a time scale that cannot be effectively dealt with on a slow, moving average basis.
Ok, so with those words as preamble, we can have a brief chronology of events which started with the release of the Church’s records of child molestation on Jan 31st, as it turned out contained damning evidence that Cardinal Mahony had willfully and aggressively worked to conceal these acts for many years. This was followed Thursday with Archbishop Gomez’s repudiation of Mahony’s status in the Church (he has been retired for two years).
And on Friday, apparently chagrined in the outing by his successor, Mahony responded with an open letter to the Diocese. Here is one of the more shocking comments Mahony has made:
“Nothing in my own background or education equipped me to deal with this grave problem,” he wrote. “In two years [1962—1964] spent in graduate school earning a master’s degree in social work, no textbook and no lecture ever referred to the sexual abuse of children. While there was some information dealing with child neglect, sexual abuse was never discussed.”
Wow. So with all that 1000+ years of Church knowledge base in human history, with all those advanced degrees, with decades of personal experience in canonical law as well as the detailed study of theology and the human condition, we have that statement? Keep in mind pedophilia has been recognized and universally condemned since the 7th century.
A reply from Ann Landers would have more actionable common sense on the subject of child abuse than this knucklehead can bring to bear.
Also caught up and (deservedly) thrown under the bus was Bishop Thomas Curry, the human relations handyman responsible for managing the sex crimes case load for the Church. This guy was old school Irish brought over from the old country to head up this debacle under Mahony. Notably, he is also an expert scholar in constitutional law, specifically 1st Amendment rights. He stepped down Thursday from his Santa Barbara parish in disgrace. Here is one of his quotes which gives insight into his deflectionary role in Church proceedings:
“The targeting of the Church (particularly in California), the overreaching of district attorneys and prosecutors, and the lack of due process and fairness for the Church has been tyrannical,” he once wrote on a personal blog.
In another online missive, he criticized a San Diego federal judge who had upheld a California law allowing victims to sue for decades-old abuse: “Americans assume that the days of Henry VIII, when rulers declared themselves authorities in religious matters, are long gone in America. For Catholics, unfortunately, that is far from the reality.”
In an email to The Times on Saturday, Curry said he wrote the blog posts to make the point that the Catholic Church was being unfairly blamed for a “society-wide issue.”
“I do believe that it is a mistake for society to treat this as a ‘Catholic Church’ problem,” he said.
You can change a few words around and easily mistake this as from some Tea Party nitwit bloviating from the corporate helm of a multi-national. Or maybe an NRA spokesman.
But heads have rolled right, justice has been served, and now we are all the better for it right? Maybe not, as apparently Mahony was so incensed by the dismissal from Archbishop Gomez, the following retraction was published late Friday:
Gomez issued another statement Friday afternoon: It read: “Questions from the faithful and some members of the news media indicate that it would be helpful for me to clarify the status of Cardinal Roger Mahony and Bishop Thomas Curry.
Cardinal Mahony, as Archbishop Emeritus, and Bishop Curry, as Auxiliary Bishop, remain bishops in good standing in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, with full rights to celebrate the Holy Sacraments of the Church and to minister to the faithful without restriction.”
Before Gomez’s announcement, Mahony had weathered three grand jury investigations and numerous calls for his resignation. He stayed in office until the Vatican’s mandatory retirement age of 75. No criminal charges have been filed against Mahony or anyone in the church hierarchy.
And so the blueprint of deflection and obfuscation is laid forth.