Russell Shorto

The Catholic Church Must Be Defended

The recent release of 30,000 or so pages of documents detailing the cover-up of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Los Angeles has brought the usual torrent of criticism of the church (Cardinal Roger Mahony, who the documents show working hard to shield rapist-priests, has been relieved of public duties). And with it comes the continued defense of the church. After helpfully noting that “It is well-understood that sexual abuse is a crime against children,” “Catholic Online” makes a remarkable charge:

While it appears based on the documents that Mahony may have participated in covering up crimes against children, he has actually gone one step further. He has actively participated in a crime against the entire Church.

An emerging trend among Catholic publications is to separate the offenders from the church. That has to be continually and dispassionately refuted. Every such utterance should be countered by, for example, the conclusion of the committee that documented decades of abuse of children in Catholic institutions in Ireland:

Physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of the institutions.

Repeat: physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of the institutions. Mahony is not separate from the church. He is of the church.

3 Replies to “The Catholic Church Must Be Defended”

  1. EBL says:

    Russsell, All institutions have this tendency to defend the institution first. That is the “feature” that they share. It took pressure and lawsuits from the outside to start to pivot that institutional self defense to self policing in the Catholic Church. But the Catholic Church is far from the only institution that does this.

    1. russell says:

      Indeed. But it insists to the world that it is a special institution, higher than all others. It insists that its members take it, its message, and its messengers as bearers of the grandest, deepest, most transcendent of truths. It insists that parents give their children wholly into its care, and promises that in doing so they will make their children closer to God. It relates its priests and their work directly to the will of God. The argument that I would make is not that we have to guard against the shortcomings of institutions (though we should) but that we have to work to disabuse people of the notion that any institution can legitimately make such claims of possessing transcendent truth.

  2. Just where did u actually pick up the tips to create ““The Catholic Church Must Be Defended | Russell Shorto”?
    Thanks for the post ,Maximo

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About the Author

  I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have three children (Anna, Eva and Anthony) and three step-children (Reinier, Hector and Benjamin).  I write books of narrative history; I believe history is most meaningful to us when it manifests itself through individuals in conflict. My books have been published in fourteen languages and have won numerous awards.  I am senior scholar at the New Netherland Institute and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. My interests include the past, the present and the future, not necessarily in that order.  

photo by Keke Keukelaar