Sunday, November 6, 2011

"The Christian ideal has not been tried ..."

And the embarrassment continues, with two recent news offerings. 

First, we learn that the German bishops' conference and dioceses own 100% of the shares of Weltbild, a publishing company that offers ... well, by German law it's not pornography, just erotica. I suppose that makes a difference to modern lawyers and Pharisees, to whom scrupulous adherence to the law is an adequate substitute for a moral compass. But is there something peculiar about the German hierarchs' minds that they can't see how owning a publisher of erotica just might be a cause of scandal?

Second, we learn that the bishop emeritus of Cheyenne, +Joseph Hart, is facing a sixth lawsuit alleging molestation when he was a priest of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. "The previous five lawsuits were settled in 2008 as part of a $10 million agreement that involved 47 plaintiffs who sued 12 clergy members, including Hart," according to WyomingNews.com. "The 38-page complaint, filed with the Circuit Court of Jackson County in Missouri, makes accusations of sexual molestation, harassment and negligence against Hart. It also claims Hart committed fraud by attempting to cover up his actions." +Hart, 80, retired in 2001.

I'd be angry if I weren't so saddened by the mess.

But there was one thing about the WyomingPost.com piece that gave me a rueful smile. In the combox, I read this little barf by "Dumb believers": "Thats what you get for believing a lie like religion. It does nothing but hurt people. Wake up people, the church and the bible are a lie!"

Now, actions that cause people to lose or reject the faith fit the classic definition of "giving scandal". Nor will I ever say that the German bishops' participation in pornography or +Hart's alleged sexual abuses are praiseworthy or excusable. 

At the same time, though, I have to say it: Anybody who thinks the sins of individual Catholics somehow disproves Catholicism, let alone the broader realms of Christianity or religion in general, really doesn't know jack squat about Catholicism or Christianity or religion in general. 

Moreover, it's bad logic. If God exists, then He exists whether that fact prompts me to kiss you or kill you. If Jesus was and is the Messiah, the Son of God and God Incarnate, then that fact remains true whether I'm the greatest of saints or the greatest of sinners ... and all saints recognize they are sinners. Thus Oscar Wilde: "Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future." And also he whom The Blogger Who Must Not Be Named calls "the Prophet Chesterton":

Of course, I mean that Catholicism was not tried; plenty of Catholics were tried, and found guilty. My point is that the world did not tire of the church's ideal, but of its reality. Monasteries were impugned not for the chastity of monks, but for the unchastity of monks. Christianity was unpopular not because of the humility, but of the arrogance of Christians. Certainly, if the church failed it was largely through the churchmen. But at the same time hostile elements had certainly begun to end it long before it could have done its work. In the nature of things it needed a common scheme of life and thought in Europe. Yet the mediaeval system began to be broken to pieces intellectually, long before it showed the slightest hint of falling to pieces morally. The huge early heresies, like the Albigenses, had not the faintest excuse in moral superiority. And it is actually true that the Reformation began to tear Europe apart before the Catholic Church had had time to pull it together. The Prussians, for instance, were not converted to Christianity at all until quite close to the Reformation. The poor creatures hardly had time to become Catholics before they were told to become Protestants. This explains a great deal of their subsequent conduct. But I have only taken this as the first and most evident case of the general truth: that the great ideals of the past failed not by being outlived (which must mean over-lived), but by not being lived enough. Mankind has not passed through the Middle Ages. Rather mankind has retreated from the Middle Ages in reaction and rout. The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.
What I'm trying to say is that, far from proving Catholicism or Christianity false, examples like the German bishops' involvement in softcore porn or +Hart's multiple suits for child sexual molestation are just as much proofs of the truth of Catholicism as are miracles and saints. Membership in the household of the faith is no guarantor of holiness; nor is it an irrevocable pass to Heaven. "Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers'" (Mt 7:21-23).