by C.T. Rossi
There are those who think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of the Depression, singing songs to freedom.
~ Garet Garrett
There is a genuine and well-founded hope that we are on the brink of a political watershed. It has been dubbed the Ron Paul Revolution, not by Paul himself, but by lovers of liberty who recognize Dr. Paul as the only champion for the Constitution, not only in the presidential race, but in all of national politics.
But all of this begs the question: "What happened that we need a revolution?" The short answer to that question is that the institutions founded in the wake of the American Revolution, institutions designed to minimize government and foster personal freedoms, became subverted. Borrowing from modern organizational babble, the federal government got away from its mission statement. The mechanisms of the American Experiment, somewhere along the way, started robbing freedoms rather than protecting them. Though we can say what happened, it is slightly more difficult to say precisely how it happened. Ironically, many answers can be found in a recent book on the genesis of the recent Catholic Church sex scandals.
It is not hard to make the case that no institution has had a portion of its leadership act so visibly counter to its stated mission than has the Catholic Church over the last 40 years. From the immense sexual abuse scandal, to rogue movie reviewers in the United States Bishops Conference, to an Italian diocese which refuses to allow the return of the Latin liturgy, the Catholic Church is often its own worst enemy. Author Randy Engel had shed some amazing light on why.
Engel has penned The Rite of Sodomy in an attempt to answer many questions raised by the priest-driven scandals which have not only soiled the Church’s image in the headlines, but has also stripped dioceses of their property to pay for jury verdicts.
Engel addresses the elephant in the living room, the issue that an overwhelming majority of the abuse was of a same-sex nature. From this starting point, she analyses homosexuality first from an historical perspective and then from the perspective of the tenets and beliefs of the Catholic Church. Engel goes on to outline unexplored connections between the scandals. Finally, she provides circumstantial evidence that the scandals were not only covered up by some Church leaders, but that those leaders were themselves compromised by their own indiscretions.
While all of this proves intriguing for the reader interested in Catholic issues, Engel has unwittingly provided something to those not generally interested in religious and/or Catholic histories. The subtle thesis that emerges is that the modern State, with its seductive power, has played a major role in the corruption of the Church.
The State’s ascendancy came at the opportune moment when Christendom had been cleaved in two by the Reformation. Because of this, Christianity has subtly ceased to be the center of Western cultural and intellectual life. Ultimately, Church leaders relegated themselves to be the handmaids of the State – most especially in the United States.
While the conversion of American prelates into statists evolved over time, they were sufficiently indoctrinated in the "religion" of state worship by Woodrow Wilson’s presidency that the hierarchy "informed President Woodrow Wilson that Catholics were ready to ‘rise as one man to serve the nation.’" This "rising" culminated in the creation of the National Catholic War Council (NCWC). The organization gained the title of "one of the most effective lobbies on Capitol Hill." (Not the preferred title for an institution committed to the salvation of souls.)
The NCWC was the first instance of centralization in the American Catholic Church, but it did not come about unopposed. Engel captures the heroic words of Bishop John J. Nilan of Hartford as he opposed the creation of the NCWC in 1919:
I am opposed to any standing committee to either declare policy or shape the policy of the Church or to commit the Church publicly to any policy; as the method of dealing efficiently with all questions must depend on local conditions . . . and should be left in the hands of local authority.
Other perceptive critics of the Church’s foray into the welfare/warfare state accurately suspected that radicals had "captured the American Church and chartered a new course for her."
The NCWC proved a training run for what was to come when "on April 10, 1919, Pope Benedict XV gave the American hierarchy permission to organize a new episcopal bureaucracy." That creation would become the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference.
Most interesting to followers of American political centralization is a statement released by the NCWC in 1952 entitled (with the second-rate film strip title) Religion: Our Most Vital Asset. While one might assume that a (nominally) Catholic organization might offer St. Thomas More as the model of a religious man in the secular world, the NCWC manifested its true disposition by choosing Abraham Lincoln – "a deist, subscribed to no creed, and believ[ing] in no personal God" as the "prototype of a religious man."
Engel goes on to recall other unholy alliances of Church and State, like a 1965 black welfare recipient sterilization program undertaken in conjunction with the State of Louisiana, which, predictably, led to the destruction of lives and the pursuit of "illegal payment of liquor bills, private plane junkets, and political contributions."
Ultimately, in Engel’s assessment, it was the hijacking of the NCCB/USCC, a "canonically approved super-bureaucratic structure with virtually unlimited control of every aspect of Catholic life and direction of all public policies of the Church in the United States," which allowed a handful of individuals to subvert the mission and morals of the Church.
The sexual abuse scandals are only partially about sex. Its roots lie not only in the darkness of men’s hearts, but also in unnecessary and immensely powerful bureaucratic structures which ultimately function as a vehicle for the fulfillment of the lusts of select individuals to the detriment of the rest of humanity.
As witnessed by his recent motu proprio, the current Pontiff seems dedicated to allowing rich and authentic diversity within the Church (much to the chagrin of the NCCB). If Ron Paul is similarly able to tackle the leviathan in Washington, DC, a springtime for peace and freedom may not be as far off as we might think.
December 19, 2007
C.T. Rossi [send him mail] is an attorney who lives in Mobile, Ala.
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