Get Religion examines a Commonweal blog on the new archbishop of Baltimore, William Lori.

In the blog, Terry Mattingly says

Consider, for example, this passage:

While Lori is known for his orthodoxy on doctrine and social issues, he was praised by many for taking a hard line in dealing with abusive priests, and in dealing with subsequent financial scandals that emerged.

Catch that? It’s all about that crucial word “while.”

Even though Lori is theologically orthodox, he was also willing to take a hard line against abusive priests who did everything they could to shatter both their vows and the church’s doctrines, on multiple levels. Why is it hard to believe that someone can be orthodox and, well, just?

Terry  points out that this implies an opposition, and that in my book Sacrilege, I, who am doctrinally and liturgically and politically conservative, am scathing in my comments on the abusers and their enables.

Most of the people who comment on the sexual abuse crisis try to adopt it to their narrative:

Liberals say that sexual abuse is the product of a patriarchal, hierarchal, obscurantist, hidebound corrupt Vatican-loyalists church that at least since Constantine’s day (or maybe St Paul’s) has gone astray from the feminist, sexual liberationist gospel that Jesus really proclaimed

Conservatives it is the result of amoral loosey-goosey feel-good liberalism which scarcely believes in God and has clown masses and doesn’t say the rosary and pals around with Democrats and that if we all just obeyed every jot and tittle of canon law all would be well.

Both try to fit the news to their version of what is happening in the Church. There is in fact evidence to support both sides: Maciel vs. Shanley, Law vs. Weakland.

What has happened is much more subtle. Abusers and their enablers are masters of manipulation: they know how to adopt their message to the narratives of their audience, narratives that have weaknesses.

It could be simple: “I am a dear old Irish priest who is kind and gentle with children and that is why I want to spend so much time alone with theme,”  “O, Isn’t Faaather wonderful!” (Geoghan)

Or it could be: “You need to overcome your sexual hang-ups, o 15 year old boy. Look in this book, see, theologians now say that there is nothing wrong with homosexual acts, and that they can be ways of growing in sexual maturity.” (Shanley and Gordon MacRae)

All the segments of the church should realize that their narratives, their ways of interpreting what has happened and is happening, can be exploited for destructive and immoral purposes, and not just in regard to sexual matters. Concern for the poor can be manipulated into toleration of leftist thuggery; concern for order can be manipulated into toleration of fascist thuggery.

We should always be aware of how we can be manipulated by those whose intentions are not good.

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