"If homosexuality is something we should all accept, and if priests should be allowed to have sex, and if the Boy Scouts should have gay scoutmasters, then why is everybody upset that homosexual priests have gotten sexually involved with boys under 18?"I took this quote from a column written by a Roman Catholic priest for an online publication called The Rake (rakemag.com). I present it here as evidence of the kind of logical and ethical confusion that seems to infuse the Catholic church, and has characterized its public response to the current child-abuse scandal.
Is the author really suggesting that if you fail to condemn homosexuality you must also condone pedophilia? If so, does he believe that supporting heterosexuality similarly implies approval of sex with little girls? And does he really think that sex between two consenting adults of the same gender is as morally reprehensible as the rape of an 11-year-old of either sex?
Examine the author's position more closely, and the logical fallacy takes on an ironic dimension: It's unfair for the media to excoriate a whole group (the clergy) for the actions of a few of its members, but it's perfectly OK for the church to castigate a whole group (homosexuals) for the actions of a few of its members.
I'd use this to illustrate the point that institutions need to control the flow of information - that allowing middle managers with no media training to speak for an organization can be dangerous. At least I would if it wasn't for the fact that so many of the statements coming through official channels have been even more asinine.
Cardinal Bernard Law of the Archdiocese of Boston condemned The Boston Globe for uncovering the scandal, and called down "the power of God
on the paper. Omaha, NE Archbishop Elden Curtiss wrote to a parishioner who had criticized the church in print that "any Catholic who uses the secular media to air complaints against the leadership of the church, without any dialogue with that leadership, is a disgrace to the church."
The urge to blame the media comes easily to many institutions in crisis, and should usually be avoided. That is particularly true in this case.
While there has been some sensationalism, the media has done the public - and, though it refuses to recognize it, the church - a great service in bringing the abuses and their cover-up to our attention.
Still, the church seems more intent on looking for the mote in its brother's eye rather than considering the beam in its own. That's a common failing, particularly among institutions convinced of their own authority and righteousness, and it's easy to see how it might be exacerbated in an organization that believes its leader is infallible and its teachings divinely inspired.
But as the church is learning, every institution is ultimately accountable to its stakeholders.