As anyone who has ears to hear has heard, Cardinal Law resigned from the archbishopric of Boston. He tried many months ago, but the pope rejected his offer the first time.

Victims’ groups, please don’t lambaste me for this, but the person I feel most sorry for in this undying local scandal is…Pope John Paul II. I imagine what a loop this whole sordid mess threw him for - because the pedophilia story is not, at its bottom, about the Roman Catholic Church.

Consider the Crusades, or better yet, the Inquisition. Those were events the Church fully intended to occur, planned out, went out and did, and blessed people for participating in (provided they were at the right end of the Temporal Arm). The Pope has apologized for all that, hundreds of years after the fact, but for the intevening centuries such things were church policy.

It’s never been church policy to molest little boys. Priests who join (or found) NAMBLA are not the result of aggressively-interpreted Biblical texts or canon law. This scandal is uniquely American and, especially, Bostonian.

On the American side, consider a superficially unrelated phenomenon - the co-education of the all-male colleges. The Citadel aside, this social revolution was completed by the mid-seventies. In fact, the last few bastions of the Y-chromosome fell precisely because all-male schools had begun to attract a certain kind of student. A decade or two later, the all-female colleges felt a similar statistical pinch - the applicant pool dropped sharply, driving schools like Wheaton to co-educate.

What, then, did the all-male priesthood attract after the fifties - a period of American history when the marriage rate was higher than ever before or since? The church has suffered from declining vocations for decades since. As any college-admissions officer knows, a declining applicant pool means a declining quality of applicant.

Add to that the sexual revolution, which gave everyone ideas and, perhaps more notably, led to such openness from victims of abuse. I assume victims are quieter about the whole matter in countries where being a victim attracts less moral support. I’m not saying that’s a good thing - I’m just explaining the Only in America aspect of the scandal.

There are little scandals scattered across America, but the big scandal is Only in Boston. Only in Boston do we have the Boston Globe, and only in Boston did we have an archbishop who was the clerical equivalent of Billy Bulger, with Paul Shanley playing his not-estranged-enough brother Whitey.

Family comes first here, and then the law. At least, it’s been that way for a long time. I hear things are changing, but I’m not sure I’d turn in Veronica if she were on the lam. I certainly wouldn’t do it over some trumped-up Federal charge like racketeering.

3 Responses to “Lawless”

  1. liz Says:

    There’s nothing ‘only in America’ about this scandal. The same thing went down in the Anglican Church of Australia, complicated by the fact that the arch-bishop who ignored claims of abuse in the beginning is now the Governor-General.

    But as a Catholic, I appreciate your thoughts for the Pope. ‘Cos … yeah. Getting tired of the secular abuse here.

  2. Jemima Says:

    I haven’t gone into details because I’ve had to read about it in the paper constantly for the past year, but if I did rehash it all, I think you’d have to admit that the Archdiocese of Boston is exceptional. It’s more than your average pedophilia and priest-shuffling.

    What other Cardinal flees to the Vatican when he gets subpoenaed? Where else has a diocese backed out of a financial settlement with a large, vocal group of victims? What other archdiocese has threatened to declare bankruptcy rather than pay damages? It’s unprecedented. The threat of bankruptcy is particularly ironic when you live in a section of Boston where the best parks are actually Church properties that are open to the public.

    I guess you just have to be here to appreciate it properly. That’s why I imagined the Pope as baffled by it all.

  3. Veronica Says: