"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Episcopal Hearts of Stone

The last, and arguably most "radical" chapter in my Everything Hidden Shall be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Power concerns the episcopate. It was only very late in the process of writing and revising that I included the recommendations in there for major changes to the episcopate based on reading reports (especially in Pennsylvania and California) of how utterly--indeed, demonically--cold, callous, calculated, and uncaring bishops were and are in their responses to people whose lives have been destroyed by the abuse, leading not a few of them to death at their own hands, through drug overdoses, or by similar means. It's not for nothing that Leonard Shengold has called child sex abuse "soul murder."

It was bad enough that bishops moved abusers around and protected the Church's assets first and last. What was truly sickening was their complete refusal even to see the victims as fellow human beings. They were an abstract category--a problem to be made to go away as quickly and quietly as possible, with mendacious promises of reform preferably, a lean cheque if necessary, and a confidentiality agreement in either case.

In reflecting on this, I realized, as Claudia Rapp and others have shown, that bishops have functioned as a self-protecting elite insulated from real life for some 1500 years, and the most important, and most pathological, criteria for membership in this elite is disdain for normal sexual and more generally human intimacy. More recently this episcopal elitism (the nastiest strain of the disease Pope Francis has often criticized as "clericalism") is made infinitely worse by the system which processes and produces these developmentally arrested men, first by requiring celibacy of them, and second by sending them to seminaries at unhealthy ages. In some cases they are taken out of human relationships as early as adolescence, sent to a high-school seminary with all men, then a regular seminary with all men, and on to ordination in a male-only presbyterate.

All the while they are told never to have "particular friendships" or really even human feelings and regular relationships. In addition, they are coddled and catered to, swanning about in collars and cassocks even before ordination, expecting and receiving the "docility" of "pious laity" whom they will shortly be given license to boss about however they see fit. This is a sick system stripped of humanity, and one way (there are many others in the book) to begin an overdue reform is to return, as I argued, to a married episcopate so that these men who are made bishop come from in-tact families and themselves remain human beings molded, humbled, and humanized by having children of their own whose very presence will give hierarchs an otherwise missing element of basic sympathy when confronted with child sex abuse victims.

Along comes a new report confirming yet again the need for such reforms. This story concerns the East Coast. I happen to know a priest of the Archdiocese of New York (to which Egan was "promoted" because, hey, he was good with money and that's all these men really care about) who said of Cardinal Egan (and not a few of his predecessors) that one always and only met the cardinal-archbishop of New York: one never met a human being. That is true for virtually all bishops today.

One is here put in mind of Julia Marchmain's regretful comments (in Waugh's Brideshead Revisited) about the man she foolishly ended up marrying, Rex Mottram, when thinking of Egan and others: “He wasn't a complete human being at all. He was a tiny bit of one, unnaturally developed; something in a bottle, an organ kept alive in a laboratory....He was something absolutely modern and up-to-date that only this ghastly age could produce. A tiny bit of a man pretending he was the whole.” Mottram was solely concerned with money and reputation. He would make a perfect candidate for the episcopacy.

That is clearly confirmed in the report of Egan's handling of cases with open contempt and a total lack of humanity. If he has made it as far as purgatory, I hope he's there for a billion years repenting of this and begging the Lord to replace whatever blackened stone he had rattling around in his chest with a beating, human heart of flesh to experience the pain and suffering he inflicted, or allowed to happen, on all the victims in his several dioceses. In a Church concerned about justice, we should pray that the memories of the victims are indeed eternal, but that memories of Egan and his ilk be subject to damnatio memoriae. 

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