I just made a short video, posted on the Ruth Institute Facebook page. Here is the text. This will be the first in a series on the subject of truth. Speaking of truth, Jeffrey Epstein did not kill himself.
Episode 1: We need truth.
Dealing with the new virus and the global shutdown has clearly taught us one point: we need truth. Lives depend on determining the truth. How contagious and deadly is the virus really? Are the mass quarantines and lockdowns really necessary? Some uncertainty is unavoidable. We are facing a new disease. We Continue reading “We Need Truth”
Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein and Theodore McCarrick operate(d) in different sectors of society, have different marital statuses and sexual preferences and profess different religions. What do these disparate men have in common? A belief system that claims that sex is an entitlement. They operate according to the tenets of the most powerful ideology currently at work in the world: the ideology of the sexual revolution.
Epstein, the millionaire financier and admitted sex offender who pleaded not guilty July 9 to charges of sexual trafficking, allegedly got away with sickening crimes for a long time. But it would be a serious mistake to succumb to cynicism. “What do you expect? Wealthy guys like him have always gotten to do what they want. It is not fair to blame the sexual revolution for their abuses.”
That is, at best, a partial truth. The rich and powerful have always been able to buy their way out of problems that would crush an ordinary person. But the widespread acceptance of the sexual revolutionary ideology smooths their path. To an unprecedented extent, the reigning secular religion of our time enables sexual abuse, disarms victims and empowers predators.
“You don’t want to be a prude, do you?”
“You want to be ‘sex positive,’ don’t you?”
“Sex is nothing to feel guilty about.”
“You just have to take off your clothes and let him look at you. It is nothing be ashamed of.” (That’s one of Epstein’s contributions to the pick-up-line genre.)
“You were born this way.”
“God made you gay.”
Of course, the rich and powerful have always been able make promises to entice a sex partner into giving “consent.”
Hollywood mogul Weinstein promised his victims that he’d make them stars. Epstein offered modeling careers. McCarrick promised advancement in the Church. The sexual revolutionary ideology provides the predator added advantages, including aborting unwanted pregnancy and undermining nosy neighbors and other witnesses.
Epstein’s alleged network spanned the globe. It must have been supported and propped up by numerous people, some who actively participated and benefited. Others looked the other way, such as the superintendent of the apartment building where he housed his teenage “models” and the “modeling agency” staff and the pilots who flew his private jets that were fully decked out for his orgies.
The sexual revolution conveys the unmistakable message that everyone is entitled to do whatever they can get away with. Prosecutors say Epstein has three active U.S. passports and owns multiple jets and houses around the world, including his own private island. Witnesses and victims feared Epstein’s retaliation and blackmail. This is a man who appears to get away with a lot.
This ideology relieves people of nagging consciences. Epstein’s conscience is malformed, to put it mildly.
In 2011, he told the New York Post, “I’m not a sexual predator; I’m an ‘offender.’ It’s the difference between a murderer and a person who steals a bagel.” He once allegedly received three 12-year-old girls as a birthday present. He doesn’t need an ideology that justifies or excuses his actions.
However, the sexual revolutionary ideology weakens the already vulnerable. The Miami Herald’s investigative report into Epstein’s activities showed:
Most of the girls came from disadvantaged families, single-parent homes or foster care. Some had experienced troubles that belied their ages: They had parents and friends who committed suicide; mothers abused by husbands and boyfriends; fathers who molested and beat them. One girl had watched her stepfather strangle her 8-year-old stepbrother.
One of Epstein’s victims who was 14 when she was first recruited said, “We were stupid, poor children. We just wanted money for school clothes, for shoes. I remember wearing shoes too tight for three years in a row. We had no family and no guidance.”
Yes, rich and powerful men love this concept that sex is an entitlement.
The magisterium of the Catholic Church stands in direct opposition to the sexual revolution. The secular #MeToo movement is trying to combat sexual abuse. But the movement’s advocates do not seem to want to surrender the intellectual framework that enables it. They seem to be counting on a combination of legal action and periodic public shaming to stop predatory behavior. I believe this will never be enough. The power imbalances are too many and too severe.
The Catholic belief system tells us no one is entitled to sex. Children are entitled to a relationship with both of their parents. Women and men are entitled to the love and loyalty of their spouses.
Every human person is entitled to be born as the result of an act of love between their mother and father. This act of love is an icon of the love of God and that God’s love is the ultimate source of everything that exists. All of Catholicism’s prohibitions (for which we are ridiculed) are aimed at protecting these positive values.
Yes, our belief system makes us Public Enemy No. 1 of the sexual revolutionaries. We are a big problem for those who believe they are entitled to unlimited child-free, problem-free, guilt-free sex. Not only do we tell them they are wrong, but also our belief system equalizes people. The poorest girl from an unknown family is encouraged and supported in refusing sex to any man of any station, in the same way a daughter of a billionaire would be encouraged likewise.
Faithful Catholics despise clerical sex abusers not only for their crimes, which are bad enough. We hold them in contempt because they disgrace the one philosophical system that has a prayer of finally combating this toxic ideological soup in which we are all swimming.
The Epstein Network, surrounded by enablers or those who turned a blind eye, sounds all too much like the network of clergy abusers. Society does not yet have a full accounting of either system. As faithful Catholics, we want the same kind of reckoning for both kinds of abuse. We want a full investigation of both Epstein and clerical abusers. We want punishment for the guilty and restitution for the victims. We want protection for the innocent and the whistleblowers.
Be not afraid, believers! We are on the right side of history on this issue.
Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote an extended essayon the clergy sex-abuse and cover-up scandal, where he cited the sexual revolution coming of age in Europe in 1968 as a contributing factor.
Some critical commentators thought Benedict’s attention to the sexual revolution was misplaced. Some, such as seasoned reporter and Vatican watcher Christopher Altieri, observed that the problem preceded the sexual revolution. Some say the problem is bigger than sexual morality. And to be perfectly honest, some want to say that the problem is anything but the sexual revolution and/or anything but homosexuality.
I’m willing to concede that clergy sexual abuse didn’t start in 1968 and that the clergy sexual-abuse crisis has many other important facets.
In spite of this, however, I maintain that the sexual revolution really is a significant factor. I will go further. We will not get a full grip on this problem until we confront the toxic ideology of the sexual revolution and the damage it has done.
The death of a father is an earth-shattering event. When my father died in 1993, I felt disoriented. I had never been in a world that did not include him. I could feel myself move up the generational ladder. No one is above me any longer. No one who matters stands above me. When I tried to describe this to older people, they immediately understood. Old men spoke to me of the deaths of their own fathers, in the hushed tones normally reserved for the sacred.
I thought of this when I learned that Father James V. Schall, S.J., had died. He was a father to me as to many. We have all just taken a step up the generational ladder. He won’t be there anymore. Younger people will look to us now at times when we would have looked to him.
COMMENTARY: The sex-abuse scandal has given ordinary laypeople the ability to facilitate real change. Case in point: the Diocese of Buffalo, New York.
The clergy sex-abuse scandal has irrevocably changed Catholic culture. Ordinary Catholics are comfortable today doing and saying things that would have been unthinkable to them just a few short years ago. And this is a good thing.
More than changes to Church governance, the policies and procedures, changes in what ordinary Catholics expect of themselves have the potential to improve the health of the Church. We have the potential to help the victims find healing and justice. And our new sense of what is acceptable behavior has the potential to pressure the clergy themselves into better behavior.
The ongoing drama in the Diocese of Buffalo, New York, illustrates these points. Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone has come under fire for covering up clergy sexual abuse. The diocese released a list of 42 credibly accused priests. However, the local TV station found more than 100 names. The FBI is investigating the diocese. A federal grand jury has subpoenaed two retired judges who are overseeing a diocesan program to compensate abuse victims. The usual mess.
In a slightly new and different twist, the diocese recently placed several priests on administrative leave for issues not directly related to sexual abuse of minors.
A local news source reports:
“According to the diocese, ‘unsuitable, inappropriate and insensitive conversations’ took place during a social gathering of seminarians and priests on April 11 that some seminarians found to be offensive.”
Five priests and 14 seminarians were present at this pizza party at a local rectory. Three priests were placed on administrative leave. The other two priests were reprimanded for not doing enough to stop the inappropriate conversation.
Of the 14 seminarians present, five have been interviewed as of this writing. They tell a mutually consistent story of (very) crude conversation that most Catholics would regard as (really) inappropriate for clergy.
To say that the diocese has “trust issues” would be an understatement. Many local Catholics don’t trust anything that comes out of the chancery or Christ the King Seminary. This cloud of suspicion is a basic fact of our current Catholic culture, and it affects how people respond.
When the pizza-party story broke, I saw people defending one of the priests on Facebook. They were sure Bishop Malone was trying to get rid of this priest, whom they regarded as good and orthodox. Eventually, more evidence came out confirming the seminarians’ story that the priest in fact made the inappropriate comments. But the original reaction shows how little trust people have in the Catholic establishment in Buffalo.
I also saw people connecting the dots between priests’ sexually explicit talk in the presence of seminarians, a priest having a “romantic interest” in a seminarian and clergy sexual abuse of minors. In the public mind, tolerance of one issue leads to tolerance of the other issues and to an environment of clergy covering for each other.
Do we, as members of the general public, have all the facts? No, of course not.
In the nature of things, we cannot have all the facts about a private gathering. This is obviously not the healthiest environment for getting to the truth of important matters. But the diocese has only itself to blame. Its pattern of nontransparency induces people to project the worst possible interpretation onto uncertain situations.
This a noteworthy change in Catholic culture. Once upon a time in post-World War II America, Catholics revered their priests. Bing Crosby’s Father Charles O’Malley would never harm anyone or tell a lie. Catholics and non-Catholics alike trusted Bishop Fulton Sheen. Even in the post-Vatican II theological free-for-all, dissenting and faithful Catholics alike would have been uneasy with the assumption that a bishop was lying to them.
Those days are long gone. Questioning clergy and their motives is no longer a marker for disrespect, dissent or anti-Catholicism. We are light-years away even from the scandals of 2002. Back then, some of the best investigative reporting was done by news outlets that also pushed for heterodox changes in Church teaching. Back then, people who loved the Church’s magisterium tried to minimize the scandals. But now, in the post-McCarrick era, Catholic laity across the theological board believe it is socially acceptable, and even praiseworthy, to blow the whistle.
Bishop Malone’s personal secretary, Siobhan O’Connor, was fond of him. Yet she was the person who released incriminating documents. Why? She listened to the victims. She was never the same afterward. She concluded that standing with the victims was serving Christ and his bride, the Church.
A local news reporter, Charlie Specht, has conducted extensive, relentless investigations of the diocese. (Type his name into the search bar of WKBW News along with “clergy sex abuse” and you’ll see what I mean.) Unlike the crew of lapsed Catholics and atheists at TheBoston Globe who revealed Cardinal Bernard Law’s malfeasance, Specht is a devout practicing Catholic. He loves and respects the Church. He wants her to be what she ought to be.
One more, unambiguously good sign: The seminarians did not cower. They spoke out. They may get kicked around by their formators. We don’t really know what is going on internally. But these men knew that they would have support from the Catholic community and the general public.
I don’t know if the Pope or the U.S. bishops are going to come up with changes to canon law or new policies and procedures. Personally, I think the old policy was good. Obey the Ten Commandments, especially Nos. 6 (Do not commit adultery) and 8 (Do not bear false witness.) As Buffalo whistleblower O’Connor said, “There’s nothing wrong with the code of conduct. It needs to be enforced.”
Catholic culture is changing. Clergy, priests and bishops, you’re on notice: We are watching. We aren’t leaving the Church. Neither are we staying and going back to “business as usual.” Deal with it, gentlemen. This is the new reality of Catholic culture.
And ordinary practicing Catholics, take heart. Your vigilance is making a difference.
The reception of Frederic Martel’s widely anticipated book In the Closet of the Vatican has been surprising. The tantalizing hints dropped before the “bombshell,” “salacious” book’s release exclaimed, “80% of Vatican priests gay.” After an initial international media flurry, the book has dropped out of sight. Two questions arise in my mind. First, what, if anything, can we infer from this deeply flawed book? Second, what did Martel believe he was accomplishing?
The author, Frederic Martel, is a self-described “French gay atheist.” His overarching theme is that the Church’s stance on homosexuality is hypocritical and harmful. Many priests are living “double lives,” professing Church teaching by day and seeking homosexual sex by night.
The solution, in Martel’s mind, is to change Church teaching so that these clergy can live openly homosexually active lives. In this, he, no doubt, has many supporters, both inside and outside the Church.