In recent decades, we've seen a phenomenon that seems very strange to me: Catholics who deem themselves very traditional, very orthodox -- and to show it, they dispense the most cynical, vile invective against the hierarchy, from top to bottom.
I am not talking about mere criticism. One can easily think of criticism one can make of any bishop, even the pope, and of them all acting together. One can think of criticisms, even rather severe, that would be fitting in areas of liturgy, financial management, clarity and boldness of teaching, and certainly in handling the clerical crimes.
Catholics, it seems to me, are supposed to love their pope, their bishops, and their priests -- after all, we're supposed to love our enemies aren't we? Can't the pope and bishops get a piece of that?
I realize many feel deep hurt and anger over the way bishops and priests have conducted themselves. They are impatient for the pope to remedy things. They fear for the future of the Church.
As to hurt, anger and impatience, even righteous indignation -- they are not justifications. Any of us can feel hurt and anger over any number of things; turning around and inflicting more hurt is hardly the answer.
As to the future of the Church. Well, I care too. But one has to beware of the temptation to take on more than God has asked us to. Do you think you can care more for the Church than He does? We certainly may be impatient for God to act, and we wonder why he does not. But really, any fury you can hurl at the bishops etc., can be hurled as justly at God. It's his Church, and he's God. Why isn't it His fault?
It makes my blood run cold to see the scurrilous, hateful things that fall from the lips and typing fingers of self-described faithful Catholics: accusations of every sort of crime, of the deepest depravity and cowardice, willing participation in conspiracies, etc.
Now, of course, it happens to be true that from time to time, we are all horrified to learn the depths of evil anyone can commit, and sometimes that includes clerics. We are aware of clerics who have committed every imaginable crime.
But in all this, we are obligated to maintain our Christian virtue: we are bound to be skeptical about such charges, simply because we are bound to give the benefit of the doubt. It is wrong to want to believe such things, and to be easily persuaded. The matter must prove itself true -- and the harsher, more appalling the accusation, then the more demanding we must be about it being proved.
This is not an impossible standard.
For that matter, there is a kind of conceit at work here. If a cleric is truly guilty of terrible crimes, then the matter must be determined. But by whom? In every instance, there are those who must act, who must reach a decision. And, certainly, if we have first hand knowledge, then we must bring it to the appropriate forum -- and perhaps, regrettably, to the larger public.
But most of us do not have first-hand information. We read, see or hear something, and we have a choice whether to repeat it. I fail to see what great urgency attaches to most of us repeating that which is defamatory but not certain.
By what right do I spread about a salacious, scandalous story about a bishop or a pope? Because I think it explains some problem in the Church, some inadequacy I see in that individual?
Really, let us reason here: if I find a bishop lacking, I might have recourse to any number of explanations, all reasonable. I think charity demands having recourse to the reasonable explanation that is least ugly, least defamatory.
When people depict the late pope, Pius XII, as a Nazi sympathizer, this is outrageous, particularly when one does a close examination of the whole story. The vastly more probable situation is that he showed great virtue, if not heroism, in opposing the Nazis and helping their victims, principally the Jews. One can find any number of resources that will demonstrate this -- the trend in real scholarship lately has been to vindicate the pope.
As I say, this outrages many faithful Catholics -- who (me included), feel very angry about the attacks on Pius XII.
And yet, some of the very same folks who are justly appalled at the unfairness of such charges against Pius XII, are quite ready to hurl equally foul accusations against other popes -- Paul VI in particular. (I choose not to repeat them, because while the charges against Pius XII are, sadly, all too well known, those against Paul are, thankfully, less well known, and I shall not help spread them. And I will swiftly delete any of that offal that may be posted here.)
I guess it depends on whose ox is gored?
"Faithful" Catholics would seem to be mindful of the sin of detraction -- which denotes repeating truthful but hurtful information unnecessarily; as well as the better known sin of calumny, and plain old lying. Also, the demand of charity, including -- as St. Ignatius of Loyola taught -- giving one's opponent the benefit of the best reasonable explanation of his conduct or words.
I would hope that these, particular "traditional" Catholics would want to be attentive to this less celebrated part of the Tradition?
And those who rightly feel outrage about the sins of clerics that do terrible harm should be mindful that God is outraged, too, at the harm done by careless words and uncertain accusations. To destroy someones reputation may not be the worst sin, but it is a terrible one.
Feel free to comment if you agree with me, or think I'm way off base. But I repeat -- no "news bulletins" about misdeeds will be tolerated. If you have some terrible fact to report, this is not where it needs to be reported.