Anti-Catholics often cite the bad behavior of Catholics in order to “prove” their case that the Catholic Church is a flawed institution that must be disposed of. They will cite the burning at the stakes, inquisition, abuse of minors, cover ups and so on. The Catholic Church to them is “morally bankrupt.”
While the aforementioned are unfortunately a part of the history of Catholics, these acts were never sanctioned by the Church. They are shortcomings from individuals who represented the Church. Moreover, critics do not take into account the time and circumstance surrounding the bad events in the Church. Those (heretics) who broke laws in their respective time received the punishment of that time. We may see it now as cruel and unusual, but this is because we see things differently now in regards to justice and the treatment of prisoners.
The Past Haunts
In recent times, the sexual abuse of minors is what is focused upon when attacks against the Catholic Church are presented. The moral authority of bishops and priests are questioned since they seemed to have allowed these abuses to go on and in some cases even tried to cover them up. In the news recently, there was a report that files from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles show that retired Cardinal Roger Mahoney and Bishop Thomas Curry made attempts to conceal predator priests and obstruct justice.
The news has hit the Los Angeles Archdiocese so hard that Archbishop Gomez has prohibited Cardinal Mahoney from public duties within his Archdiocese and has accepted the resignation of Bishop Thomas Curry. This basically means that Mahoney cannot present himself as an official of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He can still function as a priest in private. I applaud Archbishop Gomez for doing this. He haspublicly reprimanded two of his brother bishops and has shown that their actions cannot be excused. Cardinal Mahoney responded with a letter of his own excusing his “mistakes.”
I hardly call transferring priests from parish to parish who were known to have psycho-sexual issues a “mistake.” Furthermore, the attempt to prevent these disturbed priests from facing justice is just appalling. Clergy who are found guilty of abuse and those bishops and others who covered for them should be in prison. They should not be given a platform from which to shout “mea culpa.” The sexual abuse of a minor – or anyone for that matter – is disgusting and victims may never recover from it.
Fetus Not a Person
If that is not bad enough, a Catholic hospital in Colorado is being sued because its lawyers have used the defense that a fetus is not a person in order to protect the hospital from litigation. The news has caused a tidal wave among Catholics and anti-Catholics. I myself have been bombarded with Tweets and messages regarding the supposed hypocrisy of the Church in implementing this defense. What these people do not understand is that the Catholic Church is not on trial here. A Catholic hospital is on trial for malpractice and its lawyers chose to use this defense. Lawyers have the reputation of being “certified liars.” This is because they use a play of words in order to present a good case that will go in their favor.
The local bishop is investigating the matter. I believe the lawyers used this defense because it reflects the current understanding of the law. It would not be fair to sue a hospital for malpractice if the laws state that the fetus is not a person and fetuses are killed at abortion clinics daily without concern or litigation. Therefore, lawyers must use the laws in the books in order to make their case.
A case that comes to mind that reflects this is that of Mary Ellen Wilson’s who was the first documented case of child abuse in the United States of America. She was beaten, starved and chained in a dark room all alone and overall was treated inhumanely. Neighbors were concerned over the welfare of young Mary Ellen, but to their dismay, the abuse was not illegal. Under the law, children were not considered persons and were mere property. They were no different than cattle or dogs and could be beaten and abused. The police could not do anything because there were no laws protecting children.
Neighbors told Methodist missionary Etta Wheeler about the situation and she tried to help. Wheeler did not give up despite the non-existence of child protection laws in New York. She would eventually contact the ASPCA or American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which was founded by Henry Bergh in order to protect horses. At the time (1800’s), New York used horses instead of cars. The modern car was just being developed and horses were the only means to travel or transport goods.
Horses can be very stubborn creatures, so they were often beaten severely and treated badly. The ASPCA would eventually get protection for them and other animals under the law. This is why Wheeler sought the help of Bergh. The ASPCA would help Mary Ellen Wilson and future children of child abuse by using the defense that children are part of the animal kingdom just like horses and they deserve protection under the law. This is an example of how the current law and understanding of the law must be used in order to defend a client.
No Help for Rape Victim
Lastly, a victim of rape in Germany claims that a Catholic hospital turned her away because of the advice the hospital would have given regarding keeping the pregnancy. The Archdiocese of Cologne had this statement:
“We regret very much that the impression has been given to the public that rape victims are no longer able to be treated in Catholic hospitals. That is false,”
The Archdiocese confirmed that rape victims have always and will always get medical treatment and that no victim will be turned away. They added that there was a misunderstanding among hospital officials which led to the refusal to treat the victim of rape.
The Catholic Church is made up of human beings. The Church is perfect, but not perfect. She is perfect in that she is the Bride of Christ and holds the deposit of Faith. However, she is not perfect in that she is a collection of sinners who can do both good and bad in her name. If all the Apostles except John ran off after Jesus’ arrest, what makes you think the disciples of today won’t abandon Jesus? There will be clergy, religious and lay people who will abandon Jesus and do things their own way which will cause scandal and most likely harm themselves and others. This should not be seen as a reflection of the whole Catholic Church, but a reflection on the reality that individuals in the Church can do stupid things that offends God and one another.