Catholic journalist Melinda Henneberger has left the Church. She writes today of her anger at watching the US Catholic bishops gather in Baltimore this week to talk about the scandal, only to have the rug pulled out from under them by Pope Francis. Excerpts:
Let’s not be hasty, right? It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. Yet apparently, these men need a code of conduct to know not to shield rapists. And they need time to reach universal consensus on a proposal that would simply ask bishops to promise not to lead a “double life.”
No one can accuse me of being hasty. But after a lifetime of stubborn adherence on my part and criminal behavior on yours, your excellencies, you seem to have finally succeeded in driving me away. I’m not even sure there’s such a thing as a former Catholic, but I’m about to find out.
My hopes for this Baltimore confab weren’t ever high, because fool me 6,000 times, shame on you. But that 6,001st time, well, I’m just all out of willingness to be conned into believing you who’ve so long seen the devastation of innocents principally as a PR problem are ever going to change.
Like others who’ve had more than enough of your betrayals and arrogance and perpetual surprise about having coddled child rapists, I haven’t been back to Mass since June. That’s when a man I thought I knew pretty well, a man who unlike other church leaders amid the abuse scandals of 2002 seemed to understand the depth of the damage done, was himself disgraced.
She’s talking about Cardinal McCarrick. She goes on to write with incredulity of Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s response:
“It’s inexplicable,” O’Malley said of the transgressions of so many bishops even in recent years. “I mean, anybody at this point in history who would not understand the consequences of not embracing zero tolerance and transparency — I cannot understand that.’’ The men who run the church continue to think so well of one another that I sometimes wonder if they have met.
Yep. It’s that “affective relationship” that corrupt Cardinal Mahony said yesterday at the meeting was so valuable, and needed to be strengthened.
I am a true-believing, rosary- and novena-praying graduate of St. Mary’s Elementary School, the University of Notre Dame and l’Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium. I covered the Vatican for the New York Times and was a fellow at the Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies. I never thought it would come to this.
Well, I feel her pain — at least I felt it in 2006, when I left under similar circumstances. Catholic intellectuals can’t figure out how one can do this, if you’ve got the arguments straight in your head. What jumps out at me in Henneberger’s column is that she does not offer an argument for leaving. She just leaves. Can’t take it anymore. Doesn’t even feel obliged to give an argument. She’s worn out.
I get this. It’s like being married to a chronic alcoholic who is succumbing to drink. You may love your drunk spouse, but you can no longer live with them, and be party to their destructive and abusive behavior. The marriage eventually ceases to exist as a real thing. You may remarry someone else (e.g., find a spiritual home in another church, as I have done, and have been very happy there), but if you’re like me, you will never fully trust your new spouse, or yourself, given how much you trusted your first love.
Or, you might think of it as being the child of a raging alcoholic. A reader on another thread put it like this:
The church right now is like a family Christmas Party where Dad is drunk, barfing everywhere, insulting everyone, using profanity – and everyone at the party feels obligated to behave as if nothing is the matter. Everything is normal. If dad tells me to stick my bare butt out the window at the neighbors who am I to question? Who am I to judge?
We can’t criticize Dad or the uncles we never see when we have to move but show up for every party and are urging Dad to get even more wasted.
The Catholic clergy is calling out for an intervention. But no one besides Cousin Vigano, who has to hide in the garage, is willing to say anything. And until someone is willing to state what is obvious to everyone the situation can not get any better.
And the party will keep getting more raucous until the neighbors call the cops and have everyone thrown in jail.
You may cut your ties with your dysfunctional family, and move away from them, but you don’t forget them. You can’t forget them. You mourn for them, maybe, and you want to see Dad get treatment and everything to work out. But you know you have to get out of that maelstrom before it sucks you under.
Readers, I don’t want to have a thread on whether or not someone should leave the Catholic Church. What I would like to hear are stories from Catholics who did leave, and Catholics who thought seriously about leaving, but who chose to stay.
No arguments, just stories. Got it? No arguments, no hostile judgments on those who left or those who stayed. Just tell your story. I won’t publish argumentative statements.