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Is the solution to the liberal scandal in the Catholic Church even more liberalism?

By 6.11.02

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Is the solution to the liberal scandal in the Catholic Church even more liberalism? This is the view of the dominant media, which they typically advance by either quoting or publishing "Catholics" who hate official Catholicism.

Commentary pages in the mainstream media are always open to self-described Catholics, provided that they heap scorn on the tenets of their religion. The Los Angeles Times adheres to this criteria faithfully. The Times will gladly publish a Catholic if his or her essential message is that the Church should adopt the liberalism of the Los Angeles Times. Its policy for Catholics is the same as its policy for Republicans: Want to get published? Okay, then attack your own principles.

Monday's offering in the Los Angeles Times came from Marcos McPeek Villatoro, a "writer in residence at Mount St. Mary's College"(read: a Catholic college in Los Angeles that hires heretics).

Villatoro is a de facto liberal Protestant who calls himself a Catholic. He wants his "church to grow up." What does this mean? "Anything that will bust down the doors of the good-old-boy Roman Catholic hierarchy. Married priests. Women priests. Women bishops. And, of course, the abolition of mandated celibacy," he writes. He also wants a "new theology of sexuality," which is an important-sounding phrase for sanctioning sexual sin. He attributes the Church's current problems not to laxity, but to strictness.

Homosexuality is not a concern for the Church, he writes, even as he recounts the flagrant homosexuality from his seminary days. He writes that a priest who "liked his sex partners young" made advances upon him: "I should have seen the warning signs: the teen pornography stacked in the closet of his rectory apartment, the strange videos, the alcohol that he kept offering me.…After telling me about his affair with a 15-year-old at a local high school, and telling me how he sent the teenager off to juvenile detention for threatening to tell the authorities, the priest asked if I wanted to take a shower with him. Finally, an alarm went off. I declined."

Villatoro somehow concludes from all of this that the Church needs to travel further down the road of liberalism. This is pundit Andrew Sullivan's advice as well. Time magazine gave him 2,000 words or so this week to call for more liberalism in the Church. "Reform," in Sullivan's mind, means not restoring high standards, but abolishing them. Never afraid to be counterintuitive, Sullivan chalks up the sex-abuse scandal to the Church's traditional intolerance toward sexual sin.

"I think it's fair to say that very few people in my generation of 40-year-olds and younger can take the church's sexual teachings very seriously again. When so many church leaders could not treat even the raping of children as a serious offense, how can we trust them to tell us what to believe about the more esoteric questions of contraception, or homosexuality, or divorce?" he writes.

Had Sullivan taken these teachings seriously before? The sex-abuse scandal spread in the Church because priests and bishops didn't take those teachings seriously either. They had become nonjudgmental about sexual sin, and this skepticism about the Church's teachings produced paralysis when the time came to boot sex abusers.

Sullivan's own words contradict his attempt to pin the scandal on the conservative traditions of the Church.

"In almost 40 years of regular churchgoing, I have yet to hear a homily defending the church's positions on birth control, women priests or homosexuality," he writes. "My suspicion is that the priests don't believe the teachings themselves. In the confessional, I have found that priests, while not condoning homosexual relationships, find it hard to condemn them."

This inability to condemn -- a consequence of the liberal revolution in the Church, which the media helped foster -- explains the crisis. Accelerating that revolution as secular journalists propose will not solve the Church's problems, but create new ones.

George Neumayr was recently a media fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.