Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Indicted We Stand: Penance, Penn State, and Catholic Culture

By Fr. Gordon J. MacRae

Parallel stories of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State, the Duke University Lacrosse Team, and accused Catholic priests create a mosaic in varying shades of grey.

I wrote recently in “Why Are So Many Catholics So Angry with So Many Priests?” about two parallel stories in the news. One was the unjust conviction and jailing of Philadelphia Monsignor William Lynn on one count of child endangerment after his acquittal on all other charges.

The other news story was the not guilty verdict of a California man who savagely beat an elderly priest in front of numerous witnesses after conning his way into an elderly care center. The man was acquitted of the vicious beating because he claimed the priest molested him 35 years ago. With this verdict, a judge and jury have declared the judges and juries are no longer necessary if vigilante justice is to be the rule of law.

The point I made in that post was that Catholic anger and cultural hostility toward Catholic priests are not a result of the sex abuse scandal, but rather its frame of reference. Many readers agreed with me that the anger I described has preceded the Catholic sex abuse scandal by decades. On the part of Catholics, this vaguely defined anger has festered and grown, in my opinion, since the first implementations of the Second Vatican Council began to take shape in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The comments on that post are worth reading, and some are better than the post itself. In addition to those 20 or so comments, several TSW readers commented by e-mail and snail mail. The reactions of readers form a fascinating mosaic about perceptions of the priesthood in Western Culture at this point in our history. It’s a story I plan to revisit soon on These Stone Walls.

One of the letters I received was from a seminarian who asked whether I had noticed that the conviction of Monsignor Lynn and the conviction of former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky occurred in the same state and on the same day. Yes, I had noticed, and I think that fact stole some of the thunder from SNAP members who found the Monsignor Lynn story eclipsed on the cable news channels by the Sandusky verdict... (continued)


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