Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Attitude Behind the Scandal

Rabbi David Kaye, from To Catch a Predator

There's an episode of To Catch a Predator, the reality show in which men try to have sex with underage boys and girls, and are then recorded in a confrontation with the show's host who reveals that they've been caught on video and that the whole set up is a law enforcement sting - there's an episode where a Jewish Rabbi "essentially tried to rape a 13-year-old boy" and is caught red handed.

Though clearly guilty, the rabbi blames the show's host and pulls a "how dare you suggest such a terrible thing about me!  I'm a religious leader!" pose.  The rabbi's attitude is exactly the sort of thing you see from people who not only abuse positions of power, but who feel entitled to positions of power.  I've been dealing with it in the Catholic Church, sometimes on a personal level, for all of my 14 years as a Catholic.

In fact, a prominent bishop whose history shows a repeated tendency to lie in order to save face and whose record with regard to sexually abusive clergy is filled with shameful displays of half-truths and cowardice, and who's particularly famous for protecting his favorites at all costs, pulls exactly this haughty "how dare you!" attitude when his lofty status is called into question.  He even went so far recently as to claim he has a "stellar" record in handling cases of clerical abuse of minors - which he demonstrably doesn't, and hasn't for more than thirty years.  But how dare we question it!

I mention all of this because I think it gets to the heart of why we allow abuse.

If you think about it, it's not so surprising that there are predators out there who prey upon helpless victims.  Like all evil, we know that that sort of thing is always among us, and we know it's always an aberration.  We live in a world where Goodness is normal (thank God) and where such acts, though always present statistically in any group and always present perhaps as temptations in every heart, are rare.  So to learn that respected figures such as priests or college football coaches or entertainment celebrities are capable of such things is really not what this scandal is made of.

What's closer to the core of this is the systematic flaw, the corruption of an entire system, which serves to protect abusers and thereby to enable abuse.  The best example of this in the Catholic Church is the Legion of Christ, an organization deliberately designed to enable and protect the hellish acts of its founder, an organization which is systematically compromised at a core level.  

But more than that.  We all know how rotten systems can get, from the police department of Ferguson, Missouri to the Federal Government of the United States.  It's not even, then, systematic corruption that enables this evil - for systems are simply constructs of individual people.

What's much closer to the core here is this attitude - this attitude that is simply a manifestation of the deadliest of all sins - pride.  The how dare you! attitude.  The Rabbi Caught with His Pants Down attitude.


We see this attitude in action in a story that Rod Dreher relates today, a story that's ten years old and still being told.  Dreher refers to his actions in 2004 when he broke a story about a priest in his own parish who was accused of abusing a teenage boy, but who had managed to avoid the consequences of his accusation by flouting Church law.

Interestingly, this priest (Fr. Clay) was associated with the (reportedly) erstwhile cult leader, financial huckster and alleged child abuser Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity.  There are conflicting reports still up on the internet about the details behind the Fr. Clay story, but this seems to be what happened.

Fr. Christopher Clay was a diocesan priest incardinated in the diocese of Scranton, PA, whose ordinary in 2002 was Bishop Timlin.  Clay was one of three priests accused at that time of raping a teenage male victim - Fr. Urrutigoity and one of his associates being the other two men accused.  Timlin removed Clay from ministry and Clay moved to Texas "where he attempted to recover from the stress of his encounter with the District Attorney’s office in Pennsylvania" (in the words of Randy Engel).

In Arlington, Clay approached his friend Fr. Allan Hawkins of St. Mary the Virgin church, who allowed Clay to function as a priest at the parish.

Now there is some confusion as to whether Clay had been, at the time, "suspended" in Scranton by Timlin, that is, stripped of his faculties and barred from publicly saying Mass or administering any of the other sacraments.  What is clear is that Clay was not excardinated from the diocese of Scranton and incardinated into the diocese of Fort Worth - which amounts to the same thing.  Clay was not allowed to present himself as a functioning priest in Fort Worth, per Canon Law.

This may sound nit-picky, but even Wikipedia can explain incardination ...

The purpose of incardination is to ensure that no cleric, whether deacon or priest, is "freelance", without a clear ecclesiastical superior to whom he is responsible.

When Clay's friend Fr. Hawkins in Arlington approached Bishop Timlin of Scranton privately to ask if Timlin would object to Clay's functioning as a priest at St. Mary the Virgin, he was flouting the rules and subverting Canon Law.  This is why the chancellor of Scranton (the chancellor!) was surprised to learn that Clay was saying Mass in Texas.  

James Early, chancellor of the Scranton Diocese, said Father Clay had told him he had a job in Texas reviewing medical insurance claims.
"He should not be functioning in any capacity as a priest," Mr. Early said.

But eight full years after this all broke, the diocese of Scranton (now under the leadership of a new bishop) ...

... states it has learned that Father Clay has continued to present himself as a priest and dress in clerical garb.  Specifically, the Diocese has been advised that Fr. Clay attended Mass in the Diocese of Fort Worth, where he now resides, dressed in cassock, surplus and stole. The Diocese also relates that Fr.Clay has involved himself in the training of altar servers in Fort Worth and buying them gifts, without the knowledge of the pastor involved, and that the Bishop of Fort Worth has now issued a precept barring Fr. Clay from entering upon the grounds of any parish in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Fr. Clay has now been suspended by the Bishop of Scranton following Fr. Clay’s failure to follow his Bishop’s direction to return to the Diocese of Scranton.  

So Fr. Clay is what you might call a "piece of work".  And very much in the mold of Urrutigoity and his crew, whose own story parallels Clay's in many ways, except it involves a wild area in Paraguay and a diocese that seems to have some very serious problems.

And yet ... how did Fr. Hawkins, the pastor of St. Mary the Virgin, respond back in 2004 when this story broke?  The same Fr. Hawkins who skirted Church law - and a crucial element of Church law - by not approaching his own bishop to incardinate Fr. Clay?  The same Fr. Hawkins who entered into an under the table deal with the bishop of Scranton, a bishop who also flouted Church law and kept things so quiet that he didn't even inform his own chancellor about the matter?  How did Hawkins respond when the truth came out?

Hawkins pulled the Rabbi Caught with His Pants Down move (see above).

How dare you!  This man is a holy priest!  A friend of mine!  Rod Dreher, the journalist who made this mess, is not even an official parishioner here!  What a terrible thing gossip is!  Pray for this good and maligned Father Clay, who may or may not have raped a drunken teenage boy, but who was affiliated with a fraudulent religious order, whose leader shows every sign of being a serial predator and cult-leader in the making, and whose bishop, like me, doesn't even follow basic Canon Law.  Oh, how the righteous suffer!

I'm paraphrasing and parodying, of course, and you have to read between the lines, but anyone who's been on the receiving end of this tone, of this attitude, of this pride, knows this act very well.

Especially the host of To Catch a Predator - who gets it all the time.

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