The logic of holding priests to a higher standard
I came across this rather insightful comment by someone named Matt Emerson on a dotCommonweal blog post that I thought was worth sharing here:
The Catholic Church cannot be compared to every other organization that deals with children. No other organization claims that its primary employees act “in the person of Christ.” No other organization, or institution, claims that the truth of all reality (i.e., Christ) “subsists” in that organization or institution. Indeed, as addressed elsewhere, Lumen Gentium states that he who hears the Bishop, hears Christ. What other institution makes such extraordinary claims about its capacity to speak about faith and morals?
The reason why the Church gets special heat for their sins is that it sets itself up for a higher fall. The Pope cannot claim to be the “Vicar of Christ,” and the Church cannot claim that Bishops are the successors of the Apostles, and the Church cannot claim infallibility in its ex cathedra proclamation about faith and morals, and then expect, when the abuse of children occurs under the Church’s watch, to be treated like a local public school district or the Boy Scouts. People look at the behavior of the Church, compare it to its claims of authority, and think the latter are demonstrably false and hypocritical.
The problem, in other words, is not that the Church is especially evil, it’s that it’s essentially the same as everyone else. And if the Church is so wrong on how to treat pedophile priests, why isn’t the Church equally misguided in other decisions about what is “healthy” for the human person? We can make distinctions all we want about the “office” of the Bishop or the “office” of the Holy Father or about “ex cathedra” versus something lesser; and we can blog to the end of time about how the Church, too, is comprised of sinful individuals. But, pastorally, does anyone think those distinctions matter? Is that what the Church has to do to maintain credibility? How many hairs can the Church continue to split?