A prominent New York Times columnist says the current Catholic Church sex scandals — and many more in America — were caused by the culture of the Irish Catholic Church, which was transferred to America by Irish clergy.
Ross Douthat was writing in his Times blog in a piece titled "The Tragedy of Irish Catholicism." He says the qualities of Irish Catholicism — "qualities which were once a source of immense vitality — seem to have led to a particularly horrifying outcome."
The pedophilia scandal is an example of "how a culture so intensely clerical, so politically high-handed, and so embarrassed (beyond the requirements of Christian doctrine) by human sexuality could magnify the horror of priestly pedophilia, and expand the pool of victims, by producing Bishops inclined to strong-arm the problem out of public sight instead of dealing with it as Christian leaders should."
He quotes British journalist Damian Thompson of the Daily Telegraph, who recently wrote "I associate the worst abuses of power with the mean-spirited Jansenism of the Irish Church and the Irish clerical diaspora."
Douthat says experts blame Dublin's Cardinal Paul Cullen, who served form 1852 to 1878, and quotes author Charles Morris, who wrote "American Catholic," a history of Catholicism in the United States.
Irish Catholicism was “one of the most ragtag national churches in Europe,” Morris write. "Post-Cullen, it was one of the most unified, rigorous, enthusiastic and militant branches of Catholicism in the world. At the same time, it was one of the most hierarchical and clericalist, with priests and bishops who were invested with nearly-unchallengeable authority, and who became accustomed to extraordinary deference from civil authorities.
"And on sexual matters, it was a far more puritanical Catholicism than, say, the Mediterranean or Latin American varieties, or for that matter than the Gaelic Catholicism it had superseded."
Douthat says Cullen's narrow vision of Catholicism was perfect for building a thriving immigrant church in America in a hostile Protestant society — but that its excessively secret nature and the utter obedience demanded by the Bishops eventually led to total breakdown on the issue of clerical pedophilia.
"I suspect it isn’t a coincidence that the worst of the priest-abuse scandals have been concentrated in Ireland and America — and indeed, in Boston, the most Irish of American cities — rather than, say, in Italy or Poland or Latin America or Asia." Douthat writes.
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