I admit it, I've been following New York Times' columnist Maureen Dowd's series of articles in response to the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church with growing incredulity.
Recently Dowd suggested that the equal participation of women in the daily life of the Church would do a great deal offset the conditions in which cruelty, abuse and cover-up flourished.
Let women become priests, give nuns greater autonomy, she suggested. Women participating at all levels would restore badly needed equilibrium. It stood to reason.
Has she forgotten about the Magdalene Laundries? Does she know who ran them, for generations? Those female-run gulags should remind us that exploitation, cruelty and even rape cross gender lines. After all, it was marginalized women, both laity and nuns, who participated in those longstanding Irish horror shows.
It's as well to remember the fact.
I agree with Dowd's anger about the marginalization of women in Catholicism. I agree with her thesis that it has harmed the Church and it was, of course, never part of Christ's teaching. But it seems to me that in Dowd's enthusiasm for correcting ancient wrongs she's suggesting that women, femininity, maternalism or feminism, will somehow create a holistic balance that will correct two millennia's with of all-male neurosis, re-orientating the crusty old elders of the Church, revitalizing the laity and rescuing the tone deaf Vatican from its own epic folly.
Well, I have my doubts.
Giving women equal say and participation at every level of the Church's life would be a welcome and very necessary step. I'm not convinced it will prevent further abuse and cover-up from taking root in the future, though.
Why? Because when you are part of an international origination that believes it's doing sacred, otherworldly work in the service of an unseen divine being, who has, by the way, created everything that exists seen and unseen, you may feel an extra responsibility to take all the right steps. The margin for error is pretty slim. That can make for a hostile working environment.
With their eyes always firmly set on the world to come, it's amazing how much this Church has been willing to overlook on earth for the past millennia: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the rise of Mussolini, Hitler and fascism, the persecution of the Jews and on and on.
In a recent article Dowd also published (without a clarifying comment) outrageously incendiary remarks her brother made stating that the international abuse crisis was due to accepting thousands of 'sexually confused' men into the priesthood.
Even more defamatory, Dowd repeated (again by proxy through her brother) author Michael Rose's paranoid contention that the liberalized rules of Vatican II set up a takeover of seminaries by a so-called Gay Mafia. Heterosexual priests and the orthodox, Rose's book claims, found themselves pushed to the margins by a massive international gay Catholic cabal.
Do the Dowds recognize how toxic this kind of claim is?
Rose's book isn't really known outside of far-right conservative Catholic circles for good reason: you'd have to be bonkers to believe it. In tone and content it's really not far from the language and spirit of the anti-semitic tracts of the 1930's.
You can only believe that homosexuals are responsible for the crisis in the Church if you believe that homosexuals are indistinguishable from pedophiles. That's a blatantly hateful and ignorant contention, but the Dowds are hunting for scapegoats, not answers.
'Married priests and laypeople giving the sacraments are not going to destroy the church,' Dowd's brother writes. Married people could never commit heinous acts of abuse and molestation because, well, they're married people. He offers no proof to back up his suggestion other than his saying so.
This is the kind of insanely deluded guff Maureen Dowd now claims she believes herself. This is what she's printing in The New York Times as mature commentary.
This is not helping.
This is also the week we discovered that literally dozens of underage teenage girls on the U.S. swim team were secretly videotaped and sexually abused for years by at least 36 of their male coaches. Most of those coaches were married men. That reminds us, or it should, that the sexual abuse of minors is far more insidious and commonplace than any of us feel comfortable contemplating.
It's quite unlikely anyone will write a blood-curdling expose about a massive heterosexual conspiracy involving a Straight Swim Team Mafia of married men secretly videotaping 12 year old girls. That never happens. But it would be a start if the Dowds and everyone else who claims to care about Catholicism would stop pretending this kind of behavior won't ever happen as soon as people who share our values and outlook take charge.
That is exactly the kind of deluded thinking that put young people at risk in the first place.