One such commentator is Bill Keller of the New York Times. In his May 4 column, Keller admits, ‘‘I am what a friend calls a ‘collapsed Catholic' — well beyond lapsed — and therefore claim no voice in whom the church ordains or how it prays or what it chooses to call a sin.'' Such a confession doesn't stop Keller, however, from giving what might be called ‘‘collapsed advice.'' According to Keller, who echoes other critics, the Catholic Church's problem is that it is not modern and refuses to take marching orders from the likes of people such as himself.
The ‘‘gospel'' according to Keller and his fellow collapsees is that the Catholic Church — and by implication all religion — must conduct the ultimate makeover and adapt to this present age. Ozzy Osbourne might fit Keller's ideal of a popular ‘‘pope,'' since the chief contribution of Osbourne and his family appears to be providing distractions and entertainment for the damned. Modernization, to Keller, seems to mean no prohibition against anything the spiritually collapsed want to do, including abortion and sexual activity of all kinds between consenting adults.
As Dr. Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta, once observed in a sermon: ‘‘We have come a long way from little Samuel, who said, ‘Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth,' to our present moment when we say, ‘Listen, Lord, for thy servant speaketh.'''
The arrest last week of Rev. Paul Shanley on charges of raping young boys while he was a Boston priest is one example of the media piling on.
William Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, believes the media has not given a full picture of the Shanley case. The priest's allegedly abusive behavior was, in fact, the result of his defying church teachings on sexual matters, Donahue notes.
Shanley, writes Donohue in a May 3 Catholic League news release, ‘‘got the green light (in 1970) from Cardinal Humberto Medeiros,'' then the archbishop of Boston, who appointed Shanley as his ‘‘representative for sexual minorities.'' Not only was this a ‘‘bizarre ministry,'' notes Donohue, but Shanley was openly gay which, in itself, defied church teachings on sexuality. In 1979, Medeiros ended Shanley's ‘‘special ministry.'' Shanley then denounced Medeiros because the cardinal had admonished gays to abstain from sex, which Shanley branded as ‘‘virtually useless advice.''
Critics inside and outside the Catholic Church are right to call for an investigation of the cover-up of sexual crimes by priests and for new rules governing behavior and accountability. But the media should be ashamed that they are using the horror of adult-child sexual abuse, and even sex between consenting adults, as a flimsy excuse to wallow in unrestrained bigotry. If anyone needs to ‘‘modernize,'' it's the bigots.