Sunday, September 30, 2018

Twin Scandals: the Kavanaugh case

As the summer ended, I was obsessed with and concerned about the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, wondering if I would ever live to see significant change and reform in the clerical culture of power and entitlement that enables such abuse.

Then I was rudely interrupted by the hearing on Judge Kavanaugh and again I was reminded of the often unspoken power of the all-male closed society ("What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep," Brett Kavanaugh said three years ago) in which I too, the product of a Jesuit prep school, was educated.  And I saw that the two crises have some disturbing parallels.

I was glad to hear Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark state: "We have to smash the structures and culture that make abuse in the church possible."  But how? And who will change the political culture in which hatred, corruption,  and self-interest impede the common good?

Any real church reform, such as including women in the hierarchy, would so alienate the conservative wing that schism might occur. Maybe that would be a good thing: the Old Catholic Church could go on as an unchanging relic of the Tridentine era, with or without a pope, while the rest of the more progressive, Vatican II church would reform the all-male, celibate culture in which sexual predators lurk.  The papacy of Francis is in peril over this issue and may fail.

There are no apparent answers in either the current church or government scandal. Both require patience, cooperation and respect for one another, especially women. Twenty-seven years after the Anita Hill controversy, not much has changed in Washington, it seems: women are still viewed as objects of pleasure, and drinking dims men's consciences.   Sixteen years after what seemed like the worst revelations of clerical abuse and cover-up in the American church, more bishops are being exposed.  Words of contrition are abundant rather than any meaningful action.

In the embarrassing Senate testimony of Kavanaugh on Sept. 27, everything about his wild, raging speech and demeanor had the hallmarks of an angry drinker who is used to covering up his problems and denying anything that might sully his resume.  He came across as a man who has always been interested in only one thing: his own career.  He is the product of privilege who has not learned much about serving others from his Jesuit education.  Like so many men in the church, he has apparently fallen into a pattern of behavior in which lies, secrecy, and sexual misdeeds are part of what is expected in an all-male world.

Is there no escaping hypocrisy?  Americans, and Catholics, deserve better.