17 July 2010

Brit media attacks on Catholics sink to a new low

I have often been struck by the biased and tendentious reporting in the British media -- such as the attempts of the Daily Mail to link every crime report from South Africa with the football World Cup. But this report in The Guardian surpasses even that.

Catholics angry as church puts female ordination on par with sex abuse | World news | The Guardian:
It was meant to be the document that put a lid on the clerical sex abuse scandals that have swept the Roman Catholic world. But instead of quelling fury from within and without the church, the Vatican stoked the anger of liberal Catholics and women's groups by including a provision in its revised decree that made the 'attempted ordination' of women one of the gravest crimes in ecclesiastical law.

The change put the 'offence' on a par with the sex abuse of minors.

Hat-tip to PamBG's Blog: If you can't abuse a child, ordain a woman instead.

Nowhere in the Guardian article is "the document" identified. There is no possibility of reading it for oneself to see what it says. All we are given is The Guardian's spin on it, and the reported reactions of various people to it, though it is not clear whether they had seen "the document", or whether they were just reacting to The Guardian's spin.

I don't know whether I would agree with the content of "the document" because I haven't seen it, and the article in The Guardian doesn't give enough information about it to enable one to identify it and try and read it -- it is as if they want to ensure that readers are exposed only to their spin on it.

To paraphrase Martin Niemoller,

First they came for the Catholics, and I didn't protest because I wasn't a Catholic.
Then they came for the Muslims, and I didn't protest because I wasn't a Muslim.
...
And then they came for me, and there was no one left to protest.

Update

Someone who commented has pointed me to what appears to be "the document" referred to in the article in The Guardian -- it is Substantive Norms. And having read the document it seems to me that the article in The Guardian is not merely a piece of exceptionally shoddy journalism, but is wilful and malicious misrepresentation.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

The same news was on the front page of the New York Times (16 July 2010).
"The Vatican issued revisions to its internal laws on Thursday making it easier to discipli8ne sex-abuser priests, but caused confusion by also stating that ordaining women as priests was as grave an offense as pedophilia."
The article went on to say that no discipline was included for bishops who cover up for abusive priests.
See nytimes.com
Vashti Winterburg
Lawrence, Kansas

Chris H said...

The media onslaught against the Catholics is quite appalling here in the UK. There would seem to be a joining of forces of the media and secular and humanistic organisations to produce knee-jerk reactions against whatever the Catholic church does or says. And let's not forget the slurs as well http://tiny.cc/y9u2z

Th 2 offenses mentioned could be construed as 'grave' as each other in terms of punishment because this 'punishment', defrocking, excommunication, is all that the church is capable of applying. We mustn't forget that in the case of abuse of minors the church now has to ensure that State laws are followed and must pass information and evidence onto civil courts and justice departments.

Steve, you can read the documents on the Vatica website. There's a link entitled 'abuse of minor's, the church's response'.

Vole Strangler said...

I found the document here, and there's other interesting stuff on the Vatican website.

PamBG said...

As I said on my blog, I think that the UK media has been generally critical of most Christian denominations. I'm not sure it's fair that the Roman Catholic church has been singled out by the secular press.

I don't think it's an unfair interpretation of the Norme document that paedophilia and the ordination of women have been defined by the RCC as morally equivalent.

I will try to listen if you can explain to me why such an interpretation is unfair?

Steve Hayes said...

PamBG:

"I will try to listen if you can explain to me why such an interpretation is unfair?

Thanks to Vole Strangler I've now been able to see the English translation of original document, which nowhere says that they are morally equivalent.

Nor does it say that throwing away the consecrated host and concelebration with non-episcopally ordained ministers are morally equivalent.

All it says is that these things should be tried in the same ecclesiastical court.

Perhaps you can explain to me why you think it does say that they are morally equivalent.

The same secular court can try people accused of overstaying their time at a parking meeting and people accused of committing assault with intent to cause grievous bodilty harm. That does not make those two offences morally equivalent.

So why should a document saying that a particular ecclesiastical court is competent to deal with certain kinds of cases be accused of making them "morally equivalent"?

James Higham said...

You mention British "media", Steve but then mention it is the left rag The Guardian, known for its political bias and shoddy journalism.

The other rag is The Mail and it's known for its sensationalism.

Why not try The Telegraph which, while it has its faults, is the least worst of the British papers, The Times generally acknowledged as having gone downhill?

PamBG said...

Perhaps you can explain to me why you think it does say that they are morally equivalent.

The Norme document to which I linked lays out the penalties.

In the case of priests who abuse children: "to be punished according to the gravity of his crime, not excluding dismissal or deposition."

In the case of those involved in the ordination of women: "incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See."

Arguably equal punishments equals arguably equal "crimes".

As a last resort, you may banish your child from the house after an extended period of drug abuse and destruction of your property. You don't banish him from the house because you believe that Aspirin is an ineffective waste of money and he gave an aspirin to his brother because he thought it would have an effect on his brother's headache.

avowofconversation said...

PamBG,

I think that we are talking apples and oranges here.

Sexual (or any other)abuse by priests is a grave sin and needs to be dealt with as such.

Ordaining women is an act of schism that attacks the very nature of the Church - not because women are somehow defective matter but because it involves an action that steps outside of the consensus of the tradition and of the universal Church. That consensus may change at some point in the future (some will disagree with me here) but until it does we either abide by it, whether we like it or not, or else we put ourselves outside the Church - there is no other option in a Catholic or Orthodox understanding.

It is also worth noting that the Church has always reacted strongly to illicit ordinations, even when they involved men, precisely because they attached the very fibre of its identity.

Macrina

Steve Hayes said...

James,

They're all politically biased. I'd got used to shoddy journalism from the Mail, but was quite surprised to see it from the Grauniad, which used to have a better standard.

Actually the worst was picking up the Brit Sunday Times at the Albania airport, and dicovering how much it had gone downhill since I had studied in the UK in the 1960s, when it had been quite a decent paper. Even more shocking was later learning that the editor was an old friend of mine, whom I'd thought of as quite a nice bloke, and wouldn't have thought him capable of producing such a crummy paper.

Steve Hayes said...

PamBG,

In the 1970s I worked on a newspaper in Namibia and one day there were two reports: one of a man who had been fined R20 for culpable homicide, and another who had been fined R2000 for catching a lobster out of season. A letter appeared in the paper a couple of days later: "R2000 for killing a crayfish, R20 for killing a man. Back I go. Martian."

I think the cases were tried in different courts, before different magistrates, and I throught that the culpable homicide case, by its nature, deserved at least as severe a penalty as the out-of-season fishing one (back then R2000 could buy a new mid-range car that would probably cost about £12000-£15000 today).

But even if the courts had imposed the same penalty, I would not say that that indicated that the offences were "morally equivalent".

PamBG said...

That consensus may change at some point in the future (some will disagree with me here) but until it does we either abide by it,

Can you explain to me how it might change in the future when the Vatican has made discussion of the ordination of women an excommunicatable offense? The ending of discussion in that matter was the straw that broke the camel's back, in my opinion.

But even if the courts had imposed the same penalty, I would not say that that indicated that the offences were "morally equivalent".

I think you're stretching your example here. We normally would expect that natural justice would indicate that had the penalties been imposed by the same judge that the penalty for culpable homicide would have been significantly higher than that for illegal fishing. If a single judge or court had imposed such disparate fines, we would normally see it as a matter of grave injustice.

I know Catholic women who are not ordained but who were/are campaigning for women's ordination and I know the energy with which this movement has been pursued. I do believe that the Vatican thinks that equal penalties are justified for the ordination of women and for the sexual abuse of children. And I'm quite content before God that it is not because I hate the Catholic church, although I do appreciate that as a Protestant entering into this discussion I'm probably going to be viewed as nothing more than prejudiced.

avowofconversation said...

PamBG

Can you explain to me how it might change in the future when the Vatican has made discussion of the ordination of women an excommunicatable offense?

To the best of my knowledge the Catholic Church does not excommunicate people for discussing the ordination of women, but for actually ordaining them, which, as I noted above, is an act of schism. (Yes, I know that they tried to declare it infallible teaching, but I don't feel myself obliged to defend Catholic understandings of infallibility...)

After posting that last comment I was a bit concerned that I may have given the wrong impression – I’m not saying that either the Catholic or the Orthodox Churches (or any other Churches with a historical episcopate and a traditional understanding of priesthood) should be ordaining women, much less that anyone should be pushing for this. At most I would say that the issue may not be entirely closed, and that there are issues around it that require more adequate understanding. But that is a work of centuries and if at some point in the future the Church reaches a consensus on it, so be it. That is very different from the campaigning that I have seen on the issue in the Catholic Church – and the act of engaging in schismatic ordinations only makes visible the underlying ecclesial presuppositions of such people.

I do appreciate that as a Protestant entering into this discussion I'm probably going to be viewed as nothing more than prejudiced.

I don't know that being a Protestant would necessarily make you prejudiced, except insofar as want to view Catholic or Orthodox ordination in the light of the same criteria as Protestant ordination. (Steve Hayes had a good post on this on his Khanya blog recently). What concerns me far more is when Catholics approach it in this light, and that is what these schismatic ordinations are revealing.

Macrina

Steve Hayes said...

PamBG,

Can you explain to me how it might change in the future when the Vatican has made discussion of the ordination of women an excommunicatable offense?

I am not a Roman Catholic, nor am I a canon lawyer, so I might be getting it altogether wrong, but I can see nothing in this document that says anthing like that.

As far as I can see, the document refers to three kinds of delicts:

1. Delicts against the faith
2. Delicts against the sacraments
3. Delicts against morals

None of these are new offences, and what the document changes is the way in which they are to be dealt with.

Delicts against the faith (heresy, apostasy and schism) are to be dealt with in the first instance by the local bishop, but may be referred to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (constituted as a judicial tribunal) and appeals may be made to them.

Delicts against the sacraments -- three are mentioned:

1. Against the sacrament of the eucharist
2. Against the sacrament of penance
3. Against the sacrament of ordination

The particular instances of these referred to in the document are reserved for the Congregation (I take it to mean that the local bishops should therefore refer them rather than dealing with them themselves).

These appear to be mainly concerned with the celebration of mock Eucharists, hearing mock confessions and holding mock ordinations (which the purported ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church would be).

The delicts against morals are mainly concerned with breaking the 6th commandment with minors by clergy.

Concerning the last, it seems to me that the reason for such cases being reserved to the Congregation is that the local bishops have not dealt adequately with such cases in the past as has been extensively reported in the media recently).

I have no idea why the particular delicts against the sacraments have been reserved to the Congregation, but I presume that there have also been incidents involving them that have not been adequately dealt with by local bishops, possibly "black masses" and the like, but I really don't know.

But I see nothing whatever in the document that makes the discussion of ordination of women an excommunicable offence. That is one of the lies in the Guardian article, unless, of course, they were referring to another document -- but perhaps that is why they were so vague about the identity of "the document", so that they could more easily deceive people about its contents.

But if I've been looking at the wrong document, and there is another document that says those things, please let me know, so I can read it.

Chris H said...

If the Vatican had released two separate documents then there wouldn't be an issue. The media have taken 2 and 2 and come up with a big stick to beat B16 and the Church with.

This repored 'moral equivalence' is nowhere to be found in reality and is the product of the media's dislike of the Catholic church.

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