The old adage, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” is being put to a severe test these days, with the daily unfolding of the Church’s pedophilia scandal. Self-proclaimed “Traditional Catholic” Michael J. Matt even called it the worst crisis in the history of the Church, betraying a stupefying present-day conceit, and breathtaking ignorance of such matters as the Arian Heresy, the Great Schism, and the Protestant Reformation, to name only a few.
Still, this one is OUR crisis, as we are the faithful who must live through it, so some commentary is in order.
The problems in the Boston Archdiocese date way back to the late 1940’s, and originate with the craven conduct of Cardinal Richard J. Cushing, perhaps best known for constantly toadying to the Kennedy clan some years later. His earlier obsequiousness, though, was a far greater offense.
In 1942, Father Leonard Feeney, a brilliant Jesuit theologian, became the spiritual director of a Catholic Center, located right in Harvard Square. It was here that the offspring of Boston Brahmins were absorbing the Word–and many were converting to the Catholic religion. This, of course, was the mission of the St. Benedict’s Center, according to then Cardinal William O’Connell. Indeed, Feeney was praised to the hilt by many Church authorities, including Cushing.
The Center’s success and popularity continued to grow, flying in the face of an encroaching popular culture of atheism, and was beginning to upset some of the beautiful people. Feeney was told to tone it down, and he didn’t. He made no secret of his disdain for Cushing succumbing to the secular world, and in a legendary phone call in which Cushing addressed him as “Leonard,” the priest replied, “That’s FATHER Feeney to you!”
But, Feeney was to lose his battle, and was effectively banished, only to be brought back into the fold shortly before his death. The damage was certainly done. Leonard Feeney was sold out by his own superiors, and cut down in his prime, setting the pattern of behavior for a succession of miserable Cardinals, far too wrapped up in external matters, and far too weak in preserving the integrity of the Archdiocese they are under Holy Orders to protect. Make no mistake, they will answer to a higher authority.
Just recently, the scandal was to hit about as close to home as it could. Father Dominic Savino, president of the Catholic high school my own sons attended, was fired after an investigation found evidence supporting allegations of sexual misconduct with 10 teenage boys. Savino was not president at the time my sons were at Crepsi High School (Encino, CA), but was a counselor.
Quite frankly, my sons and I always thought of him as a smarmy little queen, but many others around the campus only saw him as kind, warm, and friendly. It says a lot about political correctness that the “gaydar” supposedly built into all of us breeder types, can be effectively eliminated, especially in those too young to have had life experience before the PC era.
With these scandals comes a catharsis in the Church, long overdue some might say, but the wheels of this ancient institution grind slowly.
With these scandals comes also, and more importantly, a testing and renewal of faith for many. Ultimately, our faith is a gift from God. Our faith may be shaken by the despicable acts of those in authority, but if we were to lose it, we would be guilty of spiritual suicide, as St. Francis de Sales put it, hundreds of years ago, when commenting on the scandals of his own time.
The Lord works in mysterious ways.