Image via WikipediaAs I read still more investigative articles on the decades long mishandling of sex abuse complaints in the Church, I am driven to this observation: the effects of the wickedness that led to these heinous crimes were greatly multiplied by utter ineptness. Some, less diplomatically, would just call it plain stupidity. This obtuseness is evident in the delay and lack of prompt response, the astounding canonical confusion, and the utter indifference exhibited by too many at all levels of the Church when individuals came forward with explosive allegations. Occam's Razor suggests that we should not multiply unnecessary explanations. Evil + Stupidity by Responsible Authorities = Catastrophe.
Are we surprised? Like many Catholics in our mobile society, I have been privileged to be a member of several parishes in different cities, states, and even within the same metropolitan area. It is not surprising to find a casual attitude among not a few who work in and for parishes. After all, many are either unpaid volunteers (of which some are likely self-selected) or paid very little. Even some who are heroically efficient and hardworking-- and to be loudly commended-- often lack the tact, business-like habits, and social graces to deal with the public. Question: does anyone ask if Mrs. X or Mr. X has the charism needed to do this particular line of parish work? Even more fundamentally, does the individual have the emotional and psychological maturity and practical common sense that Paul's First Letter to Timothy (Ch. 3) calls for in those holding leadership positions in the Church? Shouldn't Paul's standard of maturity apply to all those in leadership or staff positions, whether clerical or lay, whether on the parish, diocesan, or Vatican level? Or are we so desperate and lazy that we just take anyone? If my writing sounds exasperated, it is because I am exasperated. This is the right moment (kairos) to be exasperated.
The Gospel (Mathew 25:23) tells us to take small things seriously, so that we can be worthy of larger tasks: "You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much." It's time to practice that, beginning at the parish micro-level, so that we can avoid stupidity on the macro-level. It would have saved many a lot of heartache.