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The Necessary (and Good) Visibility of Catholic Scandals

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Artur Rosman - published on 02/16/14 - updated on 06/08/17

If you want to delve deeper into the implications of these different ways of inhabiting the world, and how I account for the exceptions to the rule, then take a look at my longer discussions of both the Catholic imagination and the Protestant imagination.

All of this has bearing on why the public sex scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church have totally drowned out the evangelical world’s greater problems with sex abuse. What I’d like to suggest is that this disproportion in coverage makes perfect sense.

When I say the evangelical problem is greater I’m talking about an even earlier RNS report about Billy Graham’s grandson, Boz Tchividjian. He reasons that the Protestant abuse problem is much worse, because of structural reasons. Here is what Mr. Tchividjian, a Liberty University law professor, executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) said long before Bob Jones University fired his investigative company:

"While comparing evangelicals to Catholics on abuse response, ‘I think we are worse,’ he said at the Religion Newswriters Association conference, saying too many evangelicals had ‘sacrificed the souls’ of young victims…

"‘The Protestant culture is defined by independence,’ Tchividjian said. Evangelicals often frown upon transparency and accountability, he said, as many Protestants rely on Scripture more than religious leaders, compared to Catholics.

"Abusers discourage whistle-blowing by condemning gossip to try to keep people from reporting abuse, he said. Victims are also told to protect the reputation of Jesus."

In other words, the “natural” Catholic trust of institutions and hierarchies, as much as they might complain about them, means that there is an accountability structure that ensures the buck will stop somewhere.

The Catholics have been working on their crisis in earnest since at least Benedict’s pontificate without much fanfare, because it’s much more profitable (both for trads and liberals) to play up the scandals to score intra-ecclesial points by other means.

Here are two stories that should set you straight on Benedict’s unfairly maligned record: “Jesuit expert calls Benedict ‘great reformer’ on sex abuse” and “Retraction: Vatican now confirms almost 400 priests defrocked for sex abuse.”

Our evangelical friends don’t have such a wide ranging accountability net to catch their problems. This is one reason why the Catholic Church, in ways different than Islam, does not need the fissiparousness of a Reformation.

It’s also the reason why—there’s no reason to bemoan it—Catholic scandals will always remain more visible than evangelical scandals. But let’s not forget the secular world’s record is infinitely worse than the religious world’s, because there’s almost no place for the buck to stop in institutions such as the UN.

Courtesy of Ethika Politka

Artur Rosmanis a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Washington. He also blogs regularly at Cosmos The In Lost.

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