The new pope was scarcely installed, with a clear mandate to clean up whatever remains of the sex-abuse crisis, when the snipers who always surround the Holy See opened skirmishing on the subject of Pope Francis’s conduct 35 years ago when Argentina was governed by the heavy-handed military junta that evicted Juan Perón’s politically inept widow, a former nightclub dancer, in 1976. (The junta was sent packing by Margaret Thatcher, who evicted them from the Falkland Islands in 1982.) The sex-abuse crisis has been a horrible and shaming problem, but Catholicism’s enemies have amplified and exploited it to incite the inference that most of the Roman clergy are deviates compounding superstition with perversion. The most frequent and wishful version of these events is as a mighty coruscation before the great Christian scam expires in a Wagnerian inferno, an inadvertent Waco. It took the most antagonistic pundits, in their uncomprehending skepticism of the viability of what they regard as a medieval flimflam factory anyway, only one day to assimilate the election of a man none of them had mentioned, in their omniscience, as a contender, before pronouncing his papacy dead on arrival at the Sistine Chapel.Yes of COURSE it's Conrad Black.
No one really has any idea what this new pope is going to do, but there seems no doubt that he has a mandate to impose a draconian screening and evaluation process to clear out sex offenders, prevent the admission of potential future offenders, and give everyone except the most rabid anti-papists a comfort level that this ghastly affair, which simmered and bubbled for centuries, has been finally lanced and ended and that the weaknesses that gave rise to it and tolerated it have been excised. Sensing that the Church may survive this wicked and psychotic conduct by 1 or 2 percent of its ordained personnel, the Church’s enemies have already moved on to Francis’s supposed lack of rebellious fervor toward the Argentinean military 35 years ago. It is reminiscent of the tempest in a thimble over Pope Benedict’s conscription as an “air-force child soldier” in an inactive German anti-aircraft battery in 1943. (He deserted at the first opportunity to do so without being executed.)Black, though, is nothing if not a quixotic old queen-lover. Quoth he:
There must be a dogmatically respectable way to execute a dignified climb-down and declare the sexual act a consequential moral commitment appropriate to and generally reserved to marriage, but sometimes unexceptionable when undertaken with contraceptive precautions, and reprehensible only if entered into wantonly. By clinging to the objection to contraception, even among married couples, the Church conveys the false impression of wishing to make sex risky and inaccessible, of opposing useful science, and of putting its hostility to safe sex ahead of its mortal opposition to abortion, a much more defensible and important cause that would be directly assisted by ending the failed war on contraception. The Roman Catholic Church, with all respect to the long traditions involved, should not be in the business of appearing to be the party of joyless behavioral philistinism, and should not needlessly subject itself to unjust imputations of hypocrisy. The secondary controversy over an all-male clergy can probably be dealt with by laicizing more activities with equal opportunities for women.Laicizing activities with women! I'm in! Plus contraceptives!
Reaction one from a fellow Cornerite:
[...] Also strange is the explicit reason he gives for wanting the Church to “accept” contraception: “The Church’s official position on contraception enables its enemies to portray it as an archaic society for the propagation of chaste humbug by an esoteric fraternity of superannuated clergymen in antiquarian costume.”Reaction two from K-Lo:
Black goes on to explain how important it is, for the whole world and not just Catholics, that the Church “be a mighty rampart against the outrageous gibe of Islam that the West is a completely profane and blasphemous society.” So, according to Black, it’s vital that the Church exist for the sake of Western culture, but it should fold on matters of sexuality so as not to be accused of irrelevance and hypocrisy. The organization that is so needed precisely because it has stood firm throughout the ages should buckle on contraception for the very important reason that people like to have sex just for fun and don’t want someone to tell them not to.
Conrad Black’s piece today is bewildering. Just at a time when even some non-papal audiences have become sick of the bill of poisonous goods the feminist revolution made women and men sign up for in the name of faux freedom, he hopes Pope Francis not only abandons Catholic theology but good sense. It is surrender to the sexual revolution that has, in part, led to the catechetical and public-witness crisis we’re in. And while, of course, it is true that Catholics can tend to be just like everyone else when it comes to sex as “a mere extension of the pleasures of heterosexual affection,” it is meant to be something more. Don’t we want our children to see it as something more? Don’t we want something more? In her surveying, Mary Hasson of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has found even women who aren’t on board with all of Church teaching wanting to know more about it in Sunday homilies. At a time when we can see clearly in our midst so much of what Paul VI warned of in Humanae Vitae, why wouldn’t we want to repropose a beautiful understanding about men and women, the Sacrament of marriage, and God’s love for us? Why wouldn’t we want a further unpacking of the teachings of Pope John Paul II on human sexuality? We’d all lose out if the Church caved to critics who want it to “modernize.” The Church needs to communicate better, teach more, but not cave.She also recommends Black read a book, which if he gives a shit should make him sputter.
K-Lo is right though: in the centuries since Vatican II the Church has stood firm.