The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, April 25, 2002  


There are few things more irritating than the unabashed orthodoxy of a recent convert. This has long been our view of Rod Dreher, senior writer at National Review, a man who has been a Catholic for something approaching, but not exceeding, 10 years, some 30-odd years less than our esteemed editor.

Dreher is apparently unhappy with the outcome of this week's meeting between the Pope and a select group of American cardinals and bishops. "Surprisingly, the cardinals did not announce a 'zero tolerance' policy for priests who have sex with minors," Dreher complains. "In the final report, the cardinals deferred specifics on the question to the June meeting of all the American bishops, at which the cardinals said they will propose that the bishops decide on a process for handling such cases."

Why Dreher believes that delaying a more complete statement for a grand total of eight weeks is a major crisis for the Church -- which after all has been hanging around for some 2,000 years -- cannot readily be answered.

Grumpy as he may be, Dreher had reason to be pleased. "There were more than a few words in the statement to please orthodox Catholics, who blame much of the scandal on doctrinal confusion, which many bishops have not done much to help, and some have done much to aggravate," Dreher observes, long-windedly. "'The pastors of the Church need clearly to promote the correct moral teaching of the Church and publicly to reprimand individuals who spread dissent and groups which advance ambiguous approaches to pastoral care, '" he writes, quoting the cardinals.

Dreher welcomes this statement. "If that were to happen, it would herald a revolution. But there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical," he writes. "When is the last time you heard of a bishop correcting a dissenting Catholic theologian or removing a priest or standing up strongly for Catholic teachings that are unpopular in American culture, particularly those having to do with human sexuality? Only on rare occasions."

A true statement, indeed. But we can't help wondering if Dreher is thinking about homosexuality, adultery, and abortion, rather than the sexual sins to which a young single man like himself is prone: namely, fornication, masturbation, petting, and pornography.

Sickeningly, Dreher adds: "The best news from the document is the cardinals' call for a 'new and serious' investigation of seminaries and houses of formation. This is code for a housecleaning in American seminaries, which in too many cases have become havens for heresy and homosexuality . . . . The roots of this scandal are planted firmly in seminaries, which certainly need investigation, followed by defenestration, fumigation, and reconsecration." [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

This is truly a deranged mind at work. Defenestration: Throw all the gay priests, brothers, nuns, and seminarians out the window. Fumigation: Exterminate the "pests" and disinfect the quarters. Reconsecration: Start again with a clean slate once the vermin has been eliminated.

"The radioactive [sic] subject of gay priests was not part of the final statement, except obliquely, with a passing reference to the 'admission requirements' of seminaries. The cardinals' communiqué suggests that they are not prepared to squarely face the problem [sic] of the homosexualization of the Catholic priesthood. Without such frankness and candor, real reform is unlikely," Dreher writes, without explaining what that "real reform" would entail.

We wish Dreher will spend less time currying favor with National Review editor-at-large Bill Buckley and more time mingling with his fellow communicants, many of whom find celibate gay priests something less than "radioactive" and whose idea of sexual sins encompasses something more than same-sex attraction.

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