We never, and the others all did too, and shut up

The church isn’t giving an inch – on the contrary, it’s fighting like a starving tom cat.

The Catholic Church is being unfairly singled out for criticism of sexual abuse of children by priests and will not tolerate campaigns to discredit it, the powerful head of Italy’s bishops said on Monday.

Oh right – it’s all so terribly unfair. The church sets itself up as a moral arbiter for the entire world, and then it’s surprised and wounded when we get cross with it for its settled habit of hiding priestly child-rape from the police. Yes indeed, that is like so unfair. And it ‘won’t tolerate’ – what does it mean it won’t tolerate? What’s it going to do? What’s it threatening everyone with? Who do they think they are?

Oh it’s a stupid question. They think they’re the holy version of the Mafia, and of course they’re right, except for the holy part.

Speaking two days after Pope Benedict apologised to victims of sexual abuse in Ireland, Bagnasco said the Church was “not afraid of the truth, however painful and detestable” but would not accept any “generalised campaigns to discredit it.”

Well, chum, the church is just going to have to accept it, isn’t it. It has no way of preventing it, and it has no moral standing with which to deflect it. So go ahead and tell each other what you won’t tolerate or accept, but nobody else (apart from Damian Thompson) will pay much attention.

Fergus Finlay hasn’t much sympathy.

[R]eading the letter as a layman, I have to say it was terribly disappointing, and chillingly dishonest in parts…[T]here was no sense, where victims of abuse are concerned, that the church will in future, at the direction of the Pope himself, abandon the adversarial tactics that have characterised all their dealings with people who have been abused in the past…And right from the beginning of the letter, there is a sense that the Pope has chosen to distance himself and the Vatican from what happened in the church in Ireland. There is an air throughout the letter that he is somehow only just discovering what happened in Ireland and that he is “deeply disturbed by the information that has come to light”. The tone of this early part of the letter is deeply offensive because everyone knows the concealment of abuse, and the refusal to cooperate in any open way with investigation, has been a Vatican tactic from the very beginning. The notion that the Pope has had to chastise the Irish bishops for their conduct – as if their conduct wasn’t deeply embedded in church policy – is thoroughly dishonest.

There now, Cardinal Bagnasco, you see how it’s going? People don’t believe you. It isn’t working. The bluffing, the threatening, the pretending to be surprised, the distancing, the claims that everybody does it – none of it is working. You’re deep in the weeds. You will still have your church, but it will be smaller; fewer young men will sign up to be priests; even fewer people will let the Vatican tell them what to do; deference will be a lot scarcer.

If you guys had any sense you would stop bluffing and threatening and distancing, and at least try to claw back a few shreds of integrity from the wreckage. But clearly you’re determined to make things even worse for yourselves. Whatever.

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