Mar. 29, 2010, at 12:02pm
Right after linking the Weigel piece below, I found this op-ed by John Allen in today’s New York Times. It’s good—as is a National Catholic Reporter article he wrote on the same theme a week or two ago.
The outside world is outraged, rightly, at the church’s decades of ignoring the problem. But those who understand the glacial pace at which change occurs in the Vatican understand that Benedict, admittedly late in the game but more than any other high-ranking official, saw the gravity of the situation and tried to steer a new course.
Be that as it may, Benedict now faces a difficult situation inside the church. From the beginning, the sexual abuse crisis has been composed of two interlocking but distinct scandals: the priests who abused, and the bishops who failed to clean it up. The impact of Benedict’s post-2001 conversion has been felt mostly at that first level, and he hasn’t done nearly as much to enforce new accountability measures for bishops.
That, in turn, is what makes revelations about his past so potentially explosive. Can Benedict credibly ride herd on other bishops if his own record, at least before 2001, is no better? The church’s legitimacy rests in large part on that question.
I should be done with the editing by the end of August, so I hope it will be out (as an e-book) soon after that.
Jul. 27 at 9:13pm | See in context
I was an MBA student in Juan Antonio' fabulous course, with Max sitting in as a doctoral student... So, where can I find this book?
Jul. 27 at 5:18pm | See in context
Thanks for the response, Devra. It's true that western countries are going to struggle to plead poverty, certainly in the case of food, of which I agree we throw too much away. What I would say is that it's possible to be rich in certain commodities and poor in others.
I would say most wealthy westerners are time poor and energy poor. There are personal choices that might make that easier, but if the working culture is a 50 hour week in one's profession, it takes a strong personality to resist that. These are the people on whom the responsibility falls to help the poor materially, but they are simply exhausted. Paradoxically, it's the more conscientious among them, who might be inclined to do more with the right encouragement, who most resent the implication that they aren't doing enough. Reaching them with the right narrative is a huge challenge.
Jul. 26 at 9:29am | See in context
Rhett, I have read the Tolstoy story--it's a good one. My husband actually used to use it on his business ethics class! It's about how a good man, given the opportunity to own as much land as he can walk around in a day, finds himself "needing" more and more, and...it doesn't end well. I urge everyone to read Tolstoy, who of course tells it better.
The government is so unwieldy and corrupt and beholden to special interests that it will never act like Joseph in Egypt, I don't think. I don't know that it's capable of handling wealth well enough to stockpile for those in need, or for our own future necessities. When it does help those in need, it does so with fictional money, or money borrowed from our great grandchildren, as far as I understand.
What we as individuals can do is also an important question. There are two aspects: being detached from what we do have, and realizing that giving to those in need is an obligation, not something beyond the call of duty. Pope Francis has been "convicting" me (as the Protestants say) on these two points lately.
Jul. 25 at 2:12pm | See in context
I do realize it's not that simple--that there are, for example, predators who are getting themselves appointed guardians of children so that they themselves will be allowed to stay. But when you see pictures of toddlers sleeping on the floor of detention centers posted by one side and pictures of malicious-looing older teenagers covered in gang tatoos posted by the other, you wonder whether we can't do better than an all-or-nothing approach.
Jul. 25 at 2:02pm | See in context
On the other hand, I realize I'm arguing agaisnt a straw man here, or at least against people other than the ones in this conversation. No one here is saying simply "Go back where you came from," nor are any of us implying that there's an absolute shortage of goods and services to go around. As Katie points out, we still need to address the injustice of law-abiding, taxpaying citizens being accursed of ungenerosity for resisting the burden imposed by those who disregard and break the law.
Also, of course, the ad-hoc lawlessness of the way this is being addressed can only make our country more like the chaotic and dangerous ones that people are fleeing. This is a (presumably) unintended consequence of actions taken in the name of compassion, and the last thing the world needs is more well-intended policies which actually make things worse for their intended beneficiaries and everybody else.
I'm still wondering whether we lack the will or the ability to distinguish between innocent people who would qualify as refugees and people who are obviously gang members or drug dealers or terrorists.
Jul. 25 at 1:58pm | See in context
David, that's a fair point, about the distinction between saying "you're not welcome here" and wishing to spread the burden of extra obligations. That's exactly the kind of distinction, in fact, that could help the conversation be more fruitful. The impression you usually get is, on one side, people who generously want to allow poor children to share in our educational and medical resources and, on the other, the "go back where you came from" crowd. The fact that our birth rate in America (and so much of the West) is so unnaturally low makes it especially problematic to talk as if there's just not enough of anything to go around. Following that assumption to its logical conclusion, we'd end up telling all our own "extra" unborn children "you're not welcome here" and "go back where you came from," too. And when we consider how wasteful we, at least in America, typically are with the riches we have, the position becomes even more distasteful. It's said (and it sounds plausible) that the typical American family ends up throwing out 40% of their groceries each week, either because we leave them on the plate or let them go bad.
Jul. 25 at 1:01pm | See in context
Shalom Rhett. Thanks for the recommendation. I've not read the story but I'm happy to admit we probably need fewer things and less space than we think we do. At the same time, we do make promises to other people based on what we think we need and what we think they need - those are probably over-estimates, but at the point in time when we've made a promise, people are going to feel let down if it isn't seen through. Okay, if you go too far down that road, you end up with a Salome/Herod scenario - she wants something totally unreasonable, but he's sworn an oath to her and that's all that matters. But - if parents have sent their kids to a school expecting an all english-speaking environment, and suddenly the area becomes popular with immigrants from eastern europe, who are still learning the language, and as a result the teachers have to devote the lion's share of class time to bringing the kids up to scratch, I'm happy saying that's unfair on the parents. They sent their kids to school based on a set of reasonable expecations which haven't been met.
Jul. 25 at 11:20am | See in context
I think your assesment is fair.
I think it is important that government is alert to these necessities ahead of time. This foresight should include educating one's nation to its responsibility to share its goods with those in need. The Biblical story of Joseph's prudent husbandry of Egypt's goods is most applical here.
Do you remember Tolstoys story "How much land does a man need?" I think the principle behind that story, i. e. we must shape our priorities in light of death, is applicaple here too. How much do we really need in this statu viae? For the Christian death is a passage not a termination.
Jul. 24 at 9:45am | See in context
This issue has come up a lot in Britain recently due to the enlargement of the EU and the rise of the UK Independence Party. Most of this discussion has been about legal immigration, but I hope it's relevant.
I feel there's a distinction to be made between "you're not welcome here" and "we'd rather you go to another city". Like it or not, a spike in immigrant population in a particular area puts a strain on the public services of that area, which are commissioned based on expectations about future population. I admire the spirit of those who would offer their floor to an immigrant family, but when we start talking about school places, hospital beds, or public transport, it gets more complex - these things take time, new teachers have to be trained, schools need to be enlarged. In short the local population has a choice between putting up with over-subscribed services, designed for a lower population, or borrowing money to boost existing services. So it seems fair that the effect of immigration should be spread as evenly accross the country as possible. At the moment it seems big port cities are bearing too heavy a burden.
Jul. 24 at 8:38am | See in context
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