Plumb Lines

February 7, 2009

Church Politics and the English Language

Filed under: Uncategorized — Keith Staples @ 6:26 pm

I’m glad to see that most reactions to the worsening Legionaries scandal show proper impatience and disgust with the official responses from the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi. Canon lawyer Ed Peters, for instance, demands that the Legion stop treating the Church like “idiot children” who will rest content with euphemisms and pious exclamations:

I was astounded when American spokesman Jim Fair finally said only that the Legion has “learned some things about our founder’s life that are surprising and difficult to understand,” adding that some of Maciel’s behaviors “weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest.” I am aghast at the vacuity of such a response.

Is this how the Legion of Christ, even today, is going to act when confronted with grave questions of Maciel’s whole life? Is Legion leadership really going to continue talking to the Catholic world as if it were inhabited by idiot children? If so, and notwithstanding my deep sadness for the fine Legionaries I know, there really is no hope for the institute.

Indeed. Swearing at your secretary, maligning the bishop, composing bawdy poetry, public intoxication, mooning people on the highway–these perhaps constitute behavior “inappropriate for a Catholic priest.” You’d never guess from Jim Fair’s statement that Fr. Maciel has been accused of gross financial corruption, sexual abuse of minors, keeping mistresses, siring at least one child, recreational drug use, and (this last for sake of all the rest) decades of deception. It is not terribly helpful to remind us that “whatever has happened is between him and God and God’s judgment and mercy,” or to offer bland musings on the mysterious way in which “God sometimes works through flawed human beings.”

As Orwell famously said, political language is “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” The travesty of the Legion’s mindless PR talk is perfected by the abuse of the divine truths of the Catholic faith, which such pious vaporizing turns into cliches, substitutes for thinking.

-Keith Staples


1 Comment »

  1. Of course, behavior that is “inappropriate for a Catholic priest” is implied to be appropriate for others. Ah, ambiguity.

    Comment by Matthew Schmitz — February 10, 2009 @ 10:18 am

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