In Moses' Seat

See Matthew 23:2-3.

So I was reading an otherwise intelligent writer about issues of religion, science, and logic, but then he said "Who could take the Catholic Church seriously as an authority on sexual morality after the sex-abuse scandal?"


Let us dispense with the preliminaries, that the scandal was minuscule compared to any other sector of society—fathers are the #1 molesters in the world, followed by public school teachers, and they're the people absolutely everyone says you should learn about sex from. On a statistical basis, a Catholic priest—not even the Church's magisterium but just Reverend Joe Dogcollar down at St. Whoever's—still retains more moral authority than dads' Birds and Bees talks or any sex-ed curriculum ever written.

Let us dispense also with the fact that we've had worse sex scandals. Shit, in the Renaissance we had popes who were personally libertines, rapists, and pimps. We've had still worse scandals in other spheres, especially political entanglements—you think the US bishops are sellouts, you should read up on the Holy Roman Empire.

But so what?

The authority of the Church, of the bishops in communion with the pope, is not moral authority. It is teaching authority. It is the right to command assent, intellectually, to propositions in faith and morals. Are the Church's teachings on sexuality true, or not? It is relevant only to him and God, and perhaps to his biographers, if some pope, bishop, or priest behaves as if he doesn't think so, but that doesn't actually answer the question; the only thing that answers the question is whether it is consonant with reason.

Oh, and also, if the Church's teachings on sexuality, and the Canon Law provisions on discipline for misbehaving clergy, had been followed, there wouldn't have been any sex-abuse scandal, would there now? "We'd have avoided this bad thing if we'd listened to you, therefore you don't know what you're talking about"—I am not familiar with that school of logic, but I will admit it is a powerful argument against the Catholic faith. Specifically, the teaching on universal human dignity, because damn, one doubts the very personhood of the creature that said it.

Then again, one recalls Belloc's assertion that irony is inextricably bound up with nemesis—how beautiful, then, to see this worthless ape's very reason fail him in the moment of his calumny, as he himself falls prey to the hypocrisy of which he falsely accuses others.

Once again, I cut a trifling object.

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