The Donohue League

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Bill Donohue.jpgSheesh. You tell Donohue he’s right and defend his bud Dolan, and what do you get? A smack across
the chops for having the chutzpah to suggest that the doctrine of
scandal, used time and again to rationalize the shielding of pedophile
priests, has not served the Church well and ought to be jettisoned.

I understand that people shouldn’t go around telling people of other
faiths what to believe. And I am, as Bill helpfully informed his
readers, a Jew not a Catholic, though I’m not sure why that deprives me
of “the ethical standing” to thus express myself. It would have been OK if I belonged
to a more ethical religious community? Or are all non-Catholics–to say nothing of those he calls “dissident Catholics”–too ethically challenged to do so?

In any event, the last time I checked, Scandal was not an article of faith but a medieval teaching (Yo, Aquinas!)
that has gotten itself ensconced in the Code of Canon Law. Because it is is
not based on revelation, it is one of those teachings that the rest of
us are entitled–nay, even invited by the Church–to conjure with, even
at the risk of good manners.

In its doctrinal form, Scandal derives from the medieval psychological notion (I used to study this stuff) that examples of bad behavior create more bad behavior, such that it’s better to keep such behavior under wraps than to publicize it. As a result, Canon 1352 s.2 provides for the total or partial suspension of excommunication and other serious penalties “whenever the offender cannot observe
it without
danger of grave scandal or infamy.” The use of this canon to justify not getting rid of pedophile priests has been legion.

I do consider it a blessing in disguise that Bill offered his readers my email address without linking to the post itself. Most of my angry correspondents seem to calm down once I refer them to what I actually wrote, and I’ve had some nice exchanges with them. I’m still waiting for a defense of the doctrine, however. So far, no one’s had a good word for it.