Due to an ongoing health crisis in the family, blogging will be 'on and off' as time and circumstances permit for the foreseeable future. I also beg your indulgence if I am slow in responding to emails. New posts will appear below this notice.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Roman Storm over Rod Dreher

The Roman Catholic part of the internet is throwing something of a fit over the conversion of one of their own to Orthodoxy. I had not planned on commenting on the conversion of Rod Dreher, the conservative columnist and blogger for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a personal matter between him and God. And secondly because commenting on it would inevitably require at least a brief discussion of what by his own admission was a significant factor in his move. Specifically the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. And there is just no way to talk about that without writing some blunt and possibly hurtful things.

However after reading an incredibly obnoxious article from the Catholic web site The Cafeteria is Closed I have decided a few comments need to be put out.. Gerald Augustinus posted a withering blast at Dreher which I almost stopped reading after I finished the first sentence. The offending sentence was…

Roman Sacristan tells me that Rod Dreher, a right-wing writer (Dallas Morning News, National Review) who used to be Catholic (convert) has jumped ship and joined an Orthodox church (personal take: for me it'd be absurd to join, say, the Russian Orthodox church without being Russian).”

That told me right off the bat that I was not dealing with an intellectual giant and I had better take my heart burn medicine. Most of what followed was a venomous attack on Dreher and his motives, which I am not going to go into detail on since it’s been hashed out all over the Catholic blogosphere. However, near the end of his screed Mr. Augustinus extends his venom to the Orthodox Church with the following…

“He joined a societally irrelevant, small church. No wonder they all agree. Small size, smaller problems. It's similar to running off to the SSPX - hey, it's 50 of us and we're all USDA Prime orthodox, baby! In the end, the logical consequence would be to start a "church of one". No one else around, no one to disagree with! It's a lot more courageous to stay with a huge Church.”

To which I posted the following (admittedly less than Irenic) response at the bottom of seventy some odd mainly viscous attacks on Dreher’s character and faith.

“(personal take: for me it'd be absurd to join, say, the Russian Orthodox church without being Russian).” And…

“He joined a societally irrelevant, small church. No wonder they all agree. Small size, smaller problems. It's similar to running off to the SSPX - hey, it's 50 of us and we're all USDA Prime orthodox, baby! In the end, the logical consequence would be to start a "church of one". No one else around, no one to disagree with! It's a lot more courageous to stay with a huge Church.”

I don’t even know where to begin with such breathtaking declarations of intellectual bankruptcy. As an Orthodox Christian I can only excuse these inane statements on the basis of a term used by +Pius XII… “invincible ignorance.” I guess it’s a good thing that your views of our irrelevant church (of 250+ million people) are not held by your last several popes. These sorts of snarky comments are what I normally expect from our radical Old Calendarists in reference to the Roman Church. And I will add that some of the comments in here are so shocking that I wonder at how the authors have the effrontery to call themselves Christians. I will stop here out of charity.

What angers me more than the ignorant and insulting comments about the Orthodox Church, is the almost total disregard for the fact that the leaders and clergy of HIS church (and mine at one time) deeply wounded a man to the depths of his soul. While there is a passing acknowledgment of this it clearly carries no weight with the author. As a former Roman Catholic who left for reasons that had nothing at all to do with the scandals in the Latin Church, I can say that evil does not reside in just one church. We have our own problems in Orthodoxy. Although nothing even remotely as serious as this monumental abuse of trust and authority on the part of many (maybe even a majority) of the American Catholic bishops.

But Rod was directly involved in the investigation into this snake pit. There is an expression common in Orthodoxy that it might have been well if Rod had heard before he dove into this dark world. “The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.” At the risk of sounding polemic against my former church (which I still admire in many ways), I sincerely hope there is an especially warm room reserved for many of the Roman Catholic Bishops who allowed this evil to go on unchecked and even facilitated it. If I were one of them I would be making arrangements to be buried in an asbestos cassock.

Lives were destroyed. At least a few of the kids committed suicide! And the full weight and power of the Roman Catholic hierarchy was brought to bear in an effort to suppress any knowledge of this and to keep their dirty little secret well covered up. It is unimaginable that anyone coming into contact with this evil could not be left spiritually scarred for life. That Rod was eventually left empty and revolted by his own church is not surprising. That he stayed as long as he did having come face to face with these monsters running his church is.

That Gerald and the vast majority of the others who posted their own damning judgments below his article seem so casual in the acknowledgment of the horror perpetrated by the hierarchs of their own church is stunning. They seem utterly unconcerned with the spiritual harm done not only to Rod Dreher but to all of the thousands of victims (many of whom have lost their faith entirely). This strikes me as simply callous.

Catholics have every right to criticize someone who departs from what they believe to be The Church. But Rod Dreher now believes that he has found The Church elsewhere. One may criticize his judgment. Thats fair and it can be done in ways that are not offensive. (See the linked articles below.) But I think it’s outside of bounds to attack his character or his integrity unless you have walked in his shoes and waded waste deep through the filth that has infested the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the United States for God only knows how long. How many of his critics have interviewed the kids who were raped while going to confession? Do any of them have a window into his soul? I think they would do well to recall the words…

"He who busies himself with the sins of others, or judges his brother on suspicion, has not yet even begun to repent or to examine himself so as to discover his own sins... " St. Maximos the Confessor (3rd century on Love #55)

For a much more temperate and intelligent discussion of this issue from the Catholic perspective I would refer the reader to the excellent articles posted by Al Kimel over at Pontificatrions and Michael Liccione over on Sacramentum Vitae.

2 comments:

The young fogey said...

I'm just about beyond caring what those people think and Gerald Augustinus has shown why.

Moretben said...

hey, it's 50 of us and we're all USDA Prime orthodox, baby!

I always recoil at this hip, glib, sneering register. You're right - the author might as well go around with a sign round his neck.

I am very sympathetic to Dreher, and feel he makes a number of very sobering points, unconnected with horrors of AmChurch depravity.

But them I'm SSPX. What da heck do I know????

(Hello YF - recognise you from Arturo's)