My canvass is bigger than Byrne or my esteemed colleague Colin. My concern is the attributions to the Catholic church of matters not theirs and the importance of other narratives about the Church particularly in its current form. But first and it could look like an ad hominem argument, reading the full text of Byrne's statement I notice he erroneously attributes the old, "Give me a child until he is seven.." to the Jesuits whom he compares with the Nazis. The piece quoted on Facebook ends with what might be mistaken as an advertisement for a Byrne gig.
To say that the Catholic Church is currently an easy target is to state the bleedingly obvious. More broadly religion is also a ready made enemy. If I said I agree with many of the accusations and that I have suffered at the hands and accusations of Catholic officials and laity, maybe more than many readers, I might be considered a bit soft in the head if I also wanted to cry, "Fair go !" to some of the criticism, the mode in which it is expressed and the need for a balance in what and how things are said about the Church.
Though we ought ponder the causes of sexual abuse in the Church, and in several other organizations which betrayed trust in the worst way, abuses ought to be pursued in the courts and in the Royal Commissions in Australia. So ought be the findings of the "Newcastle Commission" itself be seriously examined. The Comission's findings seem to target the whiseleblower, exonerate police and rest comfortable with "There is no evidence" as proof that there was no such behaviour. Which behaviour if it were brought before the commission or if the persons reesponsble were brought before the Commission there would be ample evidence of misdemeanours in which the Commission itself could be thought to be complicit.
In my appearance before the Australian Royal Commission at which I reported the inappropriate sexual behaviour of a Jesuit priest at Riverview in the 1950s and the following cover ups and in my submission to the Commission I argue that the malady was and is systemic. To label any one party, church, parents, teachers, police etc. as the one target is bad thinking and bad justice. To consider social issues as involving complex interrelated social systems requires disciplined and open thinking. Crusaders and vigilantes do not have time nor the reflective space to examine their self selected causes, not to reflect on their motivations. They must arrest the usual suspects. Nor unfortunately do they see that by arresting the wrong suspects the more culpable scamper off scot free. Just as those who are not victims of bullies rejoice that while someone else in the group is the target of the bully they themselves are not being bullied. Greedy unprincipled financiers and arms dealers never attract the same pariah status as a child abuser. Though injustices and crimes are scarcely comparable the crimes against humanity perpetrated by arms dealers, refugee rejectors and major bankers are as heinous in my mind as the crimes of sex offenders. But somehow this group does not get the same forensic or media attention.
Several people I know quote people like Dawkins and Hitchens as if they were major authorities on their material. If these men are writing about science they may be significant authorities in their areas of expertise. Scientists will be the best capable of those assessments. But they are certainly not experts in theology, the nature of myth and the essential part spirituality plays in the lives of humans. Theological, biblical, spiritual and mythological texts need to be assessed and interpreted by those who understand their context, the customs of the writing style, the take away message and the cultural practices of the community which is the custodian of that particular tradition.
By definition the concept of God is not the matter of science. But we live in a peculiar phase of history which uses the lenses of science, mathematics and economics as if they are the only and most reliable way of seeing the world. It is as if these disciplines of learning and information collation are infallible and to be trusted ahead of all else. Another age will think differently. Meanswhile by extending their attacks and invective beyond their areas of expertise militant atheists and ecclesiophobes undercut their own credibility and cause doubts about their motivations conscious or unconscious. In fact their invective excesses lend sympathy to their targets.
Finally, church critics need to be contemporary in their intelligence. Otherwise as was said of the old apologetic tactic of the Catholic Church, "They are firing into a forest from which the enemy retreated years ago." Francis, the current Pope, last week gave an interview to a Barcelona Journalist for Vanguardia. "It's madness, we discard a whole generation to maintain an economic system that no longer endures, a system that to survive has to make war, as the big empires have always done," Francis said. The report continues "But since we cannot wage the Third World War, we make regional wars. And what does that mean? That we make and sell arms. And with that the balance sheets of the idolatrous economies -- the big world economies that sacrifice man at the feet of the idol of money -- are obviously cleaned up."
The Pope said there was enough food to feed all the world's hungry.
"When you see photographs of malnourished children you put your head in your hands, you cannot understand it," Francis said. "I think we are in a global economic system that is not good," he said.
People's needs should be at the heart of the economic system, the Pope said.
"But we have placed money in the centre, the god of money. We have fallen into the sin of idolatry, the idolatry of money. The economy moves by the desire to have more and paradoxically it feeds a disposable culture." Since he is the Pope he uses a theistic metaphor that of the false god, he does not say the world economy is fucked, but you get the message.
Now for my money that is one of the most socially aware statements to come from a world leader in some time. This guy is doing his best. He is using his position to state significant things as a world church leader can and should. But if the ethos of the journalistic world is that all you can expect from the church of Rome is corruption, messages like this revolutionary one will not appear in major journals. Nor did this one. The CIA will be delighted that even though they were not able to veto the election of this people conscious Pope his messages will not get out and upset the unfettered march of capitalism. When a Pope is the recipient of death threats there are either fanatics about or he is upsetting some group. He is and it would be pity not to follow his statements as well as those of his critics.