Thursday, January 18, 2007

Do You Remember Fr. Birmingham?

Every true lover of the Catholic Church must see this newly broadcast Frontline documentary. But every hater of the Catholic Church will only be further deluded by it.

So many layers to this documentary. If you finish watching it with only one bottom line conclusion, you only caught at best one layer.

Ultimately, I'm with the victims. Unfortunately, the victims in the film become consumed by their own victimhood. That's the saddest part of the film -- watching how the moral depravity and vacuity of our clergy not only makes victims but creates a victimhood that turns them into victimizers of truth and reality. It was like watching Oedipus gouge out his own eyes. Instead of presenting the blanket judgments on the entire 2000-year, transnational Catholic enterprise as expressions of deep hurt and anger, the film dwells on them and presents them as liberating "truth." I can only begin to understand why one would feel that way, but it's just not the bottom line and you'd have to be so blinded by your own sense of victimization to not see that.

As I watched the repetitive tirades towards the end of the film, I kept thinking that the blanket judgments are identical in form to total hatred of America by those who think that everything American is evil and corrupt and worthy of destruction. If America is literally nothing more than slavery, Jim Crow, Native American genocide, and economic imperialism, then the terrorists are right -- America is Satan and must be destroyed. If the Catholic Church is literally nothing more than pedophiles and spineless soulless bishops, then the documentary is right -- it's all a big scam. But you can't reduce the 2000 year-old Church to despicably evil clergy any more than you can reduce America to despicably evil slavemasters and racists. We don't even have to go to evil clergy -- the Catholic Church cannot be reduced to the clergy at all, including the good ones! True injustice can only take you so far, beyond which the victim has to reduce his identity/soul to nothing more than victim. Paul the victim even mentions being wary of this at first. Unfortunately by the end he totally succumbs to it and the film only wants to spread more of it around. This is my only criticism of the film.

Otherwise, it really confirms my detection system for spineless clergy. There's that telltale look in the eyes of a bishop or priest who has no soul, the look of one who simply doesn't get it. And I mean all of it -- Christ, Church, Catholicism, sin, human nature, love, redemption, justice, etc. They are disgusting. And I see that look way too often behind the Roman collar. Damn them to hell.

And the film demonstrates unwittingly how the "Spirit of Vatican II" had its destructive roots way before the council was conceived. The victim-hater of the Church said it himself that Fr. Birmingham was a "liberal" priest who took his priestly vocation all too lightly. The pervert priest clearly was never forced to undergo ascesis, that monastic discipline that forms a man into a priest of Christ's Holy Church. Disgusting.