Setting a Narrow Table

Papal hagiographer George Weigel (Witness to Hope) recently gave an interview to Beliefnet.com on the church’s sexual-abuse crisis. Not surprisingly, no mention was made of John Paul II’s possible misjudgments or mismanagement in appointing or promoting most of the bishops who have, even according to Weigel, handled the scandal so ineptly. No, the cause of the scandal is quite clear: the sexual abuse of minors by priests was caused by the "aging culture of dissent" within the church, especially the dissent of theologians from Humanae vitae. Unexplained is the exact cause-and-effect relation between the rejection of the ban on artificial contraception by the vast majority of married Catholic couples and molestation of minors by priests. Even more mysterious is the connection between "dissent" from Humanae vitae and the decision by bishops appointed by John Paul II to cover up crimes of abuse. Given the logic of Weigel’s analysis, one would think that these "orthodox" bishops would be immune from such moral lapses.

But Weigel, whose own hawkish writing on just-war questions is construed by some as "dissent," is rarely troubled by doubt when it comes to sexual morality.

"If the leadership of Voice of the Faithful would say unambiguously, ’We accept the...

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