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Thursday, July 14, 2005

This just in: Cardinal Law was too liberal.

The Very Rev. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) makes a number of astonishing claims in his column for Catholic Online this week. [Ed. note: Er, this week three years ago. More below.] Most astonishing is this vile paragraph — Santorum's explanation of the root cause of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in his church:

It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning "private" moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

Ya know, it had never occurred to me that Cardinal Bernard Law might have kept on shuffling child-abusing priests from parish to parish, ignoring the appeals for help from parents, other laypeople, and alarmed priests and nuns, because he was too liberal. Nor had it occurred to me that the reason the so-called liberal churches you're so apt to find in Massachusetts — those goin'-to-hell gay-friendly pseudochurches the Episcopalians, Congregationalists, and Unitarian Universalists, for example — have seen much less clergy sexual abuse is (are you ready for this? I know it's gonna sound really hard to believe): They must be less infested with the relativism and moral decay of society than the Catholic Church. Wow. Who knew? But now that the Catechist of Pennsylvania has explained it to me, it must be so.

And yet, having gone to Harvard Divinity School myself, I feel a shadow of doubt in my Cantabrigian mind. Our so-called liberal clergy go directly to Harvard, seat of the relativisticalidocious Prince of Darkness himself, rather than waiting to have our relativism and moral decay watered down by a bunch of Jesuits at Boston College. You'd think we'd be abusing kids at a pace that would make even Cardinal Law blush. And yet, strangely, it's not so. I wonder if there's not still an explanation that is somehow specific to the Catholic Church rather than to the moral breakdown here in Boston.

Now, I know that "moral relativism" is the explanation du jour for conservative Catholics — a phrase that makes a person sound National Review-smart while pointing precisely to nothing at all. It's bluster, the sound of intellectual desperation. When the beam in your own eye starts to itch, Senator Santorum, blame the culture. As you know better than anyone, it's the "liberal" thing to do.

("Fishers of Men," Rick Santorum, Catholic Online 7.12.0502)

Update: Strange: Three different people told me about this column yesterday afternoon, which strongly planted the idea that this was a breaking story. When I found the column this morning via Google and saw — on the front page of the City/Region section in today's Boston Globe — that Ted Kennedy denounced it yesterday from the Senate floor, I didn't register that the "July 12" publication date for Santorum's column was back in 2002. Why the buzz now?

Brian McGrory reminded Bostonians of Santorum's keen insights on the third anniversary of the senator's perspicacity — but I was busy celebrating my own wedding anniversary and missed it. McGrory wrote:

Santorum's words about Boston, though written in 2002, weren't highlighted until the last couple of weeks, when a Philadelphia Daily News columnist, John Baer, raised them in print and prompted a running political discourse in the blogosphere. Perhaps so many imbecilic statements flow from Santorum's mouth and pen that this one was initially overlooked.

So I asked a Santorum spokesman whether the senator still believed what he said about Boston. I mean, guilt might be our greatest natural resource, but do we really have to fall on our collective sword over wayward priests?

"It's an open secret that you have Harvard University and MIT that tend to tilt to the left in terms of academic biases," said Robert Traynham, the Santorum aide. "I think that's what the senator was speaking to."

Of course. The whole thing is MIT's fault. Why didn't we realize this sooner? Maybe the Globe should give its Pulitzer Prize back because it failed to get to the root cause of the scandal: Cambridge-based rocket science professors.

I asked Mitt Romney about this. He's starting to hang out in this crowd, raising money for a conservative political action committee in Washington just last night.

His spokeswoman, Julie Teer, called back and said: "What happened with the church sex abuse scandal was a tragedy, but it had nothing to do with geography or the culture of Boston. What we know now is that the sex abuse was occurring around the country and around the world. Boston was just the first to find out about it."

And why was Boston the first to find about it? I have a word for you, Mr Santorum: Liberalism, which means people asking questions and eager to know the truth.

("Kennedy Rips Santorum Comments," Susan Milligan, Boston Globe 7.14.05, reg req'd; "In Sanctum Santorum," Brian McGrory, Boston Globe 7.12.05, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 14 July 2005 at 7:55 AM

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July 14, 2005 08:05 AM | Permalink for this comment

Santorum also opposes the right of married couples to use birth control. He's a nut, and I think he'd be more at home in say, the Islamic Republic of Iran than in the US. I'll start the collection to get him a plane ticket...


July 14, 2005 09:09 AM | Permalink for this comment

Same MO, different topic:

People are upset about [blank] so I will blame [blank].

Who needs logic or reason.


July 14, 2005 10:53 AM | Permalink for this comment

It just gets better and better! Here's Santorum talking to another Globe reporter two days ago:

"The basic liberal attitude in that area . . . has an impact on people's behavior," Santorum said in an interview yesterday at the Capitol.

"If you have a world view that I'm describing [about Boston] . . . that affirms alternative views of sexuality, that can lead to a lot of people taking it the wrong way," Santorum said. . . .

"I was just saying that there's an attitude that is very open to sexual freedom that is more predominant" in Boston, Santorum said yesterday.

Yeah, the liberal culture in Boston is just really friendly toward priest-on-kid sex. That must be it. ("Santorum Resolute on Boston Rebuke: Insists Liberalism Set Stage for Abuse," Susan Milligan, Boston Globe 7.13.05, reg req'd)

Doug Muder:

July 14, 2005 02:33 PM | Permalink for this comment

I just paged through a copy of Santorum's new book "It Takes a Family". It confirms a lot of stuff I just wrote (for an upcoming UU World) about the conservative view of liberals. I didn't buy the book and don't have it in front of me, but I remember Santorum addressing the conundrum of liberals who somehow have functioning families. He realizes that the reader might know such people and be confused by the paradox of their godless family values.

His solution is basically that our lives are disconnected from our ideas. We're liberal intellectually, but some of us actually live by "common sense" rather than our liberal ideals, and so we manage to have decent families in spite of ourselves.

I believe he's absolutely sincere about this, and that he represents a lot of people. The point of my upcoming article (the editors are telling me it's slated for Fall) is that liberal family values are the "good news" that we have unintentionally kept secret.

A lot of the themes from my article are also in a sermon I preached at my home church in May. You can find the text on my blog at


July 14, 2005 03:44 PM | Permalink for this comment

Seems to me that he's confusing moral relativism with a belief in the individual's right to free choice, which is in its own way a moral absolute. Even if you don't believe in it yourself, it's not that hard to see why people who believe in the latter can see coercive sex as evil, because it deprives the victim of choice, while saying "anything goes" between consenting adults. Reminds me of a bondage group I saw in the SF gay pride parade a few years back who marched under the banner, "People For Consensual Power Exchange."

John Hules:

July 15, 2005 01:59 AM | Permalink for this comment

When Sen. Rick Santorum tried to connect Boston's liberalism to the Catholic Church's sex abuse problems, he got it backwards -- it's conservatives who are more likely to be involved in sexual abuse, both as perpetrators and as victims.

More than 100 reports in the scientific and professional literature, involving more than 35,000 subjects, indicate that rapists, child molesters, incestuous parents, and sexually motivated murderers are typically very conservative in their sexual and social values and sometimes more religious than average—suggesting that in many cases traditional sexual morality is a contributing factor in sexual abuse rather than a deterrent. At the First International Conference on the Treatment of Sex Offenders in 1989, there was broad agreement that Western societies with repressive sexual attitudes and traditional male/female roles are more likely to have high rates of all forms of sex crimes.

These findings are summarized and interpreted on my web site,


July 16, 2005 08:03 PM | Permalink for this comment

Of course Santorum's remarks are logical and probably true, but heretical in the church of humanism, which is why he must be hooted down by the mob. Since he is gutless and witless, I expect a full apology before the week is out. In case you missed it, the catholic church in the United States has been and remains a hotbed of leftist ideology, activism, rebellion, and relativism. (BTW, Relativism means either that truth doesn't exist or that it is defined by individual in response to immediate circumstance. It can never make a convincing argument that having sex with children is wrong, and it can do a fair job of arguing the opposite.) But I won't be distracted into an argument about which denominations are good and which bad. That the culture is increasingly debased is so obvious to anyone over 50 that you must forgive our condescending smiles for those who try to argue the point. This has infected the visible church almost completely, since in its lust to be liked it makes almost no attempt to separate itself from the culture it is meant to heal. Its logical, though admitedly unproven that the holy places of liberalism will exhibit the effects of their philosophies to a greater degree than the hinterlands. Whether its inside or outside the church is really irrelevant, as the boundary is almost entirely porous.

Mr. Hules makes the point that the "mental health" professions are a wholly owned subsidiary of the humanist church, which we already knew. When we rednecks get together for a bender we generally have "broad agreement" that folks in the "helping" professions are credulous fools. If we took the trouble to publish a proceedings we'd have something equally valuable to quote.


July 16, 2005 08:45 PM | Permalink for this comment

Perhaps Raul missed my point: If the Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis was caused by cultural liberalism, then why aren't the churches that explicitly and much more thoroughly embrace liberalism even more infested with child-abusing ministers?

Sure, there's always the bogeymen of humanism and liberalism to rail against when uncomfortable facts come up -- unfortunately, a Catholic tradition since the 18th century. But we have humanistic and liberal traditions to thank for representative democracy, constitutional government, the separation of powers, human rights, universal education, and freedom to worship as conscience dictates. I wouldn't trade those for anything Rick Santorum's drinking.


October 3, 2006 06:14 PM | Permalink for this comment

Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory goes after Rick Santorum all over again, now that the Republican House leadership turns out to have acted like the Boston Archdiocese with regard to Rep. Mark Foley's fondness for teenagers.

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