I am a struggling sinner who is a practicing Catholic in the Pittsburgh diocese. My children have attended Catholic schools, K-12. Money in the plate every week. I do skip Mass some weeks, but not many.
I have no affiliation with (or any affection for) the students who chose to appear partially undressed at the CMU Downhill Derby. There doesn't seem to be anything profound or novel in their act, there may or may not be any signal in their noise, and overall my response is: meh, kids.
The Bishop reacted publicly to the young woman partially undressed as the Pope and called on CMU to take action. The university has its own police force, and in deference to the Bishop the college cops have charged two students with criminal misdemeanors.
In drawing attention to the affair and initiating a protracted legal scenario, the Bishop invoked the Streisand effect and brought this tempest in a teapot more focus than it ever would have received if simply left alone. (LA Times: Catholic Sharia In Pittsburgh?)
I am disappointed in the Bishop's actions. I wondered, what is the biblical guidance on dealing with these situations?, and I found two references:
- John 7:53 to 8:11, tells the story of a woman charged with sin by a group of men eager to punish her; Jesus challenges the crowd, the crowd dissipates, and then Jesus (1) declines to condemn her and (2) privately urges her to go and sin no more.
- Mark 15:1 tells about a high priest and church leaders turning Somebody over to the civil authorities for prosecution; the parallel does not reflect well on the Diocese.
Absent violence to persons (and possibly property) what business does the Diocese have turning people over to prosecutors? Especially for ridiculing the church? Is that a new 11th Commandment? Is this a new ministry?
- Where are the crusading priests fighting for social justice, peace not war, tending the poor, worker's rights, economic justice, the unemployed, racial justice, the rights of the marginalized? Are they now monitoring campus dress codes? What has happened to the diocese of Father James Renshaw Cox and Father Charles Owen Rice, may they rest in well-deserved peace?
- In a city so corrupt that the Police are suing the city so they can work overtime in strip clubs, is the CMU Art Department the issue the Diocese picked for advocacy? Where was the Church for Jordan Miles?
- Who are these fools with such nice Irish names from "the Catholic League"? They don't represent me or anybody I know, I've never voted for them, and I don't know who's funding them.
- There are other places in the world where you get in trouble for making fun of the local clerics. Generally, they're Muslim countries, it's not a misdemeanor, and you don't want to live there — but misdemeanor or felony, this bishop-police business is both un-American and un-Christian.
We have freedom of speech in America. That includes freedom to ridicule religions, churches, and bishops, presidential candidates that wear magic undies, snake handling West Virginians, and people who let their children die rather than use doctors and hospitals. We can also ridicule Pat Robertson, Tom Cruise and the Scientologists, Earnest Angley, Jimmy Swaggert, and yes even a senior official of the catholic church. Good people fought and died so I could have freedom of speech.
The church (my Church!) is open to ridicule only because of the chronic institutional failure of many bishops to prevent child abuse by the clergy, by the hide-and-shuffle response of many bishops, and by the treatment of heinous crime as an internal administrative manner by many bishops. The notion that finally a bishop has figured out how to notify the authorities of a crime, and he's called them over a pantless art student at a CMU party is just too absurd.
Last, that a bishop would attempt to establish his moral authority and position by putting a woman back in her proper place just puts the Church further back on the wrong side of so many truths.
The priests and the bishops - our men of the cloth - have completely screwed this thing up. They don't get it, and they're not getting any better. I never thought I would say this, because I'm an old-school guy, but: The only people that haven't gotten this Church all wrong are the nuns.
The Catholic Church will only begin to move back to her path when we transition the priesthood out of the testosterone zone and ask women to please move into full leadership positions in the priesthood.