It hasn’t been a great week for Catholics, and as a member of that particular demographic, I can’t quite figure out if I am more disturbed by what Mel Gibson said to his ex-girlfriend, or by what the Vatican published on the subject of women’s ordination. Both communications leave me more than a bit glum.
First, with our man Mel, let’s acknowledge that we’ve all said things in anger that we’ve later regretted. (“Ok, then I’ll vote for Sarah Palin!”) And it’s always a sure sign that a relationship is doing the death spiral when a “friend” decides to tape a private phone conversation. Even with this in mind, Gibson’s taped tirade still sounds like an eerie out-take from “The Shining.” Scary, scary stuff. With his profanity-laced rant, Gibson comes across as someone who suffers from a profound case of delayed development. (Please, please, don’t tell me Mr. Braveheart played lacrosse while attending a boys’ school!)
It’s hard to believe this is the same actor who, in a gesture of humility, used his own hands for those of the executioner in “The Passion.” But we do, after all, live in the age of irony. Didn’t Woody Allen make “Crimes and Misdemeanors” shortly before abandoning his wife and running off with his adopted daughter? (Yeats may have been wrong. Sometimes you can tell the dancer from the dance.)
As if that weren’t enough to make your brown eyes blue, there comes another forehead slapper of a document from the Vatican, ostensibly on the abuse scandal. After a decade of study, the Church still seems to miss the mark. After all of this time, there is still no zero-tolerance policy for pedophile priests. Bishops are still not required to report abuse to the civil authorities, and there are still no sanctions for administrators who cover up for abusive clerics.
Instead of righting these wrongs, the Vatican turns its wrath on those who favour women’s ordination. (I think women should have this right, but I understand those who take a traditional stance on this. At the same time, can you make the case that any organization should reserve leadership to its male celibates?) While you can debate this topic, you cannot possibly equate this issue with child abuse. According to the latest document from the Vatican, though, those who favour granting women equal liturgical rights seem to be as intrinsically evil as those who abuse children. I don’t think you need to be Thomas Aquinas to realize that there is clearly no moral equivalency here.