History is not melodrama, even if it usually reads like that. It was real blood, not tomato catsup or the pale ectoplasm of statistics, that wet the ground at Bloody Angle and darkened the waters of Bloody Pond. It modifies our complacency to look at the blurred and harrowing old photographs — the body of the dead sharpshooter in the Devil’s Den at Gettysburg or the tangled mass in the Bloody Lane at Antietam.
Robert Penn Warren, The Legacy of the Civil War
Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels for the Church so frequently that I have called him Defender of the Faith, has a very interesting post today which combines my two passions of the Civil War and the Catholic Church:
In 1961, at the start of the United States Civil War Centennial observances, LIFE magazine asked Robert Penn Warren for an essay about the effects of that war on subsequent US history. That essay eventually became a small book entitled The Legacy of the Civil War which is still in print and is well worth your time.
It’s slightly more than one hundred pages and if you’re not as glacially slow a reader as the Editor is, you can probably polish it off in an hour or less. Warren, a Kentuckian, is equally harsh with both sides, as he should be. But the curse which was laid upon the South as a result of that war was something that Warren labels the Great Alibi. I’m transcribing directly from the book so any errors are mine:
By the Great Alibi, the South explains, condones and transmutes everything. By a simple reference to the “War,” any Southern female could not too long ago, put on the glass slipper and be whisked away to the ball. Any goose could dream herself (or himself) a swan– surrounded, of course, by a good many geese for contrast and devoted hand-service. Even now, any common lyncher becomes a defender of the Southern tradition, and any rabble-rouser the gallant leader of a thin gray line of heroes, his hat on saber-point to provide reference by which to hold formation in the charge. By the Great Alibi, pellagra, hookworm and illiteracy are all explained, or explained away, and mortgages are converted into badges of distinction. Laziness becomes the aesthetic sense, blood-lust rising from a matrix of boredom and resentful misery becomes a high sense of honor, and ignorance becomes divine revelation. By the Great Alibi, the Southerner makes his Big Medicine. He turns defeat into victory, defects into virtues. Even more pathetically, he turns his great virtues into absurdities–sometimes vicious absurdities.
It occurred to me that one of the most terrible tragedies of the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals is that it granted something like Warren’s Great Alibi to the Catholic left, the Christian left and other enemies of the Gospel.
For example. You’re a Catholic theologian of leftist leanings or a feminist nun. You have publicly written that not only should Katharine Jefferts Schori be allowed to preach in Catholic parishes, she should also be allowed to concelebrate the Mass.
The Vatican calls you out. How do you respond? Easy. You simply invoke the Great Christian Alibi in the same way as Sister Elizabeth Johnson [No relation – Ed] does here:
A nun who drew U.S. Catholic bishops’ ire with what they consider radical feminist writings fired back Friday (Aug. 15), saying their investigation of women’s orders is wasteful when financial mismanagement and sexual abuses are being covered up.
“When the moral authority of the hierarchy is hemorrhaging due to financial scandals and many bishops who … cover up sexual abuse of children, a cover up that continues in some quarters to this day, and thousands are drifting away from the church … the waste of time on this investigation is unconscionable,” Johnson said.
And debate is officially over. Who are you, you male member of the church hierarchy, to lecture me about anything at all, considering that the MALE hierarchy of this church covered up the sexual abuse of CHILDREN?
Leaving aside the psychological trauma of the victims, the Great Alibi freely provided to the enemies of both the Catholic Church and the Gospel may actually be the single most damaging thing to emerge from the sexual abuse scandals.
Because how do you answer it?
Go here to read the comments.
“Because how do you answer it?”
By noting that the Predator Priests, and the Bishops who protected them, were betraying what the Catholic Church teaches. If they had followed what the Church teaches there would have been no scandal. It is ironic of course that this scandal is used as a club against the Church often by the very same groups and individuals who have met with great success in ensuring that kids will be subject to homosexual propaganda and images at a very young age in schools, and that predatory homosexuals often enjoy protected status in many workplaces, especially in education. The enemies of Christ are always willing to attack the Church in reference to the sinful behavior of the clergy, but do not be confused on that score. Such attacks are merely tactical in nature. The enemies of Christ hate the Church, not for the vices of its members, but for their virtues due to their embracing the teachings of Christ. The Church, the Bride of Christ, is always a secondary foe for these enemies. The main target is always the Bride Groom.