Wednesday, May 05, 2010

STYLE Weekly defends the indefensible

Ordinarily, when I’m reading a STYLE Weekly Back Page that seems in its first few paragraphs to be hogwash, I just stop reading. However, Dale Brumfield’s “Divinity Abuse,” in this week’s STYLE, is such infuriating hogwash I slogged through it, because I knew I would write this post.

Ostensibly, Brumfield's piece is a vigorous defense of the Catholic Church’s way of handling the many cases of child abuse that have surfaced in recent years. Actually, it's an attack piece aimed at shadows the writer calls "the media."
The ruthless condemnations by the media and critics are offset by the hypocrisy of their howls of empty outrage against the religious leaders’ crimes. Critics rightfully decry the sexual mistreatment of children by a few Catholic priests yet they remain silent, even supportive, of filmmaker Roman Polanski, who fled the United States into European exile in 1978 after admitting to forcible sex with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski is revered as a gifted yet misread artist, defended and forgiven by his supporters of a crime that happened so long ago. They are silent in the sexualization of children by Hollywood, the media and even the makers of pre-teen Halloween costumes.
Click here to read the piece in its entirety.

Brumfield’s tedious writing style almost suggests that he is meticulously using logic and well-documented facts to attack those journalists he feels have unfairly criticized the Catholic Church. But when one’s premise is rather bogus and too many of their convenient facts have been bent into shape, well, about all we are left with is tedium.

Hey, if this week's Back Page had merely set out to defend a silly bunch of Tea Party activists, or bungling public officials, it would have been easy to have laughed it off. But abusing the truth to deflect the richly-deserved criticism of an institution that has made the betrayal of trust systematic goes too far.

To borrow a phrase from an old friend who has a special way with words, Mr. Brumfield’s suggestion that the Catholic Church is the real victim in the child abuse scandal is enough to make a goat puke.


Shaun Kenney said...

He does raise a salient point about the lack of criticism for Polanski.

Doesn't justify a damn thing, but the point still stands.

F.T. Rea said...

Shaun, each priest who abused a child is guilty of his own sin/crime. Just as Polanski, those priests have to/had to answer to their own conscience, or God, for their acts.

But there's a big difference. Polanski also faced a judge ... then escaped. No one in the legal system facilitated his escape.

Now we know that too many of the priests' crimes were hidden by their bishops, cardinals, etc. Which meant the culprits didn't have to face a judge. Instead they were moved, so the abuse could go on.

Although I am disgusted by the child abuse, it can be argued that the abusers are sick. That hardly means I want to let them go free. But every society has its sick individuals.

However, when aspects of the Catholic Church's chain of command systematically covered up crimes for decades (if not centuries) that made it all something else.

If we should loathe the sin, but not the sinner, how should we feel about the sinners' facilitators?

My answer is -- their mind-boggling betrayal is even worse than the original crime, in some ways.

Dale suggests the same people who would let Polanski go free are the ones criticizing the Catholic Church. If that's true, and I have to laugh at that "fact," what real difference does it make?

Is he saying some people are hypocrites? Well, yes, but so what?

Moreover, Dale promised the reader facts ... then he made most of them up. And, speaking of facilitating, I'm amazed that STYLE published such crap.

J.C. Wilmore said...


The term you may be groping for is "accomplice after the fact." The frustration may feel with the Catholic Church has at its root the fact that the church and its leadership acted as accomplices after the fact to assist pedophiles in getting away with their crimes.

Casey said...

Your headline suggests that Style and Mr. Brumfield endoses the abuse. He emphatically does not "defend" as you put it, child abuse. I don't think anyone of sane mind can defend or endorse any kind of child abuse. It's horrendous and those who commit it and are involved in any cover up should face prison time for the rest of their lives. The Catholic Church did an absolute terrible thing covering up this abuse. There's no debate about that. But, I must be reading a different article than you because I could not find anywhere in the article where Mr. Brumfield defends how the church handled the abuse cases. He seemed to me to be outraged by it. What he is defending is Catholicism as a religion that is obviously so important to him as it is to me. So now supporting Catholicism means one supports child abuse? Now that's "hogwash".

F.T. Rea said...

Casey, your defense of Brumfield’s hash of an essay overlooks much.

Brumfield suggests the child abuse problem began in the 1950s and ended in the 1970s. That's just not true. He seems to blame the scandal on “shoddy journalists,” rather than the dirty deeds and the systematic cover-up.

Then he suggests that anti-Catholicism is actually responsible the magnitude of the scandal. Then he blames pop psychologists and Pat Robertson. Then he sees Roman Polanski as part of the story … perhaps the biggest reach in a string of them.

I could go on, but he winds up by boasting chillingly that children are safer in the Roman Catholic Church than anywhere else in the USA!

Lastly, he throws a number at the reader -- the writer claims 97 percent of the priests aren’t child molesters. Hard to find the comfort in that claim; even harder to believe he didn’t just make it up.

Is there really an authoritative, independent study on the percentage of molesting priests? If not, how in hell does Brumfield know what percentage of the priests have not betrayed the trust of their flock in the worst way possible?

In truth, I bear no malice for the Catholic Church. My gripe is with bullshitters of any faith who try to cast the Catholic Church, or Catholicism, as the true victim in the scandal. Making that spurious claim minimizes what may be the worst crime one can commit against society -- child abuse poisons the future.

Jennifer Coates said...


F.T. Rea said...

Jennifer, that's easy for you to say...