During a recent broadcast of WPRI/WNAC-TV’s Newsmakers, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of the Diocese of Providence indicated he could not explain why about 65 percent of his flock — in the most Catholic state in the union — is pro-choice on abortion rights.
 
Maybe Tobin should meet US District Court Judge Louise DeCarl Adler of San Diego. She ordered Bishop Robert Brom and his lawyers to explain why she shouldn’t dismiss their bankruptcy case, because of their failure to exercise “the financial controls and transparency” required by law. The county assessor had found that the San Diego Diocese owns property — including a time-share, miscellaneous commercial buildings, a bank, a radio station, and a garage and parking lot — worth $446 million.
 
Adler received a request from “her former parish” for donations toward the 150 sexual abuse claims against the San Diego Diocese. In what was deemed a “rare and blistering decree,” she called the solicitations “disingenuous.”
 
Good for her. More Catholic bishops need tough responses to the feigned poverty, humility, and bewilderment masking their arrogance, hypocrisy, and complicity.
 
If Tobin wants to fathom pro-choice Catholics, he should recall that lay independence on questions of human sexuality is nothing new.
 
Since the 1980s, the National Opinion Research Center of Andrew Greeley, the priest, novelist, and researcher, has confirmed that more than 90 percent of Roman Catholics reject the church’s ban on birth control. In a book published in 1995, Father Greeley said surveys reveal that Catholics have sex more often, are more playful in their sex lives, and enjoy sex more than non-Catholics.
 
Despite doctrine demanding celibacy from gays and lesbians, homosexual laypeople — and their priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes — have indulged in gay sex for centuries, and they continue to do so. Catholics use pornography and sex toys: they also commit sex crimes against adults and children of both genders — all in opposition to the teachings of their church.
 
If Bishop Tobin is perplexed about why a majority of Catholics support pregnant women’s private reproductive rights, he ought to be just as perplexed about why Catholics thumb their noses at all the other church rules on sex and family planning,
 
But Tobin’s bewilderment pales against the hurt, confusion, and disillusionment of Catholics who have witnessed an epidemic of sexual abuse by clergy worldwide. They watched helplessly as the hierarchy that pretends to lead them to salvation repeatedly covered up crimes.
 
More perplexing, relatively few clergy are punished by civil authorities. Of the dozens of priests found guilty of abuse in Rhode Island, only a few were imprisoned. The distribution of more responsibility to the hierarchy is every bit as “perplexing” to the Catholic pro-choice majority as Tobin’s bewilderment about them.
 
A woman who wrote to me at the time of my excommunication from the church may have had the answer. She described her situation: “I was poor [alone] and pregnant with my third child, [and] I went to my parish priest, who made me feel as if I wasn’t worth the space I was taking up.”
 
There are more where she came from.
 
Dogma doesn’t pay the rent, feed a hungry child, or pay for medicine; nor do arrogance, hypocrisy, or feigned bewilderment.

 

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