Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Worship of the Institution

Several months ago a commentator wondered why we (or maybe I) continually addressed Health Care while ignoring the Church abuse scandal. Well, here I go.

First, I have not been personally affected in any way by this scandal. I have not been abused. No one I know (as far as I know) has been abused. In that regard, I can only pray for these people and admit that I cannot understand what they have gone through. No one should ever have their trust shattered, especially the trust one places (and I have placed) in their faith and religion.

With that disclaimer, I hope that those that have committed abuse are fully prosecuted for their crimes - just as any teacher, minister, neighbor, uncle, father, mother, etc. are prosecuted when they commit such acts. The cloth should not protect someone from criminal investigation.

However, I find the systematic hiding of these abusive priests more troubling, and in a certain sense, parallel to my fears regarding Notre Dame. For Bishops and Cardinals around the world, it seemed that fear of negative publicity and a focus on protecting the ecclesiastical order of the Church trumped its mission. The Church is first and foremost the establishment through which grace is communicated and we, as a people, are lead to salvation which is found in Jesus Christ. The focus of the Church should thus then be the redemption of people. Yes, it is easier to redeem people with a Church free of scandal, but when abuse does occur it must be rooted out immediately in order to show that salvation remains at the heart of its mission. The defense of institution remains a secondary goal and one clearly subordinate to ensuring that the children of God are ministered to and lead to salvation.

It seems to me that Bishops and Cardinals around the world worried more about the Institution than their flock and that troubles me deeply. Especially in the case of the Legionaries of Christ, whose founder Marcial Marcel not only abused seminarians but fathered children and did so while seemingly wooing the Vatican with donations and ostentatious shows of wealth, this corruption smacks of the Middle Ages. Here again, we see institutional corruption, where advancement within the institution supplants the true goal.

What does this have to do with Notre Dame?

Our University has one primary goal: to educate students in an academically sound, Catholic manner. Two parts: academics and Catholic. Under those two broad parts falls our library, our Chapels, our athletics, our classrooms, our research, etc etc. One should not become more central than the other and over the last decades, many, including those here at the Irish Rover, have warned that the Academic Standing has garnered more focus than ensuring the Catholic Manner. The University has, it seems to me, become focused increasingly on becoming an academic institution and not a Catholic academic institution.

I believe that just as some Bishops worried about what people thought of the Institution of the Church and sought to preserve its outside appearance while ignoring their flocks, so some in the University and on the Board have sought to increase the academic standing and prestige of the Institution while ignoring their charge to educate well and in a Catholic manner.Both the Church and the University should worry about their institutions - ensuring a good image and good academics, respectively - is important for their missions. These, however, do not replace the true mission of these two and it is important that we, as Catholics and Domers, remind our leaders of that fact. We remain the focus of these institutions, not good press, not US News and World Rankings.