Lent (Day 32) — Jimmy Breslin — “The Church that Forgot Christ”

In Chapter 4, Breslin recalls encountering several of his Catholic friends and neighbors encouraging him to write the book exposing the sins of the Church.  And Breslin also reiterates one of his central points — if the Church cannot protect the smallest and most vulnerable in its group, it fails as an institution.  Part of the opening of this chapter is his consideration of the place of the Irish in the Catholic Church.  He notes that the Irish clergy, at the time of the Protestant Reformation, had to flee to France to continue their studies.  In France, they came under the influence of Cornelius Jansen, and that Irish Catholicism has had a streak of Jansenist ideas ever since, and that, in America, the Catholic Church has such a large Irish component that such ideas have really taken hold.  Jansenism, for Breslin, is equated with an overwhelming sense of “sins of the flesh,” of human depravity.  And this fatalistic outlook and fear of the body has meant that the Catholic hierarchy does not want to talk about sex, or dwell on it.  And such a code of silence has created a shadowy area where the predatory priests can really thrive, and remain hidden from the authorities.  

And a failure to address sex is a big hole in the Catholic Church.  Because it is so much a part of the secular world — so much of art, and popular culture (a whole genre of literature — Romance and Urban Lit) deals with sex, often graphically.  When the Church doesn’t open up to discuss the matter, one gets a very volatile mix — we have an emphasis on sex as sin, so we don’t talk about it, but the desires don’t go away, but underground, and so people don’t come to any reasonable views on sexuality, and so engage in sex rather thoughtlessly.  This can lead to unwanted pregnancies and other troubles.  And it can lead to a valuing of the priest as someone special (he’s tamed the sexual beast) which gives the predator status.  It’s quite a mess.  

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