Lent (Day 33) — Jimmy Breslin, “The Church that Forgot Christ”

In this section, Breslin recounts Archbishop Edward Egan testifying in Bridgeport, CT regarding a abuse case that happened when Egan was bishop of Bridgeport.  Egan, in that interchange with the prosecuting attorney, comes across as a guy trying to split hairs in an attempt to get the Church from having to pay anything.  His chief argument is that priests are independent contractors and that the Church was not responsible for their actions, but the priests themselves were. And Breslin is quite acerbic in his take on this — the Church are answerable, and they should acknowledge that, but they take the time to attack the victims and to try to evade any responsibility through legal technicalities.  

And Breslin later speaks with a friend bringing suit against the Church on behalf of a victim of a predatory nun.  Here, the Church initially refused to settle, but when the attorney pointed out that Egan would look pretty bad in court, and that such exposure at a time when he was trying to get a cardinal’s red hat would cost him the hat.  The Church settled.  So, when his own material well-being and advancement were on the line, the Church settled, but refused to settle until that point.  

In this section of Chapter 4, Breslin spends a lot of time talking about the portrayal of priests in the movies (and nuns too).  And he spends time talking about the Church attacking Hollywood and the power of the Jewish producers there, despite the fact that the studios did the Church a favor in producing heart-warming propaganda in which the church looked quite saintly, an image of the priesthood that served to insulate the priestly caste from the rest of us, and reinforced an image of priests as better than the rest of us.  Such a vision helped Hollywood (such films as Going My Way were very popular and profitable for Hollywood) and helped the Catholic Church as well.

I love those old movies and the way the priests and nuns are portrayed.  To some extent, I remain somewhat sympathetic to many of the clergy because of those films.  I understand Hollywood hagiography — look at just about any biopic — the historical figure is made into a saint before your eyes.  And I understand that such portrayals do not accurately represent figures who are much more complex.  Still, they are aspirational, and that portrayal still provides for me an ideal, no matter how much people fail to live up to those ideals.  To the extent that such portrayal has helped predators hide their teeth and allow them to get closer to victims, they should be condemned.  But in that they present an ideal to which one might aspire — well, I still like them.  

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