Matt Taibbi and the anti-theists won’t let a good crisis go to waste
“When I see a Catholic priest chanting his ridiculous incantations and waving his holy smoke over someone’s gravesite or at a wedding, the vibe I get is exactly the same as the one I get watching a plumber groan and moan and babble gibberish about all the different things wrong with your kitchen pipes, when in reality all he had to do was replace a washer. It’s the same as picking up your car after an oil change and listening to the mechanic rattle off a list of charges totaling thousands for the nineteen extra things he looked at under your hood, just out of concern for your safety… And when you protest, no, there was nothing wrong with my alternator, I’m not paying for that, he tries to bullshit you — oh, yes there was, trust me, if we hadn’ta fixed that, your car woulda died on the highway within a week.
That’s all the church is. They’re a giant for-profit company using predatory salesmanship to sell what they themselves know is a defective, outmoded, basically unnecessary product. They’ll use any means necessary to keep their market share and if they have to lie and cheat and deflect and point fingers to keep the racket going, they’ll do it, just like any other sleazeball company.” ~ Matt Taibbi
I’m pretty sure the only polite way to respond to such a slimy post as this (and Matt has slimier, albeit briefer posts) is to thank Taibbi for making so plain the fact that this latest dust-up surrounding the pope has nothing at all to do with facts or evidence or any of the sorts of things that responsible journalists would require before making the claims Taibbi is making. It doesn’t even really have to do with the sexual abuse scandal. No, this is quite simply a personal vendetta. Taibbi and Dawkins and Hitchens and all the other anti-theists and anti-Catholics out there won’t let a good crisis go to waste. The fact that they have little more than gross speculation and favorably slanted reporting at their disposal is irrelevant. Taibbi will still write his hit pieces, and his British counterparts will run their little book-selling PR campaign.
This is Taibbi’s bread and butter after all. His formula is quite simple, really.
Step one: Choose a topic with wide popular support on the left. Wall Street bankers are Evil! The Catholic Church is a criminal enterprise! David Brooks is a schmuck!
Step two: Find ways to make the most of widespread antagonism toward said Wicked Entity in order to make them look ridiculous. Call the pope a douche! Make fecal jokes about David Brooks! Just be extreme and use lots of bad language. (They’ll eat it up! They’ll call you the second coming of Hunter S. Thompson!)
Step three: Act really smug and self-satisfied as all the praise is heaped on by adoring fans.
And that’s it. Fancy potty humor. That’s Taibbi’s entire shtick, whatever the topic is. It doesn’t matter that he has just about all the facts wrong in his anti-Catholic screed. Who needs fact when you have such strong opinions? It doesn’t matter that he’s done absolutely no legwork whatsoever in finding out if the things he believes line up with the facts on the ground. After all, when you’re working backwards from a preconceived notion, it’s much more important to align the facts of the story with your opinions than it is to actually check those facts against reality. Gotta connect those dots no matter how tortured the lines between them become.
It doesn’t matter to Taibbi (or the rest of the press, apparently) that Ratzinger was not in fact in charge of overseeing sexual abuse cases in the 1980’s or 1990’s. Somehow, in this skewed version of events, Ratzinger “seems to have quashed an effort to bring a serial child abuser named Lawrence Murphy to a church trial.” Taibbi doesn’t bother to dig any deeper here – where he would discover that in fact when the case finally did reach Ratzinger’s office there was almost no time to carry out the trial since so much of the evidence had been destroyed during the decades of cover-up and since the priest in question died almost immediately thereafter. Nor is there any evidence Ratzinger ever even knew about the case.
No, instead you get a whiff of what religious freedom might look like under the rule of an actual far-left regime (as opposed to our current president who is anything but ‘far left’ as he is so often painted by his political opponents):
But I think it’s time we started considering that what the church is is even worse than that. It’s possible we should start wondering if the church is also a criminal organization that in this country, anyway, should be broken up using RICO statutes.
After this nice little revelation, Taibbi goes on to repeat the tired old celibacy canard.
I’m not personally opposed to priests being allowed to marry, but I do have to wonder about this claim that somehow celibacy in the Catholic church leads directly to sexual abuse. As if married men don’t sexually abuse children, or this problem had never occurred in public schools or daycares or other churches or any other institution but the Catholic church itself.
Taibbi claims that it’s natural for these sorts of problems to arise amidst a population forced into celibacy. I suppose I can see how celibate priests might break their vows, but I don’t see how non-pedophiles would somehow become pedophiles just because they were forced into celibacy, or, conversely, how pedophiles would somehow no longer be pedophiles just because they were allowed to marry adult women. This isn’t how human sexuality works. Gay men aren’t going to become straight just because they’re allowed to marry women either – and yet somehow this all boils down to celibacy.
In the end the problem Taibbi and Dawkins and Hitchens (et alia) have is not, in fact, with sexual abuse in the church. That’s just a segue. Sexual abuse and the cover-ups of sexual abuse is a problem we can all agree on without arguing that the US government should use the RICO statutes to break up the church, or that the British government should arrest the pope. These attacks from the anti-theists are really about what the church teaches and believes, or as Taibbi writes:
Just as it refuses to change its insane and criminal stance on birth control and condoms, the church refuses to change its horrifically cruel policy about priestly celibacy. That’s because it quite correctly perceives that should it begin to dispense with the irrational precepts of its belief system, it would lose its appeal as an ancient purveyor of magical-mystery bullshit and become just a bigger, better-financed, and infinitely more depressing version of a Tony Robbins self-help program.
Therefore it must cling to its miserable celibacy in order to keep its sordid business scheme going; and if clinging to its miserable celibacy means having to look the other way while children are serially molested by its sexually stunted and tortured employees, well, so be it.
If you look at it that way, the church’s institutional behavior is far worse than is commonly believed. It’s not just a matter of an intractable bureaucracy responding too slowly or too insensitively to some scattered accidents of fate. This is more like the situation of a car company that continues selling a cheap but faulty brake system because it has calculated that it stands to make more money selling the cars than it does to lose in lawsuits. The only difference is, a car company can fix the brakes if it wants to. What the Catholic church is selling is by definition faulty. It can’t change, or it will be out of business. So even if not changing means kids will be continue to be molested, it doesn’t change.
This ignores the fact that, well, the church has changed – and immensely so, over its very long history. Oh it may not have changed the way that many would like. It may not take opinion polls or done user surveys or tapped into Matt Taibbi’s brain in order to find out just how it should go about changing in order to please the most people, but it has changed. And under the guidance of Pope Benedict it continues to reform and modernize its policies toward sexual abuse in ways that are long overdue.
But that doesn’t really matter to Taibbi or other self-professed enemies of the Catholic church. This whole scandal really works to their benefit. Richard Dawkins sells more books. Christopher Hitchens gets to advocate the deaths of more innocent Muslims in his endless advocacy of the war on terror and still look good for ragging on the pope. And Matt Taibbi gets to find clever new ways to use swear words and more sophisticated potty humor.
Because this stuff sells, whether or not the dots get connected in the end.