By Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can follow him on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/matthewstoller
Here’s CBS New York, back in February.
The Catholic Church is closely watching the attention Archbishop Timothy Dolan is receiving this week in Rome, praise and adulation one expert says is exactly what it needs right now….
“Dolan from a media and pop culture point of view is a rock star. He just exudes charisma, sort of charisma on steroids,” National Catholic Reporter’ John Allen said.
Allen calls Dolan the star of the consistory, and Pope Benedict XVI could use some star power on his team.
Here’s what came out today.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan yesterday blasted a report that he authorized payments to pedophile priests — and said no such payments are being made to New York clerics.
Dolan, while serving as Milwaukee archbishop in 2003, agreed to pay multiple accused pedophile priests $20,000 in exchange for their agreeing to leave the priesthood, according to documents cited by The New York Times.
Joseph Zwilling, Dolan’s New York Archdiocese spokesman, told The Post last week that there was no “payoff” to pedophile priests — only “charity.”
In the dominant cultural and media narrative, Dolan is a “rock star” for being elevated to Cardinal. He’s successful and charismatic, and a possible papal successor. The bishops represent the Catholic masses, and the hierarchy of the church speak on behalf of those Catholics, attending to their spiritual and political needs. On another level, of course, these leaders are simply unaccountable corrupt corporate leaders who happen to wear robes and run a big multi-national venture known as Catholic Church, Inc, which is distinct from the religious practices of millions of Catholics. Like many corporate elites, these men, and they are men, protect their institution by covering up horrific acts of violence perpetrated on the powerless.
This dual-tracking, of an overall narrative on one hand and revelations that cut entirely against that narrative, is why Obama will negotiate with bishops over contraception instead of challenging their legitimacy. It’s why the Pope’s attacks on nuns and suppression of all but deeply reactionary authoritarian impulses within the bureaucracy go unremarked within elite circles. Catholic elites are like bankers, who are trusted men in suits no matter what they do. Or generals, who are heros regardless of their incentive model and links to defense contractors. Etc.
Obviously, not all upper level Catholic Church leaders are corrupt, and some are no doubt good faith community leaders. This is true across all authoritative classes. It’s just that the structures that hold their authority, that are supposed to self-police, are no longer doing so. So corruption flourishes, as you’d expect. These institutions spiraling downward reinforce each other. That Dolan isn’t prosecuted, that the Catholic Church can implement discriminatory policy against women taking leadership positions, that child sex abuse is unpunished, all of that relies on our legal and political infrastructure tolerating and encouraging the evolution of these reactionary structures. And then Church elders can provide moral cover for any number of authoritarian impulses by political factions, such as the current war on women’s rights.
In other words, the collapse of the rule of law in America is refracting across all elites institutions, as Chris Hayes will no doubt point out in his new book. The media plays a very specific role in this ecosystem, not to cover up the crimes so much as to paint a much more aggressive narrative that whitewashes out their very possibility. In this case, the upper level actors in the Catholic hierarchy are necessarily religious or spiritual, so no matter how many times rape and the protection of rapists is uncovered bishops and priests retain their authoritative positions in society.
Ultimately, we must tear down this false authority, or it will tear us down. In modern America, Wall Street bankers aren’t the only ones who go unpunished for their crimes. And that’s worth noting.