Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Do good works balance evil?

Nicholas D. Kristof writes in an OP-ED for the New York Times titled Who Can Mock This Church? that…

if the top of the church has strayed from its roots, much of its base is still deeply inspiring.

He uses the example of dedicated nuns and clergy working in Sudan as examples of the Catholic church we do not see represented in the press. Instead he asserts that the press takes perverse pleasure at the Vatican's child sexual abuse scandal, while ignoring the rest of the picture.

He uses Father Michael Barton as an example.

But what about Father Michael Barton, a Catholic priest from Indianapolis? I met Father Michael in the remote village of Nyamlell, 150 miles from any paved road here in southern Sudan. He runs four schools for children who would otherwise go without an education, and his graduates score at the top of statewide examinations.

I’m sure there are thousands of dedicated Catholics serving around the world just like Father Barton. They are true believers dedicated to a life of service. I’ve met a few and they are not all slaving away in Sudan. But there is another issue left unspoken, what evil does Father Barton cultivate? Where is he on condom use to prevent the spread of aids. I’m sure he has a position. I’m also sure it somehow touches the lives of the children he works so hard to educate, and not in a good way. What about the ethical dilemma of trading food and education for ones soul? Does that count? Does the fact that Father Barton has an agenda matter? He’s not selfless. He’s working to convert the masses. He has an agenda, and the Vatican pulls the strings.

Instead, I have to ask the obvious. Does the author think that the good works outweigh the evil inflected on countless lives because of an uncaring power structure? Or, that in some way the good works should be seen as a reason to reduce the pressure? I think he does. In fact, I think that because a few priests are making what he sees as “real sacrifices” for the “true church”, that he thinks the catholic church should be given a pass. Should we look the other way and let the Catholic church take care of the sexual abuse problem in its own way? I don’t think so.

He closes with this…

And unless we’re willing to endure beatings alongside Father Michael, unless we’re willing to stand up to warlords with Sister Cathy, we have no right to disparage them or their true church.

The problems with his argument is that the Catholics are not the only organization making the sacrifice. They are not the only ones making the effort. What they do does not make them special or exempt for scrutiny. Catholics are one of many when it comes to charitable work and must be held accountable to ethical standards just like everyone else. Just look at UNICEF for example. If they were to rape a few hundred kids in pursuit of their higher calling to feed the hungry of Sudan, the world would rise up in outrage.

Who can mock this Church? I can, and without remorse. They need to be held accountable.