“Those who go beneath the surface, do so at their peril.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
We are entering into a time of crisis that has little to do with the virulence of COVID-19; it’s actually due to the massive failures of leadership in both the ecclesiastical and secular realms. The recent revelations that state governors and their so-called medical experts, placed COVID-19 patents into nursing homes – resulting in massive and needless death, reminds me of a similar evil act: when Catholic bishops knowing placed predator priests into parishes and schools. It’s unconscionable and almost unforgiveable.
But there is a significant difference between these two tragic situations – with regards to the corrupt and incompetent secular officials who knowingly forced nursing homes to accept COVID patents, those helpless souls were used and then disregarded; the left-leaning US media has remained comparatively complicit in this scandal; such a blatant disregard for human life is oddly reminiscent of some of the events surrounding the initial outbreak of the “Black Death” in Europe. During the siege of Caffa, the invading Mongols catapulted the bodies of plague victims over the city walls – infecting the inhabitants. Did anyone have such nefarious designs on the vulnerable men and women who are isolated into nursing homes? Probably not. But when a segment of society has reverted to a semi-barbarous state that regularly diminishes the value of certain lives (from unlimited access to abortion and the availability of assisted suicide for the aged and the terminally ill), it is not difficult to imagine a dystopian world as imagined in “Soylent Green,” where some people are considered burdensome and expendable.
The circumstances surrounding the placement of predator priests back into parishes (sometimes directly into Catholic schools or parishes with schools) by bishops, is arguably even more egregious. For these priests entered into such environs under the guise of silence; their true identities remained hidden and largely unrecognized. They were like the liquid-silver shapeshifting androids in the “Terminator” film series; oftentimes, they were recognized after it was too late. Such gross incompetence and self-serving decisions are sometimes expected from politicians, but the anointed princes of the Church should have theoretically known better.
During the COVID crisis, corrupt politicians quickly and unhesitatingly abandoned and denied the principles of individual freedom and liberty that the United States was founded upon. Whether brave or foolhardy, citizens who protested overly harsh and unlawful lock-down mandates were unfairly disparaged and mischaracterized as an unruly mob motivated solely by hate and greed.
This type of deception and attempt to control the “narrative” is a form of image-making; in other words, propaganda. At the onset of the COVID crisis, the Communist Party of China attempted to systematically minimize the severity of the outbreak. More than anything, communist/socialist and dictatorial regimes need to project an image of organization and stability. For this reason, the pageantry that accompanies parades, synchronized demonstrations, and the Olympic Games are especially attractive to totalitarianism; hence, the often-mesmerizing public spectacles in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and the People’s Republic of China. In a sense, these pseudo-processions and secularized rituals are simulacrums of Catholic religious sacraments and ceremonies. I initially recognized this phenomenon, albeit subconsciously, at the various “Pride” events in San Francisco that I regularly attended during the 1990s. At that time, I had never experienced Catholicism, in its more traditional and baroque configuration, except through Madonna’s music-video for “Like a Prayer.” Particularly in the display of gay male sadomasochism – every tied-up and punished man became a living in carnation of St. Sebastian; except this was a hollow martyrdom and offered no redemption. In the media build-up to the Obergefell decision, LGBT activists tightly controlled the image of the gay man and woman – as strangely pedestrian and uninteresting when compared to the sweaty picture of gay-life that emerged during the 1970s. It was successful, but to the determent of the larger LGBT community (which remains “unmarried”) that continues to suffer from high levels of addiction, disease, promiscuity, mental illness, and domestic violence. This is something that all of these empty spectacles have in common: the promise of happiness that never materializes. But the false portrait of trust and authority presented to the public is more important than the real suffering behind the illusion. Before the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the US, I felt a twinge of anger; because in the enthusiasm to remake the gay experience into something that could be accepted by middle-America, the generation which came before, comprised largely of the men who died of AIDS, were almost forgotten; for some, they represented an embarrassing aspect of the past – an almost primordial epoch in the history of gay liberation that was obsessed with sexual freedom. Back in the 1990s, I considered those men as martyrs.
As the COVID crisis got worse, and the virus spread around the world, like the nuclear radiation which eventually circled the globe after the Chernobyl disaster, the truth could no longer be denied. The façade began to fall.
The Roman Catholic Church has gone through a similar series of revelatory events; probably beginning with the Boston sex-abuse scandal, then the McCarrick case, and finally the Vigano “letters.” Throughout it all, many of the Church hierarchy, including Francis, attempted to convey an outward persona of composure and almost indifference. After Archbishop Vigano released the first in a series of famous letters, accusing Francis of being complicit in the abuse coverup involving Cardinal McCarrick, he famously stated: “I won’t say a word about it.” Even if Vigano’s claims were completely false, the Catholic faithful, in particular – the abuse survivors, deserved something more than a papal blow-off. But, for a number of bishops and cardinals, and even for the Pope, the fear of scandal surpassed their obligation to protect the innocent; but this shouldn’t be surprising, as the hierarchy looked the other way (during the past several decades) when they should have protected the deposit of faith.
This capitulation is probably most evident in the area of Catholic LGBT ministry. The examples are numerous. Two recent instances include the promotion of so-called “queer” Stations of the Cross by two prominent parishes in the US; one of which made a correlation between gay activist Harvey Milk and Jesus Christ; the other blatantly endorsed same-sex relationships. In both cases, the dissident histories of these parishes and ministries were well-known to archdiocesan leadership, but they have allowed them to continue unchecked; hence, many such ministries have devolved further into deviancy – which includes espousing the heterodox theory that Jesus himself was gay. In the not-too-distant past, men in the Church would have willingly forfeited their lives in order to prevent much less from corrupting the miseducated and the vulnerable.
In Canada, the “Toronto Catholic District School Board” issued a set of directives that they described as an “Equity Action Plan.” This “plan” advises that “students who identify as LGBTQ or Two-Spirited” should be affirmed and supported in their identity; and those identities should be “reflected in the curriculum.” Regarding the term two-spirited, according to an article in “The New York Times:”
In tribal tradition, when children exhibited interest in activities not associated with their gender — for boys, typically cooking or sewing; for girls, hunting or combat — they were singled out as inhabited by dual spirits.
While “First Nation” peoples, and all individuals, should be free to express their own cultural and religious beliefs, should the Catholic Church encourage, not only this open expression, but its philosophical tenants as well – including the concept of two-spirited? If the answer is yes, then why did Kateri Tekakwitha and the North American Martyrs sacrifice their lives? Was it all for naught? The bishops and cardinals have betrayed the martyrs.
I once had a conversation with a particular bishop (renowned in some Catholic circles for his supposed “orthodoxy”) about a situation involving the public propagation of so-called “queer theology” by those within his diocese who are also directly under his jurisdiction. He refused to stop the event; stating that: It would be more difficult to stop it, than to let just it happen. In other words, the public scandal is far worse than a few confused people from the LGBT community being manipulated and deceived under the guise of Catholicism. It is this precise mentality, under different circumstances, with different bishops, that made it possible for sexual abuse to persist inside the Church.
Its difficult to describe, but for a moment, when the bishops I have encountered – realize that something is terribly wrong in their dioceses, they begin to short-circuit. Like the lead android (see screenshot below) in the 1967 “Star Trek” episode “I, Mudd,” an overabundance of incoming information causes disorientation and an eventual breakdown. With the bishops, I do not know if this collapse is caused by fear, weakness, both, or something else, but the they have been wholly incapable of action. Instead, they chose to preserve the façade. Only, they can no longer effectively hide their collective system-wide-failure.
In Oscar Wilde’s haunting novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” the protagonist keeps a painting of himself (see detail above) hidden in an upstairs room within his palatial estate. But his ageless appearance masks his true self. Like the melting visages of aged botox-enhanced politicians, everything is sliding away from the pretense created by the hierarchy of the Church. Catholicism, as it once did, no longer inspires great art or creativity; instead the lasting images from this current era include: the “queer-Christ,” worshippers prostrated in front of Pachamama inside the Vatican Gardens, and Cardinal Cupich (wearing a mask) offering Mass to an empty cathedral. The final image is symbolic for our time – ruled by their uncontrollable instinct towards self-preservation, the bishops and cardinals – through their fully revealed impotence, have driven away the faithful. The post-Conciliar Church is falling. Thank God.