Pedophiles and Thomas a’Beckett

Church sex scandals aren’t big news in Rome. I didn’t think they would be, having come from a country which suffered under oppression and abuse by Catholic friars during the centuries-long Spanish colonization. I’m not saying, of course, that pedophilia was then or is now the Catholic ideal or norm, God forbid; but certainly we cannot assume that these controversies are new or unique to the Church. Priests, bishops, pastors, and even some popes through the years have committed sins of sexual immoderation — as well as other crimes — and likewise there have been attempts by the higher clergy to cover and compensate for those guilty of such indiscretions.

The great martyr Thomas a’Beckett comes to mind. He maintained that a priest accused of murder be tried under the religious courts rather than the royal, despite King Henry II’s insistence to the contrary. That’s a deficient analogy, of course: Cardinal Law and Archbishop Beckett face vastly different historical contexts for different crimes. Certainly Rome does not have the influence it had back then, nor would any such standoff now result in a martyrdom by execution.

And yet, we do have here a situation where the people cry for priestly offenders to be submitted to secular courts of government rather than to the discipline of their mother Church. What is one to make of this, were one to speak in defense of Catholicism? And the question must be asked, (and not begged ;) is this more a matter of media hype than it is one of ecclesial discipline?

(Heh. “In defense of Catholicism…” Can you tell I’m not your average everyday Baptist?)