"The Pope and the Vatican just can't stop showing their ass, can they?"
So asks Daniel Shea, the former Roman Catholic deacon turned plaintiff's lawyer who once hoped to put the Pope in a Houston court docket.
Shea is referring to the Church's latest official directives on the ongoing sex abuse scandals.
They amaze him as much as they astound Maureen Dowd, who opined thusly in Sunday's New York Times:
The casuistic document did not issue a zero-tolerance policy to defrock priests after they are found guilty of pedophilia; it did not order bishops to report every instance of abuse to the police; it did not set up sanctions on bishops who sweep abuse under the rectory rug; it did not eliminate the statute of limitations for abused children; it did not tell bishops to stop lobbying legislatures to prevent child-abuse laws from being toughened.
There is no moral awakening here. The cruelty and indecency of child abuse once more inspires tactical contrition. All the penitence of the church is grudging and reactive. Church leaders are merely as penitent as they need to be to protect the institution.
Shea is further astounded that the church is still trying to maintain that its canon laws hold equal weight to the laws of the secular societies in which the Church operates.
As he points out, last month the Pope was fuming in the aftermath of a Belgian police raid that was part of an investigation of priestly sex abuse. His Holiness grumbled that such crimes should be handled by both civil and canon law "respecting their reciprocal specificity and autonomy."
Not so, says Shea. He has a less murky solution.
"They should be turning these priests over to the police," he says. "Instead they muck around in these affairs with their internal investigations and pontifical secrets. They still think it is the Middle Ages. They still operate as if the French Revolution never happened and the Italian armies never reunified Italy in 1871."
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But like Dowd, Shea is left even more agape by the fact that the Church appears to have gone out of its way to equate the ordination of women with pedophilia, citing both as equally reprehensible "graviora delicta" or grave sins.
"The ordination of women is not in the Decalogue nor is it a criminal offense, so to say it is a grave sin is just insane," Shea says. He sees it as a prime example of what he calls "narcissistic clericalism": a belief that purely doctrinal misdeeds like the ordination of women should be regarded as gravely as universally agreed-upon crimes like rape and bestiality.
"Nope, the Church just can't quit showing it's ass," says Shea. "And that makes them truly asinine."
Say what you will about Dan Shea, but never let it be said that he's above a terrible pun or two.