tl;dr – This particular angle on today's news is aimed in the right direction, but fundamentally flawed. A thread.
This opinion starts off strong with an accurate summary [screenshot below]... but then promptly turns to wander off the the wrong direction:
Now indeed, this is an important place to pause.

Because yes: At its core, that's the story. That's all we know. And that's all we NEED to know. Everything else is framing, and tangential reflections. The central allegation is simple, and quickly justifies its own existence.
Because the next paragraph (about how everyone is a sinner and "not one of us has a personal life that would withstand [this] sort of scrutiny") – while all very true, and worth remembering – inevitably cashes out as something tangential, and ultimately irrelevant.
Why? Because NOT all of us hold the same level of prominence and/or leadership in our community.

The level of scrutiny appropriate to the life and character of an average citizen ≠ the level of scrutiny appropriate to the life and character of a Supreme Court Justice.
The level of scrutiny appropriate to the life and character of the average lay Catholic ≠ the level of scrutiny appropriate to the life and character of a Bishop.

Ignoring this absolutely critical distinction is why this opinion piece ultimately falls apart.
I am a sinner. So are you. But *not* all of us are employed as the General Secretary at the USCCB.

Arguments for applying *stringent* scrutiny to our highest-ranked religious leadership does NOT logically amount to a claim that *everyone* should receive the same scrutiny.
The author draws attention to Canon 220: "No one is permitted to harm illegitimately the good reputation which a person possesses..."

Here again is an important place to pause, as there is a critical word lurking here: we are forbidden from *illegitimately* harming reputations.
The messy fact of the matter is that not every harm to a person's good reputation is *illegitimate*.

Even without digging into the old manuals of moral theology on this point, we can read the following on Catholic Encyclopedia:…
Does the invasiveness of this investigation call for high scrutiny? Yes. Are there legitimate concerns? Yes. Would we benefit from "a story about the story", which unpacks the account of why The Pillar pursued this story, and the ethical boundaries they held themselves to? Yes.
But none of these questions prevent us from concluding that it is RIGHT AND GOOD for lay Catholic journalists to hold Catholic leadership to a VERY HIGH degree of public accountability and ethical transparency. None of this prevents us from justifiably exposing moral hypocrisy.
Nor does the fact that this man resigned his position thereby prevent Catholic journalists from ethically running the story that led to his resignation.

If we think this, then we have learned absolutely nothing from the clerical sexual abuse crisis.
Quietly removing an individual from office (or allowing them to fade away without explanation) does not magically make everything okay. We must expose grapple with the systemic problems that allowed this extreme hypocrisy to exist in the first place, and begin the work to reform.
Holding the USCCB accountable, and preventing ecclesiastical leadership from quietly sweeping GRAVE hypocrisy under the rug (or otherwise politely covering up the reason for the resignation) is precisely what justifies breaking this story, for the public good.

Full stop.
And let's not even get started on the obvious risk there would-have-been of ecclesiastical leadership quietly handing this man a *new* leadership assignment in a few months... since after all, his public reputation would have been intact! (Again, did we learn nothing from 2019?)
The author gestures at CCC 2478: "everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way".

But (A) this is VERY obviously the wrong analytical lens, as we are examining CLEAR patterns of quasi-public behavior...
...and more amusingly, (B) the very same "we should be careful to interpret any ambiguity in a favorable way" angle can easily be invoked as a *defense* of The Pillar's reporting.

Which brings us to: the alleged "homophobic innuendo".
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I would not hesitate to call out homophobia, and that I harbor no hostility toward the LGBTQ community. I have publicly written in favor of the legitimacy of LGBTQ "Pride", and how it can/should be understood in harmony with Catholic thought.
But we are facing, in this case, far more than mere "innuendo" as the author claims [screenshot below]. We are facing far more than evidence of just a few isolated sexual sins, either in the distant past or over a lifetime.
On the contrary, we appear to be looking at STRONG evidence of use of Grindr, by a high-ranking member of the clergy, "on a near-daily basis during parts of 2018, 2019, and 2020", and more, WHILE this man was holding a position of trusted leadership at the USCCB.
Beyond that, the details don't really matter.

By all means, let the man defend himself, if he is innocent. By all means, give the USCCB a chance to handle this internally before making it public (as The Pillar did).

But this is manifestly a level of hypocrisy worth publishing.
It is worth publishing, because the common good requires *high* moral integrity among its leadership.

It is worth publishing, because we *literally* just lived through the renewed abuse scandals of 2019, and we deserve a high degree of moral transparency especially from clerics.
Now, all this being said, I think it is MORALLY PRAISEWORTHY for the author to take issue with the quoted passages from Fr Thomas Berg, insofar as these comments COULD easily be (mis)read to imply a gross conflation between homosexuality and sexual abuse:
But before we get too carried away on that note, let's pause and look back at the actual text of Fr Berg's quote [screenshot below].

Notice what's missing? ANY actual reference whatsoever to homosexuality. Read plainly, in fact, Fr Berg refers EQUALLY to heterosexual unchastity.
Now, was I uncomfortable with the seemingly overly-casual juxtaposition in The Pillar article, between Grindr use and risk factors for child abuse? Sure. I'm not here to argue that this couldn't have been explained better.

But if we're engaging in a charitable reading, then...
...we have to also take into account the later quotation from Richard Sipe, which explains EXACTLY HOW there can be a coherent systemic link between hidden sexual sin (again: of ANY variety, in violation of celibacy) and an increased risk of sexual abuse:
This is not homophobia. This is not conflating homosexuality with risk factors for sexual abuse.

This is about secrecy, and corresponding public hypocrisy. It's about transparency and accountability for high-ranking ecclesiastical leaders who fail to practice what they preach.
Understandably, these things can overlap, and thus be difficult to untangle.

Denizens of the internet can (and will) read legitimate journalism, and proceed to draw unjustified (even homophobic) conclusions about what it all means.

But that's not what The Pillar was doing.
In the end, the most well-balanced take I've seen so far comes from a woman named Mary [last name redacted] on Facebook, responding to Fr James Martin:
And again, NONE of this is to say that the discussion should be closed. There are a lot of legitimate ethical and privacy-related questions connected with this story, which are well worth exploring, and perhaps even pushing back against – I'm very open to being persuaded of that.
But this story, whatever flaws it might have had in its presentation, is certainly NOT "the worst sort of tittle-tattle tabloid journalism".

If there are serious concerns, they are subtle, and the sort of thing that people of good will CAN charitably debate and disagree about.
Here I also failed to mention another, perhaps more realistic danger:

If the man is guilty of habitually violating his vows, then he was deeply *vulnerable* to being blackmailed and manipulated while he served in office.

This danger alone should justify an investigation.

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More from @masterjedi747

22 Aug 20
One of my Catholic friends expressed the following sentiment this evening, reacting to the above story:

"This is exactly why Rome is so toxic. The Gospel is good news. God came to free us from sin... He didn’t come to suffocate us with details." Image
I want to share and expand on my response to this, because I actually do think it's important.

As a canon lawyer who genuinely does “believe in this level of ritual requirement”, I think her basic instinct to identify an attitude of fear in this matter as "toxicity" is correct.
Read 8 tweets
12 Aug 20
So I think this article is raging dumpster fire of half-truths mixed with dangerous falsehoods. And as a canonist, I feel qualified to comment as someone having a relatively educated opinion. A thread.

The core problem reduces to this question:
What defines a "vocation"?
If we want to be *very* traditional, then the formal and personal “calling” (voco, vocare) by the bishop for candidates to receive ordination - mirroring the formal and personal calling by Christ of His apostles - is arguably the only “true” vocation, strictly speaking.
Marriage, on the other hand, can only be called a “vocation” by employing an extended (perfectly legitimate, but more modern) sense of the term. Indeed marriage is very clearly not a "special calling" at all, since it is the ordinary state in life for most adults.
Read 10 tweets

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