Please Ignore Janet Smith on the Topic of Child Abuse

Janet E. Smith, Ph.D., has a painful-to-read article on the state of the Church:
God Chose You to Live at This Moment in Church History. I had to check the calendar after reading it, to see if it might be an April Fool’s joke. (It’s not.)

Let’s start with one of the smaller problems in the article. She uses the term “red-pilled” to include herself and her views. The term is used by those Catholics who claim to have awakened to difficult truths about the Church, like the character in the Matrix who must take a red pill to learn the bitter truth. It is often used by those who no longer defend Pope Francis because they have accepted the “truth” that his words and deeds are not defensible.

There’s something terribly deficient and sad about characterizing one’s own faith, one’s own discipleship of Christ, with a metaphor from a science fiction movie. If nothing in Sacred Scripture or the words of the Saints fits your understanding of your life of faith, something is wrong.

I would characterize my discipleship in this way: “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you will be blessed.” (1 Peter 4:14), and: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation….” (Romans 1:16).

What is your characterization of your life in the Church of Christ? A pill from The Matrix. Oh, okay. That’s good too, I guess.

Another problem with the red-pilled metaphor is that it is used to connote rejection of Pope Francis. Taking up that term and applying it to oneself casts doubt on one’s own faithfulness to the Vicar of Christ. Some of these red-pilled Catholics are clearly schismatic, though not all are. Seriously.

But in her article, Smith uses the term red-pilled to refer to the abuse crisis, not the Pope:

“Those of us who have delved into the sex-abuse crisis, who read the daily onslaught of dispiriting (to speak mildly) articles about scandals of sexual misconduct and cover-up in the Church, who have watched the documentaries and read the books, are red-pilled to the extent that there is almost no sordid scenario about the Church in the last two centuries that would surprise us — although we still struggle with the realization that our beloved Church has been led by such nefarious men.”

I don’t agree with that assessment. The Church has made great strides in dealing with the abuse crisis. The 2002 Dallas Charter has been very helpful. McCarrick has been removed. The Pope led an abuse summit. The Vatican improved its own handling of abuse cases, to lead by example. Since 2002 the abuse cases have been reduced to a trickle.

Updated (9/26/19) to add:

“The University of Notre Dame Sept. 21 released a groundbreaking report that looked at sexual harassment in U.S. Catholic seminaries, revealing that just 6 percent of seminarians reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment or misconduct, while 90 percent reported none.

“Another 4 percent said they might have experienced misconduct but were not sure. Of the 10 percent who reported they had experienced sexual harassment or indicated they might have, 80 percent identified a fellow seminary student or religious in formation as the alleged perpetrator.

“Among the respondents overall, 84 percent said they felt the administration and faculty take seriously reports of harassment.” [CruxNow.com]

And what about the PA grand jury report? The Press Office of the Holy See issued a statement in response to the PA grand jury report:

“Most of the discussion in the report concerns abuses before the early 2000s…. By finding almost no cases after 2002, the Grand Jury’s conclusions are consistent with previous studies showing that Catholic Church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse.”

Smith fails to acknowledge the substantial improvements in recent decades. Most cases are decades old. There are few new cases because the Charter calls for the removal of priests with a credible accusation of child abuse. The priesthood is no longer abuser-friendly. Some bishops are still problematic. But that has been the case since Judas Iscariot.

Smith: “The Catholics who, as of yet, are not red-pilled get their news almost entirely from the secular media, which has little interest in the current crisis.”

Wow. Not a single word in that sentence is even proximate to truth. Many Catholics like myself read the Catholic press and blogs frequently. And we still support the Pope and the Bishops. We have not decided that the body of Bishops is corrupt. Indeed, by the prevenient grace of God, both the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops (as a body, not as individuals) are indefectible.

I know from discussing the faith with other Catholics online and from responses on my blog that many Catholics read Catholic press and still support the Pope. And the assertion that the secular media “has little interest in the crisis” is absurd. It’s one of the few times they discuss Catholicism at length. It is one of the main points they like to harp on whenever the subject of the Catholic Church arises. They have little interest?!

Smith also speaks as if the “red-pilled” Catholics (or star-bellied Sneetches) are better than those who are “not red pilled” (No stars on their bellies! How sad!). Yes, red-pilled savants like Smith have this attitude: “We know so much that others don’t know.” That’s an actual quote from the article. We, the red-pilled subset of the conservative Catholic subset of the flock of Jesus Christ, we are the only ones who truly understand.

Yeah, right. You don’t even know what you think you know. You’re understanding of the abuse crisis is seriously disordered. Most men who abuse boys are not gay; it doesn’t work that way. So the abuse crisis is not caused by a network of homosexuals. Every field of study has insights that are counter-intuitive. So you can’t traipse through the field of child sexual abuse, and assume that everything is as it seems at first glance.

Calling some Catholics red-pilled, and speaking as if those are the better Catholics, Jesus would not approve of this absurd way to divide his flock. How is it better to regard Church leaders with distrust, or to call them “nefarious”? Smith says the red-pilled sages “still struggle with the realization that our beloved Church has been led by such nefarious men.” That’s not a realization. it’s a false accusation against the Body of Christ.

We all know that Judas Iscariot was one of the Twelve. Some few Bishops are bad. But it is a malicious heresy to speak as if Peter and all other Apostles were Judases, or as if the Eleven, including Peter went astray, and only one of the chosen Apostles was faithful. That is the mistake of those who claim to be red-pilled.

By the prevenient grace of God, Peter and his successors are immune from grave error and they each have a never-failing faith. Similarly, the body of Bishops, though only as a body, have immunity form grave error and a never-failing faith, as long as they are led by Peter. The majority of Bishops has not been and cannot be nefarious.

Some Bishops committed very grave sins regarding the abuse crisis. But these are the minority. There are over 4,000 bishops in the world. Most are not even accused of anything. But certain Catholic media outlets and prominent bloggers are pushing a false narrative, as if almost every Bishop were guilty — in regard to the abuse crisis, by being heterodox (i.e. not conservative), and by not agreeing with the majority opinion of the conservative Catholic subculture. That opinion machine, for some conservative Catholics, has replaced the Magisterium; for some it has even replaced the role of the Pope as Shepherd.

And now we come to a truly idiotic statement by Janet Smith:

“One of the ‘red-pilling’ techniques I use is to point out that if a healthy heterosexual male learns of an adult male sexually abusing a child, the first emotional reaction is visceral and violent: He wants to kill the molester. Have we seen any evidence that bishops respond in that way?”

Jesus and Mary would be (are) appalled at that statement. Instead of proposing Christ as the example that we should all follow (as in His response to the woman caught in adultery), Smith proposes the supposed reaction of “a healthy heterosexual male”. Her point of view is openly secular, not Christian.

{16:23} And turning away, Jesus said to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan; you are an obstacle to me. For you are not behaving according to what is of God, but according to what is of men.”

So, Smith thinks the Bishops should react to child abuse by wanting “to kill the molester”. That’s not healthy. That’s not normal psychology. That’s not how a psychologically-healthy adult male, heterosexual or otherwise, would react.

I worked child and adolescent psych for two years. I worked closely with hundreds of abused children and teens. I’ve met and talked with dozens of abusers. I’ve received dozens of disclosures from children and teens. I did not react by wanting to kill the child molester. Neither does the abuse victim, the child or teen, typically want to kill the abuser. And the other staff did not express the desire to kill these many child molesters.

But this is the reaction Smith wants from the Bishops. And is the reason she calls them “nefarious” that they don’t want to kill child molesters?!

I also worked with “youthful offenders”. These are children and teens who sexually abused other minors. I took each youthful offender through a modified type of 12 step program. I did not treat them with anger, nor did I view them as beyond redemption. I believe that abusers can be reformed. I’m a Christian. I believe in repentance and forgiveness.

Janet Smith also errs in claiming, in other articles, that one of the main causes of the abuse crisis is a homosexual network, and that most abusers are homosexual men. That is what many conservative Catholics want to hear. But it is provably not the truth. Dr. Thomas G. Plante, a psychologist who teaches at Stanford, and who has done hundreds of evaluations of seminarians for Catholic dioceses explains why: Homosexuality is not the cause of the Church’s abuse crisis.

Conclusion

Janet E. Smith is a moral theologian. She teaches future priests as Sacred Heart Major Seminary. And this is the way she talks: red-pilling, that men should want to kill child molesters, and that Church leaders are nefarious. She also worries about the “lavender mafia”. She teaches grave errors on various subjects. This is not someone who should be permitted to teach priests or moral theology.

There is a serious problem in the Church today, and it’s the conservative Catholic subculture, proposing many serious errors and accepting correction from no one. They see themselves as above the Popes and the Bishops. So if a Pope or Bishop disagrees, they speak as if to correct them. And if an occasional Bishop takes up the same refrain as they, it’s treated as absolute confirmation that their view is dogma. Sick. Literally sick in the sense of spiritual illness.

The Church would be improved if certain few Cardinals and Bishops would resign, retire, or be removed by the Roman Pontiff. But the body of Bishops led by the Pope is the foundation of the body of Christ, and the conservative Catholic subculture is not.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

[Romans]
{1:15} So within me there is a prompting to evangelize to you also who are at Rome.
{1:16} For I am not ashamed of the Gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation for all believers, the Jew first, and the Greek.
{1:17} For the justice of God is revealed within it, by faith unto faith, just as it was written: “For the just one lives by faith.”

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