Clark DeLeon is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and a Catholic. He has written a column entitled "A Philadelphia Catholic Confesses" in which he imagines himself in a "Self-Loathing Catholics Anonymous" meeting. I have created a faux conversation between Clark and myself to demonstrate how silly his claims are. His full column can be found here.
"I haven't attended a Self-Loathing Catholics Anonymous meeting in years. I'm here tonight because the news about the cover-up of sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has me half-crazy. I feel a desperate urge to hate the church. That's what self-loathing Catholics are supposed to do, right?"
"I was raised Catholic during the 1950s and early 60s. While I went to public school I had regular catechism classes every Saturday morning taught by the nuns. I spent two yeas in Catholic highschool (Notre Dame, West Haven, CT) and have almost no memories which correspond to this guy's claim."
"Back in the day, to be a Catholic school student in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was, by modern standards, to be abused psychologically and physically. Every high school seemed to have at least one priest who was a former Golden Gloves champion and was willing to demonstrate his technique on a prideful student or three. That was part of the mystique, lore, and reality of being a Catholic school kid. And we celebrated it the way Marines celebrate surviving Parris Island.
"I think psychiatrists call it the Stockholm syndrome, in which hostages come to identify with and support their captors. They also have a name for the psychological condition manifesting itself in varying degrees among many of us in this room tonight: post-traumatic stress syndrome."
"When I left the Catholic Church, I don't remember feeling overwhelming guilt or betrayal. When I became an evangelical Protestant bible-only-type Christian at 23, I don't remember thinking that the Catholic Church was too harsh or strick (although I disagreed with many of its teachings). My experience in the early 70s was that the Catholic Church was filled with feel-good, nice, not especially effective, clergy. I've always been tolerant of these jokes and stories about harsh, eccentric nuns and thought they were harmless, almost ethnic type jokes, told by the ethnic group in question. Now, I'm finding them sickening.
"Who was raised Catholic during the 40-70s who thinks his portrayal is ANYWHERE near accurate. 'Psychologically and physically abused...Stockhold Syndrome...post traumatic syndrome'???? Come on. IF this was the institutional norm, we shouldn't love the Church anymore than we should love a restaurant that normally is turning out sick clients, or has a reputation for rudeness and abusive conduct. We should find someplace else to eat. People who have been regularly abused shouldn't get nostalgic about the abusers. Wives should leave their husbands. Parents should withdraw their students from abusive schools. Employees should quit. Citizens should rise up in rebellion. What kind of nut looks back wistfully on events which caused them post-traumatic stress syndrome.
"Is this man's picture of the Catholic church a generation ago even close to anybody else's experience?"