The long and the short of it: There is no "Crossroads" podcast this week, because one of our key partners at Lutheran Public Radio has this week off.
It happens. Even clergy/radio pros need a break every now and then.
However, the news coverage of the current uptick in the Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis rolls on. Recently, I ended up offering a high-altitude overview of that topic in an on-air conversation with author and radio host Eric Metaxas. This took place while I was in New York City for my latest set of journalism classes at The King's College in lower Manhattan.
The key to this discussion is the question that I hear all the time in conversations with readers, friends and even people I bump into everywhere from my church in the Oak Ridge, Tenn., to hole-in-the-wall food joints in New York.
That question: What is this story really all about? The problem is that different crowds of people are shouting different answers to that question.
(1) There are some conservative Catholics who keep shouting, "It's gay priests! It's gay bishops! It's gay cardinals!" That isn't the main issue, when you look at the big picture.
(2) There are Catholics on the other side who are saying: "This is about pedophilia -- period -- and things aren't perfect, but we're getting this horrible problem under control." In other words, it's time for more grief, but no fundamental changes. And don't talk about seminaries!
(3) Lots and lots of people in the press (click here for a rather over-the-top example) who seem convinced that this whole mess is the result of homophobic right-wing Catholics who oppose this pope's efforts to modernize the church and some of its moral theology (see answer No. 1). Hey, I hear that Steve Bannon may even be in the mix.
(4) Many observers say that the real news story right now centers on ex-cardinal Theodore "Uncle Ted" McCarrick and the network of associates and disciples who have promoted and protected him for several decades.
Ok, Ok. Yes, that's my take of the current crisis, narrowly defined. And that's what I explained in my conversation with Metaxas. Click here to tune that in.
So why listen, if you have kept up with the hurricane of posts on this topic here at GetReligion?
Why listen, if you have already read the following three-point summary that I keep bringing on this blog? It's a summary of almost 40 years of what I have learned from interviews with some of the most-quoted experts on this subject, such as the late Richard Sipe, Catholic academic Father Donald Cozzens and investigator and professor Leon Podles.
When candid liberals and conservatives agree on core facts, I pay very close attention.
I will emphasize elements of the scandal on which these men agree, ranking these Big Ideas according to their importance (as I perceive them, after nearly four decades of reading).
I: The key to the scandal is secrecy, violated celibacy vows and potential blackmail. Lots of Catholic leaders -- left and right, gay and straight -- have sexual skeletons in their closets, often involving sex with consenting adults. These weaknesses, past and/or present, create a climate of secrecy in which it is hard to crack down on crimes linked to child abuse.
II. Classic pedophiles tend to strike children of both genders. However, in terms of raw statistics, most child-abuse cases linked to Catholic clergy are not true cases of pedophilia, but are examples of ephebophilia -- intense sexual interest in post-pubescent teens or those on the doorstep of the teen years. The overwhelming majority of these clergy cases are adult males with young males.
III. One of the biggest secrets hiding in the bitter fog from all of these facts is the existence of powerful networks of sexually active gay priests, with many powerful predators -- McCarrick is a classic example -- based at seminaries and ecclesiastical offices. Thus, these men have extraordinary power in shaping the lives of future priests.
So why listen? Hopefully, some of you are Metaxas listeners who ran into this post on social media, somehow. Maybe some of you have only read secular media coverage of this story or, on the flip side, have only read Catholic blogs taking a very narrow left or right stance. Maybe you're an evangelical and this story has been like a loud droning noise overhead and you haven't paid attention, yet.