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"Double Standard" Update

Other Catholics Discover the Double Standard

by Christopher A. Ferrara

I have written a number of columns on the invidious double standard at work in the Church today, under which heretics and sexual predators are left alone or even rewarded by Church authorities, while traditional priests, such as Father Nicholas Gruner, are hounded and ostracized by the same authorities. (As for the North American bishops’ belated hand-wringing and promises to adopt "policies" concerning sex-crimes by priests, notice how their sudden display of concern and compassion happened to coincide with massive media exposure of crimes they had been covering up for decades.)

Certain critics of Father Gruner and his apostolate like to complain that he is causing "scandal" by allowing his supporters to lodge public petitions to the Holy Father for an end to his persecution by Cardinal Sodano, Cardinal Castrillon and other members of the Vatican apparatus. But now it seems that other Catholics have suddenly discovered that this is an appropriate remedy for the double standard in the Church.

On March 22, 2002 CWNews.com reported that "A coalition of 155 Catholic leaders from around the world have signed on to a letter to Vatican officials and leaders of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), protesting the reassignment of Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, by his order in apparent retaliation for his efforts to found an orthodox Catholic college." A review of the list of 155 "Catholic leaders from around the world" shows that it includes a number of Catholics who have been quite critical of Father Gruner and his apostolate. (To be fair, other signatories are quite sympathetic to Father Gruner.)

Well, well, well. It seems that public petitions to the Vatican by coalitions of concerned Catholics are not so unseemly, after all. I suppose it all depends on whose ox is being gored.

According to CWN, the protest letter "was addressed to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as well as three other Vatican cardinals and the Father-General of the Jesuit order." The letter complains that "the silencing of Father Fessio comes while active dissent from the Church's teachings remains rampant among the Jesuits and is tolerated by the order's leadership." The letter even goes so far as to proclaim that this double standard has "caused widespread demoralization and cynicism among the Catholic faithful, not only with respect to the Society of Jesus, but with respect to the just exercise of authority within the Church itself."

Will wonders never cease? That is precisely the argument Father Gruner and his supporters have been making for years, only to be ridiculed by certain members of the "mainstream" Catholic establishment, some of whose names appear on the letter protesting the actions against Fessio.

So, at long last, the double standard comes a little closer to home for many Catholics who, until the Fessio case, never saw it as a real problem in the Church. And that, dear reader, is good news.