Unfortunate Vermont Catholic Photo

Blogs all over the country are having a field day with a Vermont Catholic magazine cover photo. Given the saga of the priest sex abuse lawsuits, the photo is unfortunate, to say the least. 

What’s going on in the photo is as innocent as could be. It shows Vermont Catholic Diocese Bishop Salvatore Mantano ordaining a man into the priesthood May 30 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.

But as you can see, the photo has other, uh,  connotations, if you think about the scandals and have a slightly dirty mind.  The photo is crudely funny to a lot of us, given the context. To victims of church abuse, it’s probably painful as hell.

I was laughing and rolling my eyes at the photo along with all the rest of the bloggers, including such high profile ones as the political analysis blog Daily Dish by Andrew Sullivan and the gay news and commentary blog JoeMyGod  by Joe Jervis.

As I thought about it, I have some sympathy for the diocese on this one. Yes, somebody in the process should have thought more about the photo before publishing it. As far as the larger issue goes – the abuse of children by priests- anyone who did not stop the abuse deserves something worse than the hell described by the Catholic Church as the destination of sinners. But the photo probably was just depicting what somebody thought was something beautiful, not something to make a fifth grade boy dissolve into laughter.

The  first blog that I know of to notice this photo, the Vermont-based The Plaid Crew thinks that a large reason behind this mistake was the general tone deafness of the Catholic Church to todays culture and society.  That could be.

However, I think it was simpler and more innocent than that. Whoever took the photo, and the people who put Vermont Catholic together, had the tunnel vision that many of us have when we’re too wrapped up in our projects. The Vermont Catholic people saw only the solemnity and to them, the importance of the ordination. Nothing else entered their minds. It should have, but didn’t.

We’ve all done that. I might take something seriously, and somebody on the outside sees the absurdity of what I’m doing. And they always have a point. And always,  the absurdity is silly, not fraught with the tragedy of sex abuse.

This is all speculation of course. We have not heard from the diocese about this photo, whether they now have a problem with it, or a problem with us,  and what process led to its publication.

For once, I can only accuse the Catholic Church of making a completely innocent mistake with this photo. Too bad  the abominable people involved in the sex abuse cases  tarnishing the reputation of the entire Catholic Church weren’t so innocent.

2 Responses to “Unfortunate Vermont Catholic Photo”

  1. denis Says:

    so true. excellent posting.

  2. Jay Vos Says:

    I guess it’s all interpretation. I never connected this to sexual pleasure for the bishop, but just a photo of an ordination. I can understand the big deal comments all the lapsed RC’s or people who don’t have any thing to do with the church. But these same people just don’t acknowledge that it’s part of the ordination rite. I’m Episcopalian and we have the same ritual at our church’s ordinations.

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