The ongoing scandal roiling the Catholic Church reveals an underlying dynamic that deserves mention.  Again and again, spokespeople and lay people have been quoted as objecting to the media scrutiny the Church is facing.  It seems to be not only an objection to the kind of coverage–the complaints are not that specific.  What they seem to be saying is that the Church is entitled to some sort of forbearance as it is on some basic level a “private” space, not a public institution.

It needs to be said, in terms of the whole structure of access to mediated public space, that the Church and its leaders cannot have it both ways.  If the Church’s voice is to be heard in the public sphere, commenting on important social, moral, and political issues–a role it can and should play–then it cannot say that it is not therefore a public institution, open to public scrutiny.  It goes without saying that its moral authority is brought into disrepute by scandals.  The sanction of public exposure is precisely the role of the media in liberal democracy. That’s how it works.

For a variety of reasons–perhaps not all the best, I admit–the media see this story as one that will not go away quietly.

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