Clearly, any bishop who tolerated abusive priests, covering up the evidence of their crimes, was guided by a very strange, unhealthy understanding of his own pastoral responsibilities. These prelates were, at best, protecting the public reputation of Catholicism. But the engine of the Church runs on God's grace, not on public acclaim; the Church has been most vigorous at times when the faith was held in contempt and even openly persecuted. The Body of Christ does not need a clumsy public-relations campaign. As St. Augustine tersely put it, "God does not need my lie."
The effort to keep ugly secrets from public view would make more sense if the Church saw herself as a purely human institution, depending on public support for her strength. If some isolated scandal arose within a local branch of the Rotary Club we might all agree to keep the matter quiet, to preserve the club's image. Rotarians are good people, after all, and their clubs do a great deal of good work within the communities. If they ever lost their reputation for these good works, the Rotary Clubs would be doomed, because they have no other source of strength.
Lawler connects this solicitous concern for public reputation with the many personal and political compromises made by American Catholics, but especially the Catholic hierarchy. As an analysis based in moral psychology, Lawler's chapter can explain much.