A Reasonably Fair Assessment of the Accusations Against the Pope in the NYT

There is a reasonable and thoughtful Op-Ed piece in today’s New York Times that addresses the recent anger directed at the Pope regarding that he allegedly allowed a priest sex-offender to continue in ministry and/or not face punitive action.

We are well aware that enemies of the Church will often make more of evidence than is allowable or even accurate due to their anger and suspicion of the Church. Some charges directed against us are also pure fiction. But it also seems clear to me that all of us in the Church, including the Pope are destined to suffer for the true malfeasance of others. The fact is that were surely Church leaders who have handled this poorly in the past. I would also like to add that there are also countless example of how poorly our judicial system has handled sexual offenders. Recently, two women were murdered by a sexual predator with a very long record. Such offenses are far too common in our country and judges and the criminal justice system seem unwilling or unable to keep truly dangerous offender locked up and/or truly isolated. As usual though, special venom is reserved for the Catholic Church. Be that as it may, we have exercised poor judgement in the past and will continue to experience heightened scrutiny.

Not all of it is fair and it seems clear that our Pope is being accused of things that do not reasonably flow from the evidence. In today’s New York Times (Op-Ed page), Ross Douthat has written a reasonably fair piece on this topic and I’d like to excerpt it here. My own comments are in RED. You can read the full text here: A Time for Contrition

…What the American and Irish churches have endured in the last decade and what German Catholics find themselves enduring today is all part of the same grim story: the exposure, years after the fact, of an appalling period in which the Catholic hierarchy responded to an explosion of priestly sex abuse with cover-ups, evasions and criminal negligence.

Now the scandal has touched the pope himself. There are two charges against Benedict XVI: first, that he allowed a pedophile priest to return to ministry while archbishop of Munich in 1980; and second, that as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the 1990s, he failed to defrock a Wisconsin priest who had abused deaf children 30 years before.

The second charge seems unfair. The case was finally forwarded to the Vatican by the archbishop of Milwaukee, Rembert Weakland, more than 20 years after the last allegation of abuse. With the approval of then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy, the statute of limitations was waived and a canonical trial ordered. It was only suspended because the priest was terminally ill; indeed, pretrial proceedings were halted just before he died.

But the first charge is more serious. The Vatican insists that the crucial decision was made without the future pope’s knowledge, but the paper trail suggests that he could have been in the loop. At best, then-Archbishop Ratzinger was negligent. At worst, he enabled further abuse. Charges of the Pope’s negligence may still be premature.

For those of us who admire the pope, either possibility is distressing, but neither should come as a great surprise. The lesson of the American experience, now exhaustively documented, is that almost everyone was complicit in the scandal. From diocese to diocese, the same cover-ups and gross errors of judgment repeated themselves regardless of who found themselves in charge. Neither theology nor geography mattered: the worst offenders were Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston and Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles — a conservative and a liberal, on opposite ends of the country. It is appropriate that Mr. Douthat refers to the charges against the Pope as a “possibility” since again, the world will rush to judge, the very thing they often accuse us of. His assessment that no sector of the Church is completely off the hook here is a good one however. We Catholics have often wanted to chalk it all up to one thing or another, the fact is that it is a lot of things that came together in a “perfect storm.” Yes, we embraced too many modern and often sinful notions of human sexuality. But it is also true that a lot of cover-up behavior comes from the “old days” too. Lots of blame to go around really. I would also add however that not everything was due to evil intent. The Church by nature is in the work of healing people. We are on biblical ground as he work for and hope for the healing of even terrible sinners. This is the kind of work we do. But we erred,  for our hopes were not balanced with sobriety and the proper desire to protect the innocent from possible relapse of addicts. Relapse is a reality for many addicts. We cannot allow our hopes to put the vulnerable at risk. This is surely crystal clear today and we emerge from this crisis more sober and clear in our duty to facilitate healing in a way that does not place others at risk.

In reality, the scandal implicates left and right alike. The permissive sexual culture that prevailed everywhere, seminaries included, during the silly season of the ’70s deserves a share of the blame, as does that era’s overemphasis on therapy. (Again and again, bishops relied on psychiatrists rather than common sense in deciding how to handle abusive clerics.) But it was the church’s conservative instincts — the insistence on institutional loyalty, obedience and the absolute authority of clerics — that allowed the abuse to spread unpunished….. I am glad to finally see somebody in the mainstream culture assign a due share of the responsibility to our sexually immature and decadent culture. This is long overdue. There is some collective responsibility for letting promiscuity  in our culture go unchecked. One of the most reprehensible aspects of or hypersexualized culture is the sexualization of children.

[Pope Benedict has]…. come to grips with the crisis in ways that his predecessor did not: after years of drift and denial under John Paul II, the Vatican has taken vigorous steps to promote zero tolerance, expedite the dismissal of abusive priests and organize investigations that should have happened long ago. Because of Benedict’s recent efforts, and the efforts of clerics and laypeople dating back to the first wave of revelations in the 1980s, Catholics can reasonably hope that the crisis of abuse is a thing of the past. Yes, these facts are being left out of too many current discussions about Pope Benedict.

But the crisis of authority endures. There has been some accountability for the abusers, but not nearly enough for the bishops who enabled them. And now the shadow of past sins threatens to engulf this papacy.

Popes do not resign. But a pope can clean house. And a pope can show contrition, on his own behalf and on behalf of an entire generation of bishops, for what was done and left undone in one of Catholicism’s darkest eras…Pope John Paul was quite well known for publicly admitting and asking forgiveness for some the Church’s past sins. Some critics of his felt at times he went to far and admitted too much, but in the end we do have sins that we can express regret for and thus model true Christian humility and the mandate of the Lord,  who commands us to go first and be reconciled with our brethren if we have wronged them in any way.

This piece is a companion piece I will post for tomorrow (Spy Wednesday). Meanwhile we ought to pray for our Pope who is currently suffering for the sins of many, in and out of the Church.

58 Replies to “A Reasonably Fair Assessment of the Accusations Against the Pope in the NYT”

  1. I think there is no room left for excuses. People within our church committed terrible crimes; others knew about it and did not bring them to justice. We can say all we want about extenuating circumstances, different times, and so on, but those core facts remain. We abused children; we covered it up; we let perpetrators off the hook for our own sakes. Some of these perpetrators committed abuses with impunity for years.

    Of course the church’s enemies are using this to attack us; of course some go way too far. Rather than portray the church as victim here (even though it might be, in some cases), we must remember the unknown number of children whose lives were shattered. We should be praying for them first and foremost; we must put them to the forefront of our attempts to deal with this crisis. We should also pray for the perpetrators to repent and for church leaders to guide us in the right direction in terms of child protection.

    I am not convinced that the pope has done enough to solve this crisis yet. His letter to Irish Catholics last week was good but incomplete – no acknowledgement at all, for example, that Vatican officials were aware of the abuse. As long as we protect the institution, instead of admitting our sins and truly seeking repentance, we cannot transform our church. And surely these scandals show us all that it is in dire, dire need of transformation.

    1. “others knew about it”….

      Those that “knew about it” were great exceptions. Knowing an allegation, especially in the context of what is known, and what you are asserting are gravely different things.

      Following your logic one would say the whole medical profession is guilty of experimentation and hiding things because they “knew about” a mental illness, but at the time believe in possession rather than a chemical imbalance in the brain.

      You are partaking in an EVIL by treating the facts the way you have done so in your comment.


  2. I have often found it quite amazing how one man can act as Jesus Christ and suffer for the sins of many, both in and out of the Church, as you have said. I have also found it inspiring and amazing how strong our Pope’s faith is, both Benedict XVI’s and John Paul II. I like this article. It is one of the few that I have seen that does not entirely lay blame on the Catholic Church for some of the sins of the Church. I also agree that the Church is for healing, not all of these sins. While I have struggled with faith, and experienced some not so pleasant people and priests within the Church, I have encountered far more kind and giving priests and people than anything else. And those people are what convinced me to stay, rather than give up and leave.

    Our culture is hypersexualized. And because it is, I think this is why so many people focus on the bad sins of the Church, such as child sexual abuse, and exaggerate them. They magnify them because of the culture they are in that focuses so much on sex. I find decent articles like this one, few and far between, unfortunately. I am glad you posted this.

    1. Katherine,
      With all due respect- do you really think the sexual abuses of within the Church have been exaggerated? We, those of us who have suffered the consequences of such actions, do not put a magnifying glass on the topic of abuse because we are focused on “sex,” rather we are focused on abuse, particularly prevention. Please do not insult the survivors, especially those who are still faithful.

      1. The sexual abuse scandal has been exaggerated in that you and others perpetuate the belief that the Catholic priesthood ALONE abuses children! This is a lie and you know it. Many others including myself have suffered sexual abuse NOT by priests but by people who we knew well. The Catholic priesthood saved my life, healed my life, and gave GREAT support during my most dire experience.

        So, stop your hate and get with reality buddy.

        At least the Catholic Church is leading the way to healing, unlike your “Hate” group.

      2. Anon,
        I do not think that the sexual abuses have been exaggerated. What I meant is that there is such a huge focus on this particular sin of the Church, when there are so many other good things about the Church. I have had my struggles with the Church too, and I almost left had it not been for a good and kind priest that let me talk to him. I have also been a victim to something that most people would not believe, and I have also gotten very hateful and disbelieving responses from some people I chose to open up to. It was not my intent to insult the survivors, as I am a survivor of something quite similar, but in a different place and time. I am not about to go public with my story as I am not ready for the consequences of that. I do appreciate your response though, as it will make me word my comments much more carefully before I decide to post, so as not to offend anyone.

      3. The mere fact it’s called “Pedophilia” and not correctly “Homosexual Abuse of the young by Homosexual Priests” is your proof of exaggeration.

        The FACT is over 80% of the sexual abuse was on boys. By ANY logical or fair analysis the “problem” was/is centered around HOMOSEXUALS within the priesthood.

        The “math”, any statistical analysis, is clear. The percentages of homosexual vs non-homosexual sexual abuse is OVERWHELMING.

        To portray the issue as not being distorted or exaggerated is to be either ignorant of the truth or to willfully participate in promoting an EVIL.

        Im not saying homosexuals are evil. Nor am I asserting you are evil.

        What I am saying is the way far too many of the facts and focus of the matter have been defined by Faithful and non-Faithful by definition participates in an evil.


    2. I think Katherine has in mind the secular critics of the Church and of our culture in general. You may have read her comments elsewhere on this blog and know her own personal story which would seem to preclude the interpretation that she is insensitive to the true victims of these terrible cirmes. I think her comments are directed at a duplicitous culture that is hypersexualized on the one hand and then suddenly puritanical on the other when some one succumbs to the terrible temptations that culture dishes out. Tiger Woods was the most recent example. What he did was terribly wrong but it is strange for a culture like ours to wave the finger and say tisk tisk and track him down so mercilessly and try to find and interview every woman and to pry into his marriage. I think this is what Katherine likely meant by exaggeration. At least that is how I interpret it. Also, viz this particular issue, the media, has surely made a field day out of limited and complicated data. The things being said about the Pope hardly seem warranted by the evidence. This to is exaggerated and the story magnified beyond what the evidence supports. That is why I liked the NYT article since it strikes a balance between respecting the data and not merely dismissing it either. There HAVE been real problems in the Church and thus the data deserves close scrutiny but conclusions should not be hasty or exaggerated.

      1. As a resident of Columbus, OH, I found this blog on http://www.newadvent.org and just wanted to say I agree with this comment (i.e. Katherine’s and Msgr.’s). Two weeks ago I heard a homily at St. Patrick’s church (in Columbus, OH) on the gospel story about the stoning of the adulterous woman, and the priest, among other things, discussed how our culture raises sexual sins above others, as if they are somehow “worse”; yet, Jesus doesn’t do that. He does not condemn her. Even though she was “caught in the very act,” He simply says, “Go and sin no more.” Now, I had never heard the story talked about that way before. Usually, the message is simply about being hypocritical and condemning others for their sins when we ourselves are sinful. But after reading about all of this in the news lately, and then reading these comments, I see now what the priest’s message was in that homily. And I certainly agree that for some reason, in this sexual culture, we tend to call people out for their sexual sins, thrust them into the public eye, and stone them. But who are we to do so?

      2. Thank you for your defense Monsignor. I am a bit shocked at the responses. I did not mean to imply to those that thought I meant this that any sex abuse scandal was exaggerated. What I meant was that people focus so much on the sins of the Church in the media. I have been a victim myself in a different sense, and there have been cases where I was not treated well by the Church in my time of need. However, through much searching and some awesome priest friends, I am finally much happier with the Church.

  3. Tough spot for Benedict to be in but he will weather it. Those who have it against him will find this more “evidence” of how bad he is and/or how bad the Catholic Church is. It just goes on. It seems to be a time for testing just who is Catholic and who is not, which is not a bad thing, necessarily.

    I will try to pray for him.

  4. Thank you, Msgr. Pope, for your Reasonably Fair Assessment of the Accusations Against the Pope in the NYT. It is a reasonable and fair assessment. It also highlights the grace and mission that Christian baptism offers: the truth shall make you free, what you do to the least of mine you do to me, and I have given you an example so that as I have done for you, you must do for others.
    As a baptized Christian elected to the papacy by baptized Christians who are ordained and consecrated ministers, our Holy Father Benedict and all of his brother bishops, successors of the apostles and our pastors, should beg forgiveness from God and pardon from God’s children for doing what the first twelve apostles did: betray the Son of God, abandon the Son of God and deny the Son of God; or more accurately, for betraying the least of God’s children, for abandoning the least children of God and for denying the least of God’s children.
    As Lent comes to a conclusion and we begin our Easter celebration, penitent and reconciled, we must now sincerely pray that we can accept our baptismal grace and begin to fulfill our baptismal mission. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. We must pray for a death to sin and a rebirth to new and everlasting life:
    Forgive us, Father, for what we knowlingly did or did not do.
    Come, O Holy Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
    Paz y Bien, Rolando, SFO.

  5. Excellent column. Mr. Ross does not hate the church. His agenda is The Truth. What I like most is the mention of our “permissive culture…” That is the elephant in the room, that no one, wants to look at. What the so call scientist told us, was: to avoid repression, and to fulfill all your appetites, to abandon religion,to abandon superstition. That is why, mothers condemn to death, the children in their wounds(for convenience). That is why our permissive culture, made pornography a billion dollar industry, that is why our permissive culture, is the main consumer of drugs, like opium and cocaine, while the poor people that produce are killing each other to supply us…..Remember the opium of Afghanistan or the drug wars of Colombia and Mexico. That is why our permissive culture, is putting the catholic church out of the adoption of children, so Homosexuals can not only have their union call marriage , and pretend that what nature call abnormal ,we will call normal . Lets not forget that the disorder of this priests was and is above all unchecked homosexuality.
    As a practicing Catholic and physician I am preying for our leader His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, and I ask God that This Pope remain strong and do not be intimidated by the “culture of radical relativism…”

    1. It is difficult to believe you are a physician, for science has clarified that pedophilia is a disorder more commonly practiced by heterosexual men, mainly married men. And you are “preying”? I hope not.

      1. You and the Homosexual agenda have given the sins of this priests the name of pedophilia. The victims have been post-pubescent boys(post puberty). Their problem is unchecked Homosexuality. The God of today is Science. These God has done good, it also made many of errors.. Is anybody practicing Psychoanalysis today ? Science has given license to all kinds to permissiveness today. By the way do no confuse praying with preying or pedophilia with Homosexuality.

  6. Monsignor, nowhere in all this is the Sacrament of Penance mentioned. How does the “seal” of confession affect the decisions and inactions of those churchmen on whose watch abuse happened? It is apparent that few Catholics and no non-Catholics fully appreciated just how binding and limiting the seal of confession can be. Likely, most of these cases did not reach the status of confessor/penitent confidentiality, but some surely did. Please comment is some detail regarding the “seal” and its ramifications.

  7. “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Perhaps the bishops dealing with child abusers should have gone to the words of Jesus for direction.

    1. You grossly misunderstand that teaching. The fact it was NOT followed by far too many priests, nuns and laity in the post-Vatican II church are precisely the very foundations of the errors that led to this horrible situation.


  8. One more thought…I write the above as a loyal Catholic who is heartbroken over this scandal. It is very hard to try to talk about this and be an “unofficial spokesperson” for Pope Benedict, the Catholic Faith, etc. in social situations, with relatives who have left the Church, with my questioning children etc. Please give us some talking points and direction from the pulpit…we feel like sheep without shepherds.

  9. This scandal touches so many people , Catholic and nonCatholic. I am set to formally enter the Church this weekend, and this couldn’t have come at a worse time. My wife is Baptist, so this has been difficult enough. She is also an attorney who was involved in a case of priestly abuse litigation in the mid – 90’s. This scandal has dredged up a lot of bad memories and it has placed additional strain on our marriage.

  10. I greatly appreciate this very well thought out article by Msgr. Pope. I hope all people – Catholics as well as people of other faiths take the time to read this. There is no sense trying to cover up the duplicity and error in handling sexual predators within the church, but thankfully, this is finally being addressed in the church so that hopefully – this particular error will never again be repeated with the knowledge of priests or the heirarchy that was involved in the cover-ups and neglect of the victims. Although just a choir member, with no contact with children, I was required to take a course on prevention of abuse and was enlightened that adults as well as children receive very good information/instruction in this area. With the tools the children are being given, they will know how to stand up against any attempts to seduce them – and know how to report this to stop offenders. And hopefully, they will feel more open to turn to their parents or those in authority with these issues, instead of hiding in shame as they did in the past. It appears it took them years to have the courage to bring to light how they were abused in their earlier years. Within my own family, I kept hidden that my adult brother had attempted to seduce me when I was a young teen (out of shame). Several years later, when I finally had the courage to tell my mother about this – she lightly dismissed it – she did not want to know the truth. It was only in counseling later that a counselor told me what I needed to hear for healing when he said “I am sorry that no one was there to protect or listen to you.” He showed me the loving face of God. My counselor was not at fault – but knew what I needed to hear to have healing – someone to empathise with my pain so I could heal. Some of the heirarchy were at fault – maybe all of them to some extent. Have all of them admitted their guilt and come forward to say how sorry they are for the pain they caused in the coverups? Maybe it would be an act of humility for the Pope to allow himself to be deposed – to act on behalf of the entire church – in publicly allowing this to be aired in public. Was he guilty of the first offense? If not, let him prove this in a court of law. Jesus himself submitted to the law of the government of his time – he too was innocent and was condemmed even though innocent. Is the Pope greater than Jesus Christ? This is Holy Week – a great time for this to be included in our final week of examining where we have failed in our own personal life as a Christian. We are all sinners. I cannot cast a stone – but I can accept Jesus mercy when He tells me to go and sin no more.

  11. This is a rough time and a rough issue. In full disclosure, I lived in Milwaukee under Archbishop Cousins when I made my First Communion and of, course, Archbishop (later, Cardinal) Meyer was highly admired by us. Obviously, for all of us Catholics, criticism of the Pope is painful.

    It is easy to be critical of people you do not know but for those you do, but I wonder if I would have been any better. I tend to think the failures are more due to systems and structure than persons. Weakland, I must give credit that in about two weeks of learning of the situation wrote to Rome. The CDF responded favorably a few months later. To be fair, I don’t think much more could have been expected. They were getting a fresh case like this every workday in addition to the other duties of the CDF and with the complications of various languages, cultures and legal systems. An office in the CDF totally dedicated to these matters or some decentralization allowing Milwaukee to move faster on its own authority may have helped. I think the Church is doing the right thing by putting structures in place to guard against this problem.

    I would offer several observations.

    1. While it is true that in general, bishops too often relied on psychiatrists rather than common sense in deciding how to handle abusive clerics. But both in Munich and in Milwaukee under Cousins, the strong recommendations of professional were sadly ignored.

    2. One can speak of permissiveness and silly actions in the 1970s, but while I knew some very libertarian type people back then, I could not find you anyone approving or condoning what was done to these children. Let’s be carefully in suggested popular culture allowed for this.

    3. Ross’ article is excellent. Thoughtful and temperate public discussion of this matter is important and he makes a very good contribution to that. While there are some extreme comments being made that we Catholics are right to take offense to, we also should be careful not to be playing the game of taking the crudest and most extreme statements and holding them out as the standard views of all who have some criticism. That stunt is what has made the internet so problematic.

  12. Msgr.,

    With all due respect, your “There is a reasonable and thoughtful Op-Ed piece” is exactly part of the problem as to why this horrible situation has developed the way it has around the Catholic Church.

    The piece was an out right piece of garbage.

    I’ll remind you, if one were to use the same critical eye as you have toward the thoughts of Adolf Hitler, one could have come to the same conclusion of “There is a reasonable and thoughtful Op-Ed piece”…

    The spiritual feminization of the Priesthood since Vatican II, which is so clearly evident in the way the this issue has been treated by so many priests in the Catholic Church, only hurts the Faithful and The Church even more.

    Men bow when wrong and stand tall and speak the unambiguous truth, without “sensitivity” when when the Truth is attacked unjustly; even when attacked unknowingly by well intentioned hearts.

    Until the Catholic Church’s priesthood regains its manhood, the attacks will continue, and the fall will continue.


    1. Well, when a comment starts with “All due respect….” I am aware that very little in the way of respect is coming my way. At any rate I don’t claim I am due a lot of special respect, just that of a fellow pilgrim. I am not sure that words like garbage, references to Hilter and claims that I or others have become feminized are particularly contructive. I consider myself to be a man, and a strong one at that, My remark that the article “reasonably fair” did not mean that it was perfect. There is need her to admit that mistakes have been made. Simply going to war because that is the “manly thing” hardly seems wise. Further, reasonable inquiry will admit of a variety of problems that led to it. It does not seem wrong to admit of what is ours and that there is plenty of blame to be shared.

      1. LOL – have to agree with your opening about “All due respect. . .”, and the lack of respect thereof.

  13. Hey Clare, You misspelled “heirarchy” shortly after faulting Waldo Campos’ spelling….I wouldn’t have said anything but I suspect that perhaps Mr Campos is writing in his second language, and the spirit of your criticism did not in the least seem to be for his betterment as much as to put him down.. True?

    1. J,
      In situations like blogs, I think it is best to give people the benefit of the doubt. In this case, the comment about “preying” could be interpreted as an attempt to soften the main point of her reply with a little humor. I could be wrong about that, but I prefer to think people are well intentioned unless they give me reason not to. I do think that the joke was ill-conceived and inappropriate, but that is a separate issue…

      1. Thank you Mike – it was an attempt at humor to lighten my comment – but as you further suggest – was ill-conceived and inappropriate in light of my own feelings that he was writing in his second language. But I do thank you j geiger for pointing out my mispelling of hierarchy – for I can only learn from mistakes I am aware of.
        Did Waldo answer my point? I think he classified me as a person with a homosexual agenda without responding to the point I was making. I am sure there were heterosexual as well as homosexual persons who perpetrated the crimes against children, whether victims were young or approaching maturity. And the point I was making was that he seemed to equate homosexual, not heterosexual with the deviant behavior of pedophilia.

  14. Now there is a big hue and cry made against the Church because of some of its priests. These “some priests” do not altogether represent the whole Church. At the same time, the Church should not disown them either. I will not agree with people who say that the Church should have handed over such priests to civil authorities. The Church itself is authority. The cry of such people implies that the authority of the Church had thus become invalid. It is true. Another implication of their cry is that such “priests” should be punished by handing over to the civil authorities. We have to look at here from the Gospel viewpoint. Punishment has not, in many cases, resulted in correction. What civil authority implied here is for punishment. It is God’s way. God’s way is the offender is given chance for the awareness of his weakness and then repentence and correction. Civil authority does not aim at that. When a priest who was accused of sexual abuse and then taken into ministry does not by all imply that the Church was condoning it. It is what now people speak of against the Pope. The Pope too, instead of saying that he was unaware, should tread the viewpoint of the Gospel and say, that he was given a chance to correct himself instead of throwing him on the street with a board on his neck, ” Here is an abuser.” Jesus did not do that with the Samaritan woman (John 8). The Pope did just that. If this priest was again involved in München and then the Archbishop Ratzinger did not reprimand him, then the present Pope could be questioned. God’s way of handling is not the way today many are talking about. The Church should in this time of challenge should be courageous enough to stand for its own values. The Church never condones or encourages abuse. What some critics aim at is to say this. The church never did that and the Church will never do, though some of their priests did that. These priests did that because “they were burning with carnal desire (1 Cor. 7) and lost sight of Jesus.” Such priests did that that because that was their covet refuge for their carnal desire which in fact was sin. It is at this point the Church should also ask a question: should celibacy be forced on all those who want to become priest? It is time that we give serious thought to this. At the same we should also seriously examin the cases complaints: there are complaints with aim for monetary compensation. Does monetary compensation remedy their trauma? Otherwise do many complaints arise because monetary desire?
    Let us not be carried away by the ways of the world, but cling to Jesus.

    1. I can agree with your distinction that one priest does not equal all priests and/or the whole Church. However, the Church can and must report credible charges of child sexual abuse to civil authorities. Such would also be the case with other felonious acts. The only exception to conveying this information is that which is discovered under the Seal of Confession. The Church has an obligation to work with civil authority in the protection of the common good, in this case the saftey of others. Paul warns Christians in Rom 13 that God has confered on the state the power to punish and that Christians darn well better follow just laws or be ready to face the punishment that awaits them. He even goes so far as to include capital Punishment as among the prerogatives God has given lawful authority. Christians cannot consider themselves exempt from lawful civil authority as long as just laws are in consideration. Forgiveness does not mean pretending nothing happened. It surely does NOT include holding the other in contempt, seeking mere revenge, or being unecessarily harsh. but forgiveness cannot pre-empt every consequence. Some consequences are demanded for the sake of the common good or to restore justice.

      Let’s leave the celibacy question for another time.

  15. I don’t think it is all that reasonable because the research by the NYT is extremely flawed. See Card. Levada’s article and an article by the Judge in the Murphy Case. YES there is a judge and he says the Times quotations are not his. NYT is no better than a blog that hears something and runs with it. Sadly this blog has done just that.

    1. Larry,
      Your comments about this blog are not fair if you read my text. I am clear in what I wrote that the facts are not all clear or even in. I said the NYT op-ed was reasonably fair, I clearly did not affirm the whole article as is clear from my red remarks. Hence I think your judgment is both rash and flawed in reference to this blog.

  16. Because of the hypersexualised culture we live in, I believe that we all have a part to play in working towards promoting a safer world for our children to grow up in. In fact, if we do not do our part, we are hypocrites pointing a finger at anybody else – even the pathetic paedophile!
    We need to inform our ‘Liberal’ rights activists that censorship is a right that overrides their demands for freedom to view and hear and see anything at all. Pornography always comes with a terrible cost and there are victims involved every time and we all should be working towards ridding our world of this scourge.
    As consumers, there is so much we can achieve in raising the standards of advertising – and particularly in current times, when it involves sexualization of children
    Promoting modesty in our own families – check out the dress codes today!
    Stringent monitoring of the material that comes into our homes – including the sound waves! And apply these regulations to ourselves too –

      1. We need to inform our ‘Liberal’ rights activists that censorship is a right that overrides their demands for freedom to view and hear and see anything at all. Pornography always comes with a terrible cost and there are victims involved every time and we all should be working towards ridding our world of this scourge.

        I don’t know about Australia, but I can’t recall a single activist efforts by “Liberals” to change the laws regarding censorship or pornography. The increasing prevalence has not been due to progressive politics nor changes in the law, but large corporations (the backbone of conservativism) spreading filth throughout society. FOX-TV bring some of the worst trash on earth into American homes. The Marriott Company is one of the largest profiteers and distributors of pornography. The self-described conservatives on the FCC have been the defenders of non-regulation of communications rather than an understanding that the airwaves should serve the public interest.

  17. Monseignor, with respect for the usual wisdom I find in your articles, I must admit my”antennae” shot up by a country mile when in the first paragraph you used a very peculiar mix of words. I refer to that part of your statement: “..regarding the FACT he ( the Pope) ALLEDGEDLY allowed the priest sex-offender to continue in ministry”. Was this a fact? Or are these things merely alledged? It cannot be both! I find your defense of this article filled with undue praise for the author and weak reasoning on your part for supporting him. While in the past I have seen much to commend in your thinking and writing, if I may be so cheeky to disagree with a monseignor, especially one with your talents I think the points you try making here a stretch and a half. The NYT has committed in my judgement serious calumny against our Holy Father and I would far rather have seen you committ your writing to more clearly out-lining the truth of his own statements and actions. You are capable of much better and it puzzles me why you chose to defend the in-defensible. There are two sides to this story to be sure but I think you have given far too much credit to what still remains an extremely vituporous article ( I used the charge earlier of calumny) tilted toward the total desecration of our Pope and Church by the author.

    1. Well you are probably right that my turn of a phrase could use improvement. But what I mean to say is that it is an alleged fact. The NYT is over all unfair. But I thought that this articel was REASONABLY (not absolutely) fair. Further, you will note that the article I cite appears on the OP-ED page which indicates an OPposition to the general EDitorial stance (hence OP-ED) of the paper. It seems to me that you are reacting more to the possibility that I even dared to affirm something in the NYT rather than what I actually wrote which I think is a guarded affirmation of some of what appeared. What specifically did I write (other then my awkward phrase) that bothers you? Or do you think there is no criticism of the how we have handled this collectively that is proper? I am not sure why your reaction is as strong as it is.

    2. I think the “fact” he was referring to is the “fact” of the deposition points/accusations – not that they are valid. I really admire the Pope – more so as a Pope than I did as head of CDF – but recognize that CDF probably has an agenda to carry out the intention of the serving Pope. (Clumsily stated in haste). In my humble and at times flawed opinion – the Pope is a human person, and therefore capable of human error – just as you and i are in our spelling and in our actions. Why is everyone so quick to rise to his defense? Are they privy to the facts that I do not have? I still think it would be a great act of humility for him to agree to the deposition and live with the consequences. Then he would rise in stature in my eyes – for he would be submitting to the laws of the land – which Christ himself recommended we do via St. Paul, as quoted above.

  18. I am astonished by several of the comments here. The primary victims in all of these scandals are children – innocent children who were abused, often multiple times over many years, by an errant minority within the church; another errant minority that knew about specific cases did little or nothing to stop it. There are numerous instances where such scenarios have been proven. Of course the vast majority of our clergy are innocent and of course the church’s enemies are having a field day with us.

    That is a genuine shame – but rather than blame them, or suggest extenuating circumstances such as a “hyper-sexualized culture”, we – the church in all its guises – have to admit that certain of our members committed crimes and others covered them up. To suggest that these crimes should not have been reported to the police is bizarre. Sexual abuse is a crime, irrespective of who commits it. Perpetrators belong in prison – not in a neighboring parish where nobody knows their previous activities.

    While our clergy do merit our prayers in these awful times, so do the children victimized by members of our church. I wonder why I have never heard a prayer of the faithful dedicated to them during Mass?

    1. Terence — given that countless numbers of people in the Church HAVE exhibited shame and made those admissions and engaged with law enforcement for the last ten years and more, I cannot help but conclude that you are being purposely dishonest in your accusations that such has not been done.

      Yes, it is all too clear that this whole episode is, for too many, not about justice at all, much less about protecting children — rather, it is about constantly and repeatedly attacking the Church, constantly and repeatedly making accusations against the members of the Church, constantly and repeatedly sowing dissension and discord.


  19. Bender – I am interested, genuinely, to know which elements of my comments you think are ‘dishonest’, purposely or otherwise.

    I have stated in both comments that the church’s enemies are using the ‘episode’, as you term it, to attack the church unfairly. We should expect no less at this stage. However, unfair attacks should not detract from the unavoidable, difficult, issues at the core of the ‘episode’ – a minority within the church sexually assaulted children, and got away with it because others covered it up. If anyone within the church – from the pope down to humble servants like me – cannot admit thee truths now, then we are in serious trouble.

    I agree that many within the church, including our Holy Father, have expressed remorse for the crimes that the minority have committed. I want to believe that, for the most part at least, the expressions of remorse are heartfelt. I also agree that the church has enacted strong child protection measures in various countries, including the US. What is also clear from victims, however, is that various church authorities in the United States, Ireland, and other countries in which these crimes have come to light have deliberately hidden the crimes, urged victims to keep quiet, and, in some extreme cases, knowingly let sexual offenders remain in contact with children. I would like to know, Bender or anyone else, how the protection of sexual offenders serves God’s kingdom – and how extending the pain and suffering of innocent children mimics in any way Jesus’ teachings.

    I have no desire to unecessarily attack my church here. Yet we have to be honest with those we love the most. We have to remove the log in our own eye before we think of the specks in others’. When our pope sees fit to apologise to an entire state, we cannot deny a major wrongdoing. It is tempting to say ‘enough’, as you suggest. I grow weary of the new reports emerging without obvious end. Yet, this is the wrong attitude. The church must face its own failings. It must be honest about them. We, each of us, must be honest enough to admit its failings. Only true repentence can lead to genuine transformation. I think Jesus taught us that.

  20. I am interested, genuinely, to know which elements of my comments you think are ‘dishonest’, purposely or otherwise —


    “we – the church in all its guises – have to admit that certain of our members committed crimes and others covered them up” — WE HAVE, MANY TIMES, FOR MANY YEARS

    “To suggest that these crimes should not have been reported to the police is bizarre.” NO ONE HAS SUGGESTED THAT

    “Sexual abuse is a crime, irrespective of who commits it.” NO ONE HAS SUGGESTED OTHERWISE

    “While our clergy do merit our prayers in these awful times, so do the children victimized by members of our church.” AGAIN, NO ONE HAS SUGGESTED OTHERWISE, AND THE VICTIMS ARE AND HAVE BEEN PRAYED FOR OFTEN

    “I wonder why I have never heard a prayer of the faithful dedicated to them during Mass?” I CAN ONLY GUESS AT THE REASON WHY SINCE SUCH PRAYERS HAVE BEEN OFTEN MANY TIMES

    “We have to remove the log in our own eye before we think of the specks in others’.” THE CHURCH HAS, AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN

    “The church must face its own failings. It must be honest about them.” THE CHURCH HAS, AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND IT IS DISHONEST TO INSINUATE OR IMPLY OTHERWISE



    Such comments, filled with so much misinformation and disinformation and misdirection, being totally blind and disregarding of what the Church has actually done, do not serve the truth, but only serve to engage in endless accusations and scourging of the Church. They serve only to provide ammunition to the enemies of the Church, to those who hate, not merely some guy named Joe Ratzinger, but who hate Peter himself, together with the Apostles themselves, and who seek to tear down the entire Church.

    1. There’s really no need for the “shouting” caps-lock letters. Terence is entitled to his opinion as we all are. There’s a difference between “disinformation” and an opinion. Besides, with regards to his first statement that you are calling dishonest, he’s obviously referring to blaming the priests, not the children. I thought we could have discussions like adult Christians on this blog but from what I’ve seen this isn’t much better than the comments on Yahoo…

      1. Andrew, if I could differentiate my comments from Terence’s without all caps, I would. And it is hardly adult of you to make that “adult” comment.

      2. Are you the same Andrew that said my comments were optimistic? If so, to what were you referring?

  21. Monseignor…You are not sure why I have objected so strenuously to your article? Well, at 72 I really am no longer capable of strenuous but I will try to simply state that as a part of the hierarchy of my church I would think, given
    your talent, you would more properly be called to vigorously defend the position of the current Vicar of Christ whose
    history and involvement have been falsely and viciously attacked by the NYT and in a more subtle way by Ross Douthat..I think seeing Douthat’s article as reasonable and fair a case of mis-placed Catholic compassion (perhaps brought on by “Catholic guilt”?) That serious sin and yes, crime, was perpetrated and covered up in the
    clergy sex abuse scandal has been very well documented. It has even been acknowledged profusely by the current Pope, and paid for both spiritually and financially with the result of huge loss of credibility within the Church and in the world at large. This loss is immeasurable and humiliating to all Catholics, both in the hierarchy and laity. There is a definite climate of shame and remorse being expressed by both and perhaps this underlies much of what you have written…hoping to exculpiate for the sins of our brethran. Let me be more specific: I think it could have been more forceful at expressing outrage against assuming the Pope’s guilt simply because of his positions within the Church at the time all these scandals occured when you as a priest know how there is a chain of command (hierarchy) and not
    all matters at the lower levels make it to the top and that the priniciple of subsidiarity means they nearly always get “taken care of” at lower levels for all kinds of reasons, some good and some just expedient. So to allow Mr. Douthat to go un-challenged for the most part as he weaves a sort of cloud of doubt and negligence around the Pope is not what I would expect from a man ordained to defend and teach truth and justice. Usually you do a commendable job but I think as I said this article was a stretch and your statements not sustainable. Again, the words allege and fact do not belong in the same sentence e.g. even alledged fact….they are oxymoronic! Pope’s can and do err (only never when speaking ex cathedra) but when Benedict says he neither was involved nor complicit and there are no real facts to dispute the allegations we take him at his word. We grant this grace to all gentlemen in a civilized society and the Pope should be granted no less, especially by those who have sworn allegience to him. It is time to end this endless witch-hunt of the secular media. We have admitted the guilt of those involved, paid billions as a part of our repentence and eaten the humble crow . Now let us act like the Easter people we were called to be and get on with our real Mission in this world and tell Satan to take a hike. Again, Monseignor, I have culled much wisdom from your wise words and I look forward to more…in all humility I just beg you to recognize an oxymoron where you should see one …and allow us to leave our sins on the confessional floor and stop this endless debate with the secular press.

    1. I was not aware of Pope Benedict making a statement saying he “neither was involved nor complicit” – from what are you citing this? The only comment I have seen released after the accusations was the comment by Levada. Maybe you are not physically strenuous at your age – but your words seem very emphatic and strenuous. And I still think Msgr. was referring to the “fact” of the allegation – not that the allegation was true. I felt like Msgr’s comments were like opening a window to let fresh air into the discussion – whereas I am “feeling” like your comments are attempting to close the windows/doors to any discussion unless it is to condemn anyone who questions the Pope in any way. HE IS A MAN FIRST and a Pope secondarily. Being a Pope does not automatically mean he is without error. Now if he were a woman pope – that would be different.
      (Tis a joke j geiger).

  22. Terance…you are “nursing” endlessly your anger( justified) against the perpetrators prefering that to forgiving and moving on as we have to do with all sinful matters if we are ever to heal. What more do you ask of the church to do in these matters? Profuse apologies have been made, sins of the unfaithful brethren have been admitted, restitution has and is being made in the biliions of dollars already paid out, all this from the Pope on down. At what point do we start to heal? Does it mean forgetting the victims? Of course not! Who would let us even if forgetting is possible? BUT the Church cannot become ossified by overwhelming grief. We have a real Mission that the world wants us to forget and only be mindful of our sinfulness. Extrapolate all this down to the level of the individual. When your are absolved you recall what it means to be joyful and you amend your ways. I think the time has come to insist that the press be honest and open as well as the Church and end the witch-hunt, for the good of all, including the victims. The healing process needs to begin …the sins of note here are nearly half century old. We have, as a Church, admitted our sins, are repenting and retributing to the best of our ability. What more do they want? The answer to that is diabolical in many dark corners of the secular world. Let the healing for all commence.

  23. Adele – would that healing could occur for the children. Unfortunately – it is a long and very painful process for them, and depending on how young and to what extent – sometimes the healing never occurs. I am working with a mother of four in her forties who has been trying to heal from this for many years and is seeing a counsellor twice a week to try to improve her self-esteem enough so that she stops cutting herself she is so filled with self-loathing over the abuse in her youth. Sad to say, she feels responsible and contributory about the abuse. Very, very sad indeed. I communicate with her almost daily to help her know, feel and understand the love of Christ for her, so that in becoming aware of this she will begin to feel her specialness as being created and loved by God. Many of the (very young) children removed by civil authorities and placed in our Catholic Charities home – having been abused physically and sexually – given in prostitution to support their parents’ drug habits, will never be healed – no matter how much support they receive through counselling – and will never even be able to live in a normal home environment. This is very sad to me. Do I feel strongly about this – you bet your bottom dollar. Do I still feel righteous anger toward the perpetrators – at all levels of responsibility – yes. Do I forgive them – yes. Would that I could forget.

  24. As a returning Catholic and practicing Catholic, I will need time to digest all of this sadness and destruction of so many innocent lives.

    As I read this article, I immediately remembered about a story reported by Anderson Cooper; March 30, 2007.


    This is a taped deposition of a retired priest REV. JIM JACOBSEN, RETIRED PRIEST, under oath, a man compelled by law to tell the ugly truth about his past, who openly admits to stealing from his flock to pay for prostitutes. Through DNA testing, it has been determined that Jim Jacobsen has fathered children.

    His punishment —> As of 2007, Jim Jacobsen lives in the retirement home for the priests on the campus of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where according to his supervisors, he is under close supervision.
    Well, if you have ever been to this University, it is beautiful. Is this a form of prison for such a man?

    And to think how many parents ARE NOT AWARE that their daughters (and sons) are attending a reputable Catholic University with a Sex Offender on Campus?

    Help me out here?
    Can anyone address how we will begin to address the BIGGER ISSUE HERE of the (Deviant) sexual problems with known clergymen and the beginning steps towards ‘solutions’?

    I need to know. I want to know, so that I can begin to forgive and stay strong in my Faith.

  25. clare…No one, least of all I, should be asking/ requiring the victims of clergy abuse to forget. I doubt that is possible or
    realistic. But tell me how you would have the Church address the issue any differently than they are already doing? Would that we could make it all to have never happened … not possible.! Total healing for some of these victims may not ever be possible either in this world. I am not a trained counselor as yourself nor have I met with these victims and heard their tragic stories personally. However these children are mature adults now and should for their own sake
    be encouraged to look outside their own personal tragedies to other horrific abuses perpetrated by humans as heinous as their own…perhaps even more so. For example, the holocaust victims, the victims of abortion, victims of ruthless political dictators , and those, like the saints, who were mutilated and tortured, even killed for the Faith. If you are
    Catholic yourself you can use these most holy days of the tridium to help them identify with Jesus and how he
    handled those who abused Him. I am not saying you are not doing this already..I know what you are doing is often
    very close to impossible given that many of these victims were already compromised before the abuse and thus will
    be doubly “cursed” in the healing process…making it still more difficult. But what I tried to point out is that if healing is
    to happen it needs to involve all the members of the Church healing together. In a very real way we’ve all been victimized, the innocent members of the hierarchy that are wounded by their brethrens betrayal, the laity who feel
    abandoned and their faith compromised, etc. Healing will never happen if we don’t start forgiving ( not forgetting) one
    another, demand that the press stop throwing “gasoline” on the fire with their sly inuendoes and out-right lies. We should be more about our Mission ( the two great commandments) and less about a rebuttal to a 50 year old scandal
    that the press would perpetuate forever. Last year there were only six cases of abuse that occured in the Catholic
    Church world-wide. This is quite phenomenal compared to those abused in public schools ( in the thousands). Perhaps instead of continually throwing “gasoline” on what could be a small smouldering dying crisis, the press should perhaps turn their attention elsewhere. ( before you accuse me of being un-sympathetic to those 6 victims let me assure you
    that is not the case. ..we should not be satisfied until there are none) Let’s put our focus on and examine what we are doing right in this enormous attempt to heal and give those who are leading the effort our support and prayers …for they too were victimized. Victimhood is not a place to remain forever …if nothing else Jesus reminds us of that this
    holy weekend. God bless you for your endeavors to heal the broken in spirit and body.

    1. Thanks for your comments – have been out of town for a week to attend a conference for spiritual directors and just returned last evening. I was not aware I had accused you of anything in my comments. If you felt offended by my comments, please accept my apology as no slur was intended on my part. It is difficult to write and sometimes to be understood in this blog. So perhaps I will just leave the discussion and wish peace to all who have participated.

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