Recent revelations of clergy sex abuse cases here and abroad have caused great distress among the people of God. There is simply no excuse for such offenses that can satisfy, and there should not be. The crime is bad enough but further charges of cover up cause even more distress and anger.
But while the Church remains in the media focus, questions should also arise in the minds of all observers.
- Is the Church the only place where such things take place?
- Are the Church and Catholic Clergy worse offenders than, say, non-Catholic denominations and clergy, or public schools, or sports teams, scouting and the like?
- Are celibate Catholic clergy more likely to offend than married men?
- Are Catholic settings more dangerous for children than non Catholic or secular ones?
Many have quickly (and I would say unfairly) concluded that the answers to questions like these would generally be “yes.” For them this is a reason to stay away from Church. Or, for those who dislike and distrust the Church it helps them to become even more hardened in their aversion. But are all these charges against the Church fair? Are there no distinctions to be made? Is the exclusive focus on things Catholic appropriate?
Timothy Radcliff, O.P. the former Master of the Dominican Order has written a thoughtful essay in The Tablet entitled Should I Stay or Should I Go? I would like to print excerpts here and make my own comments in RED. I encourage you to read the whole article by clicking on the blue title in the previous sentence.
Why stay? First of all, why go? Some people feel that they can no longer remain associated with an institution that is so corrupt and dangerous for children. The suffering of so many children is indeed horrific. They must be our first concern. Nothing that I will write is intended in any way to lessen our horror at the evil of sexual abuse. But the statistics for the US, from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004, suggest that Catholic clergy do not offend more than the married clergy of other Churches. Some surveys even give a lower level of offence for Catholic priests. They are less likely to offend than lay school teachers, and perhaps half as likely as the general population. Celibacy does not push people to abuse children. The general media present a very myopic picture by focusing almost exclusively on the Catholic Church. Our offenses are real but so are offenses in other sectors which do not make the news. The fact is the sexual abuse of minors is a worldwide problem made even more extreme by the promiscuous and hypersexualized culture in which we live, especially in the West. Children are often sexualized in movies and advertisements. Women for example have commented extensively on the pages of this blog how hard it is even to buy modest clothes for their daughters. Further, children are exposed to sexual imagery far too early. Both adults and children are inundated by sexual imagery and boundaries are very poor in western culture. In the “old days” young people were chaperoned and there was greater emphasis on modesty. We cannot single out the Church. The sexual abuse of minors is a global problem that cuts across every sector and segment of the human family.
It is simply untrue to imagine that leaving the Church for another denomination would make one’s children safer. We must face the terrible fact that the abuse of children is widespread in every part of society. To make the Church the scapegoat would be a cover-up.….. (Here too, the Criminal Justice System is also to blame. During the same era of the 1950s-1980s too many sexual predators were let off easy. This included rapists. Even today, there are many egregious sex offenders walking our streets. Many have long track records and yet get out early. Recently, two women were killed by a sex offender who was out of jail. He had a track record a mile long and yet he walked freely. Why? So if the Church took such things far too lightly that is wrong. But psychologists, therapists, judges and juries also stand accused. The Church has adopted a zero tolerance policy but our criminal justice system still has too many holes. When will attention turn there?).
But what about the Vatican? Pope Benedict has taken a strong line in tackling this issue as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and since becoming Pope. Now the finger is pointed at him….I am morally certain that he bears no blame here. (As the evidence continues to unfold it looks as if Cardinal Ratzinger was one who took this matter more seriously that others and for this reason the matter was remanded to his care. Remember that he had a very strong reputation (and was hated by some for it) of being the enforcer-in-chief!)
It is generally imagined that the Vatican is a vast and efficient organisation. In fact it is tiny. The CDF only employs 45 people, dealing with doctrinal and disciplinary issues for a Church which has 1.3 billion members, 17 per cent of the world’s population, and some 400,000 priests. When I dealt with the CDF as Master of the Dominican Order, it was obvious that they were struggling to cope. Documents slipped through the cracks. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lamented to me that the staff was simply too small for the job.. People are furious with the Vatican’s failure to open up its files and offer a clear explanation of what happened. Why is it so secretive? Angry and hurt Catholics feel a right to transparent government. I agree. But we must, in justice, understand why the Vatican is so self-protective…..Confidentiality is…a consequence of the Church’s insistence on the right of everyone accused to keep their good name until they are proved to be guilty. This is very hard for our society to understand, whose media destroy people’s reputations without a thought (Some of the most important work of the Church has to include an expectation of confidentiality. Every day people in my parish tell me of things that are going on in their lives. Many of these things are of a sensitive and personal nature. I have no right to share this information freely. If there is a serious crime involved and I learn of this matter outside the confessional I do have reporting obligations. But 99.9% of what I am told has nothing to do with crime. As a priest confidentiality, discretion and respect for people’s reputations is paramount. The secrecy of the confessional is absolute. Professional confidentiality while not absolute is expansive and people would never come to me or the Church if they felt that their information would be freely shared or that files with their personal data etc would be freely opened to a nosey media and a demanding state. Covering up a serious crime is a crime. But calling the Church secretive because we do not open our files without limit is unfair. The Church is not secretive. Rather, we are deeply respectful of the privacy and reputation of people who often come to us in their weakness and struggles. A few years ago media and government officials demanded the right to search our priest personnel files without any limits. But that is unjust. I, for example, have never offended sexually. I have never violated my celibate commitment. I have never committed any crime. This is true of almost every priest I have known. It is unfair and unjust to demand that my files be open to anyone who asks. Even though I have nothing to hide, I do have a right to privacy and that my personal files not be opened without warrant. It is the same with my lay employees at the parish and with any other personal information about parishioners).
But what about the cover-up within the Church? Have not our bishops been shockingly irresponsible in moving offenders around, not reporting them to the police and so perpetuating the abuse? Yes, sometimes. But the great majority of these cases go back to the 1960s and 1970s, when bishops often regarded sexual abuse as a sin rather than also a pathological condition, and when lawyers and psychologists often reassured them that it was safe to reassign priests after treatment. It is unjust to project backwards an awareness of the nature and seriousness of sexual abuse which simply did not exist then
Why go? If it is to find a safer haven, a less corrupt church, then I think that you will be disappointed. I too long for more transparent government, more open debate, but the Church’s secrecy is understandable, and sometimes necessary…. And so the Church is stuck with me whatever happens. We may be embarrassed [at times] to admit that we are Catholics, but Jesus kept shameful company from the beginning. (Yes, in the end the Church is not a “haven for saints” only but is also a “hospital for sinners.” Many of the Pharisees of Jesus time were scandalized at the company he kept. Jesus said, those who are well do not need a doctor but the sick do, but I have come to call sinners (Mk 2:17). So the Church is a hospital. And what do we find in a hospital? We find care, medicine, treatment, healing and love. But we also find disease, hurt, heartache, pain, and even death. So in the Church is to be observed great holiness, healing, love and beauty. But in the same Church is to be found sin, sorrow, heartache, sinners and other unpleasant matters. Thank God that Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brethren and to be found in our company! (Heb 2:11))
So, to be fair there is sin in the Church, and we have handled many disciplinary matters poorly. But again, to be fair, we are not alone in this. The spotlight is on us to be sure. But spotlights have a way of leaving many other things in darkness. There are serious problems elsewhere in our society as regards the sexual abuse of minors. Scrutiny is needed everywhere. For the sins of the Church, Lord have mercy! For the sin of the whole world, Christ have mercy. For the sins of our own hearts, Lord have mercy.
38 Replies to “Is Sexual Abuse a Catholic Problem Only? (or) How Spotlights Leave Many Other Things in Darkness.”
I have heard of sex abuse cases happening in other religions – one case involved a female minister. That case was covered in a magazine a few years ago.
I agree that people are too quick to say that sex abuse is mainly a Catholic issue. I think that it’s being highlighted in the media so much because the Church is generally a safe, trustworthy place to be – people don’t expect to hear of anything like that happening and when they do it’s a huge deal, and for good reason. There are plenty of other safe places that are not highlighted by the media mainly because many victims do not report the abuse out of fear. Or if it is reported, it’s usually very hard to convict the offender. It is a long trial process that does not always have the outcome the victim wants.
Also, if the victim is a woman, she is still seen to this day as “the temptress” or asked dumb questions about what she was wearing at the time of the attack. I know about this process because I take care of victims of sexual abuse. So yes, I see why the media highlights the Church, but I don’t think it’s fair for all the focus to be on the Church when there are clearly other safe places in which attacks are happening.
Yes, I think that to some extent there are higher expectations for the Chruch as you point out. This will cause failing here to be seen as “news”
Your second point about the criminal justice system is also one I was trying to make. Namely that this has been poorly handled there as well including things like humiliating the victim.
I see your point that sex abuse is a worldwide issue and we all need to work to end it, but in the context of the discussion of the sex abuse scandals, these arguments need to stop.
Every time a leader of the Church notes that sex abuse happens in other places, I cringe. It is tantamount to saying “well everyone is doing it so it isn’t that big of a deal.” I thought sin was sin. One case of abuse by priest and/or its cover up is too many. By noting that the Church maybe statistically in the mainline or even better, it is just another embarrassing example of how the Church is not winning the PR war. Furthermore, we are not a members of the Church because of its similarity to the criminal justice system or other religions, we are members of the Church because it is the Body of Christ.
I also am just sick of the excuses: “it was the psychologists” “documents slipped through the cracks” “it is the hypersexualization of our culture” “it was the homosexuals” (not mentioned in this blog-post, but mentioned by many Catholic leaders). I have heard too many wonderful homilies from too many wonderful priests about how we each need to take full responsibility for our actions to not see how we the Church are not practicing what we preach. “It was our complete fault that this happened” is all that needs to be said. Even if not entirely true and there were other factors at work, Jesus died for sins he never committed but he did so for a greater and eternal healing. Trying to shift the blame helps no one.
What is often ignored too is not just the cover-up by Bishops, but their arrogance — and that is what still angers people. I grew up in the Archdiocese of Boston and was there when the scandal reached its peak in 2002. It was amazing to see how the press was demonized for its instance on uncovering the systematic cover-up, until it was revealed that it was true. We were told that there was no problem, until it was clear that there was one. Lay people who started to write to their Bishops about the truth of the crisis were receiving letters in response instructing them to do penance. Cardinals in other countries noted that American Catholics should be excommunicated for daring to criticize the Church. They chuckled the whole thing off as an “American” problem. Less then a decade later, it is clear that the problem was not confined to just to us. So why the systematic denials? Why was the instinct not humility and compassion?
Every time I see leaders of the Church trying to claim that they are a victim it is hard to remember that this is the Church of Christ. But such is the cross we Catholics bear, nothing in life, including our faith, is easy. I pray that Church might heed more closely to the Holy Spirit’s counsel when the next scandal breaks.
Well maybe there is a middle ground between your view of “no excuses or explanations can even be mentioned” and the other view of “hey we’re just victims, isn’t everybody doing it” ?
What you have said is not untrue. But I argue that what I have said is also true. They are not mutually exclusive and need to ablance each other. The point of this blog is not “Hey everybody’s doing it.” Rather the point is that the spot light excludes others who are casuing harm too. They too must be called to account. The focus on the Catholic Church may reform us. But what of Hugh Hefner and all his disciples? Or what of The public School system where there were 16000 incidents last year of sexual abuse of minors incidents (compared to 6 in the Catholic Church as a whole of 70 million)? What of sexual abuse in blended families where predatory males involve themselves with minor girls? There are real victims here too. That is my point. Is this just “Let’s get the Catholic Church” OR is this “Let’s end the sexual abuse of minors?” Not so sure sometimes based on what I see of a rather selective outrage.
Your point is valid. But until the Catholic Church is seen as having reformed itself, no one is going to take its calls for dealing with the problem elsewhere seriously. Fair or unfair, that is the reality of it. Instead of complaining about persecution, why not just get to work?
I don’t think it’s fair to say we haven’t gone to work. The past fifteen years have manifest very diligent reforms.
Anon said: “Every time a leader of the Church notes that sex abuse happens in other places, I cringe. It is tantamount to saying ‘well everyone is doing it so it isn’t that big of a deal.’ I thought sin was sin. One case of abuse by priest and/or its cover up is too many.”
I guess I would make two points. First, there is a question of justice. The Church is currently being presented as a hotbed of abuse and Benedict as enabler-in-chief. Both accusations are categorically, demonstrably false. We have a right to defend ourselves—and a responsibility to defend the Church and Benedict—against slander. And a good deal of the current media coverage has been precisely that: slander.
Second, there is a question of how best to protect children from abuse. It is impossible to solve a problem if we don’t first understand it, and in fact we run the risk of making things worse. In the current situation, it is counterproductive in the extreme to go gunning for the man who has in fact been part of the solution. It is also counterproductive to go after the organization that, at least in this country, seems now to be one of the most transparent and effective in dealing with this issue.
Does that mean that there’s nothing that we need to be doing within the Church? Of course not. For one thing, it looks like extending the 2002 US policies to the worldwide Church would be a good idea. They appear to be working here. For another, I’d like to see more stringent canonical penalties for bishops who cover up priestly abuse. The 2002 scandal in the US was presented as a priest scandal. It was not: it was a bishop scandal.
Yes, Thanks Karen your points are well made.
That there are sinners in the Church is not the scandal. Each and every member of the Church on earth is a sinner.
The scandal is in promoting this idea that it is a scandal that there are sinners in the Church. The scandal is in the promotion of the idea that because those who inhabit the Church are not all pure and perfect, that we should appoint ourselves to be judges and look with suspicion and distrust and anger and rancor and division upon those same imperfect humans in the Church. The scandal is in those who insist on hanging on to their anger, and making excuses for their own wrongdoing in refusing to let it go, all so that they can continue to attack the Church.
It’s time to stop throwing the stones.
I am not sure why, but as I was reading your comment it occurred to me that many people criticise the Church for being “Authoritarian” And now we are being told that we were not authoritarian enough.
Let the Bishops lead and instruct the lay faithful on the practice of public penance to bring healing and reconciliation within the Church (and the world).
What a witness to Christ that would be!
(I wonder, how would the media cover the story of Archbishop Dolan prostrating himself in reparation on the steps of St. Patrick’s, surrounded by priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful members of the Church? And if that happened in every diocese?)
I remember back in 2002 we did something like this. All the parishes receieved a prayer packet and one Sunday we knelt and made prayers of reparation. I don’t really remember how it was covered but I still have some of the prayer rites that we got at that time.
Monsignor, thank you for all of your posts. I enjoy reading them. As a Church, and as sinners we need to take responsibility for our actions, or in this case, inaction. We need to do penance for it. It is what every sinner needs to do. This crisis, has in large part stemmed from the fact that there has been a lack of fidelity to the Church’s and Christ’s teaching, and moral relativism has entered the Church. We also need to acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of these crimes has been against those of the male gender. That is homosexual in nature, whether against a child, or teen/young adult. There can be no homosexual lifestyle in the priesthood. By this, I do not mean any animosity or hatred toward homosexuals, only that there cannot be sexual expression of homosexuality in the priesthood. Everyone, heterosexual, or homosexual, is called to be chaste, married or not. All in the priesthood are called to be celibate, which can only happen through the grace of God, and requires much prayer and fidelity. I don’t believe that it’s any more difficult for a homosexual to remain celibate, than it is for a heterosexual. It is a matter of fidelity and obedience to God. Gitting rid of the celibacy requirement (married priests) will not solve this problem, as that would only be for married heterosexual priests, and this is an action between men and boys/young men. As the same sex marriage agenda continues to get pushed, having married priests would only open the door the door to having openly homosexual “married” priests, as the case would be made that the Church was violating the law. Let’s turn our hearts back to Christ!
Yes, in the end the first thing we must all do is to live chastely in this world gone mad. Reform begins with us as individuals
I would somewhat agree with “Anon”. The Church needs to stop saying, yes it’s a problem but look at this other group or that other group for comparison. I am sure most parents would agree that if their child gets in trouble for doing something and the child’s response is “but Johnny did it too”, the response just doesn’t cut it. It is time for the Church to just simply say:
A. What happened in the Church was terrible and wrong. (I realize this has been said, but perhaps a letter from B16 read out at every Sunday Mass worldwide.)
B. This is what the Church is now doing to ensure it does not happen now or in the future. (again read out at Mass)
C. As a public display of the Church’s failings all the Bishops from B16 on down lie prostrate as public act of repentance.
Still I don’t think my argument or that of the the Former Dominican Master amouts to “johnny did it too” That isn’t a particularly fair characterization
it was more of a comment on reaction from the Church in general rather than your post in particular
Pick up your cross and follow me….
The sandal is a very large cross for me/us to bear. Any sandal shows me/us how far we are from Christ and his teachings.
Jesus picked up the cross to bear our sins…we must do the same.
I was reflecting this morning, becoming Jesus with the cross, having people spit at me, pushing me down, calling me names, screaming crucify Him. Jesus Trusted His Father and said in the garden, “not as I will, but as you will.” He saw all of this and He still gave himself for my/our sins.
Yes, we have to change, but the change will not occur until we change ourselves and turn with Trust in His mercy. The pedophilia is a symptom of a greater problem. The problem is TRUST! Do we trust there is a God any more? The world tells us to trust in ourselves. I/we can determine what is right and wrong.
When I came into the Church I had to ask myself, do I believe? We need to ask ourselves this question. Do I believe? Do I act as though I believe in my every day life? Do I love? Do I forgive? Do I trust? Do I make amends for my sins?
How open am I to repentance? I’m not just talking about the Church as a whole but the church as an individual, me. As I point fingers at others, I have to remember there are 3 fingers pointing right back at me. What dirty little secrets do I hide in the darkness?
How open am I to forgiveness? “Remember, Jesus said forgive them Father, they no not what they do…” As a member of Christ, if I am TRULY in tune with the Holy Spirit, How could I ever sin? Any kind of sin…If I truly love GOD… How could I turn away from Him who loves me…
How open am I to mercy? God is Mercy. God is Love. He patiently waits for me to turn to Him. He loves me so much He gave me free-will, so I can turn to him with TRUST.
Yes a reform is needed and we are on our way of getting there…and the change has to start with us. I/we have to believe, love, pray, show my/our light to the world, and also at times turn the other cheek.
I am Christ’s hands, feet, heart and mouth.
Christ is alive in us. BELIEVE and TRUST
Thanks for this. As above I think it right to say that reform has to begin with us as individuals.
A very eye opening website is failedmessiah.com(does not refer to Jesus…rather Rabbi Scneerson who was believed by his followers to be the Messiah). This well regarded blog that has been referenced by the NYT and other periodicals has dozens and dozens of articles about sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community. The point I make is why the NYTimes does not use all this information to write front page articles day after day during the recent Passover season? Why is there not a worldwide outcry?
Yes there is no excuse for this horrific crime and cover-up but let us be aware it is now politically correct to exclusively target the Holy Father, priests, and the Catholic Church but extremely incorrect to target other faiths.
I think you are largely right. There are times when this whole thing seems more to be “let’s bash the Catholic Church” more then “Let’s work hard to end the sexual abuse of minors.” If it were really the second I think, as you say, we would see a more comprehensive exposure and demand for reform. That we have needed reform is clear. But what of the public schools, what of other denominations, what of the family? That is what I mean by my title “Spotlights tend to leave a lot of other things in the dark.
I agree with the excerpts of the blog you quote, Msgr., and your interpretation of same. As someone who works in the general area of violent crime, I know that the sexual assault of children occurs in all situations – and, in fact, most perpetrators are family members, close friends, or neighbors.
The Church is getting hammered for fourth reasons. Firstly, the general anti-religion/anti-Christian/anti-Catholic agenda of many in politics, media, and elsewhere. Secondly, from a morally neutral standpoint, it is a great media story. Thirdly, the Church is far more organized, codified, and archived than other churches or institutions – meaning there are records to examine.
None of these reasons are within the (institutional) Church’s control. What is under its control is the fourth reason: it’s response to (i) proven crimes and (ii) the general accusations about cover-ups, attitudes, and so on. We have to admit that the (institutional) Church often made a mess of dealing with proven crimes; and, to this day, does not show well that there are solid, sound, working procedures in place.
Also, we have various church officials add fuel to the fire with their off-the-cuff or otherwise ill-considered remarks. The Vatican is crying out for a professional to manage its communications. Can the Holy Father not direct clergy in that regard – no homilies that offer excuses, no remarks to the media about child abuse being as bad elsewhere?
Amen to all these points. You are surely right about the Vatican needing a communications professional.
It seems to me that focusing on pointing out the bad behavior throughout the world to somehow justify the bad behavior of some officials in the Church, we may be loosing sight of the mission of the Church founded by Jesus, which is to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded us. Of course, we need to respond to the outrageous accusations against the Holy Father, and the under-handed use of falsehoods used to tarnish the image of the Church.
But, is the Church’s image clean and pure? A taint is as highly visible on the purity of the Church as a stain is on a pure white cloth. Isn’t it necessary to remain focused on the mission given by our Lord? Shouldn’t the world always see the shining light on the hill? A brilliant light that publically acknowledges the contagion of homosexuality gaining a foothold in the seminaries and infecting many of the highest positions within the church? How could we, in good conscience, hide the gross violations of priestly vows and the hideous betrayal of faith toward those in their charge for many decades of grave sinfulness under the cloak of the purity of the Bridge of Christ? (The proposal by Deacon Charles Rohrbacher posted on the Internet yesterday is germane.)
How can we continue to justify leaving those Bishops and priests in their positions as leaders in the Church? Did not Pope Paul VI state in 1972 that some fissure of the smoke of Satan had entered the temple of God? Were not the Bishops aware of betrayals and crimes against innocents which alone would demand quick and responsible action to put a stop to horrible betrays of trust, and to notify those relatives of the individuals involved with an attitude of being truly sorry as is required by representatives of Christ?
Why has the Church not shown deep contrition and public repentance for the unthinkable acts of betrayal from the elite of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
I’m not suggesting that we let the falsehoods hurled at the Church be unanswered. I am suggesting that the world should witness the profound love and beauty of a crucified Church after the image of the crucified Christ Himself. I’ve seen some words of regret from our past two popes, but mostly the world has seen rationalizations about how the Church was influenced by the sinfulness of the world and about how few incidents, by comparison, were involved. I don’t’ think that will really do. A mortal sin is a mortal sin and those who were SENT to teach us that, must be accountable right away, not after they’ve retired or died.
Msgr, Your post are insightful.
In this Country before every lent there seems to be accusations by the media against Catholics. If it is not Dan Brown novels taken as historical works, then its the embellished version the Crusades, the gospel of Judas that will rock the Church or Galileo according to the wicker community.
Isn’t it great to be Catholic
You’re right, every Easter.
Anyone who says that the Church hasn’t done “anything” or that it has done very little in the way of repentence, etc., is either totally blind, perhaps willfully, or is promoting falsehoods.
The fact is that the popes, the bishops, the priests, and countless others have repeatedly for the last ten years and more spoken and acted and prayed and repented again and again and again.
But the fact is also that the world REFUSES TO LISTEN.
One good reason for pointing out the high instance of child abuse in other areas (besides the Catholic Church) has to do with keeping children safe. For instance, it is not unreasonable to think that many parents –prompted by the imbalance of media reporting–might transfer their children from Catholic schools to public schools in interest of the children’s safety. Such parents deserve to know the actual statistics; this would help them make better-informed decisions.
Yes, the truth is always best and what sets us free. The whole truth.
The Catholic League website (www.catholicleague.org) has a number of articles dealing with both statistics on abuse, and the tendency of the MainStream Media (MSM) to dredge up articles published years ago, presenting them under new headlines as if recent developments. Good references available.
The core of the problem seems to be the failure of the shepherds to listen to the bleatings of the sheep. How many bishops surrounded by Chancery officials simply dismissed complaints. They seem to have missed the point of Our Lord’s “I come to serve, not to be served”. One has but to note Cardinal Daly’s annoyance with those sheep who grumbled about the great honors given to the late Edward Kennedy by the same cardinal.
Thanks so much for a great post and some talking points to keep in our minds as we have conversations about this.
Outrage due to video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8NVBQpZHRM
In order to unravel this complex conundrum it will be necessary to mythological look at its many complex components in full detail. It is not simply a problem the Church has with press reporting or a problem the press has in being objective. It is not a problem that will go away with the passage of time. The problem concerns the parishioners and their involvement or lack of in the life of the Church. It is not a problem that will be solved without the intersection and intervention of the Holy Spirit.
In order to solve or even understand the problem all the players must take up their cross as penitent and begin the process of self examination with the objective of uncovering the ugliness that only the Truth and the Holy Spirit will expose.
The press does what the press always has done. The press sells news or more to the point advertisement and sex sells. Whine and cry all you want but the press is not going to change. Neither will the Church unless it begins to recognize the depth width and length of the problem.
While it may be true that the number of sexual offenses by priests compares statistically though roughly to the general population; it is wrong to equate them as having equal weight.
The priests are supposed to be special people specially selected by the bishop or his designee from a pool of men to be specially trained. Here is where the system breaks down. The bishop or his team selects too many wrong candidates. This simple explanation is only places us at the edge of the problem. The conundrum deepens.
The bishops selects from the number of men who are presented to him or his designee by the parishes under his jurisdiction. The parish then is not supplying the correct men for ordination. Again to simple.
Why are the parishes presenting the wrong candidates to the bishop? People being who and what they are that is to say people who are loving but imperfect creations of God error not out of malice but out of love for family first. We are however commanded to love God first. The love of God first would give all the correct results.
This is one scenario of misplace love. The error occurs when little Johnny now fourteen shows no interest in girls sexually but has peculiar feminine interests. The strongly Catholic family (whose strength is more cultural than deeply religious) see this peculiarity as a sign of a vocation. This is not a sign of a vocation. It is a human trait and science suggests an anomaly in the brain.
In good conscience it cannot be that gay men should be barred from being priests. Priests, however should have a call and not be presented because they show no interest in women or because they need a profession that provides them dignity as single men. The call should be obvious to the individual as well as those who present, select and train candidates for ordination.
In my dioceses where I entered the seminary it was suggested by the seminary that fifty percent of the men either ordained or actively seeking ordination were gay. I suspect that this number may be as high as eighty percent. This may help explain the disproportion of offense perpetrated against young men. This being said it should not detract from any offenses perpetrated by a shepherd against the flock. They are all ugly and cause suffering in the Body of Christ.
The current sexual imbalance within the ranks of the Church clergy i.e. between gay and heterosexuals could be traced back to the Second Vatican Council. The council decided that the full priesthood of Jesus Christ was present and rested only on the bishops and not on the priests. This shored up the authority of the bishops at the expense of the priests how until then had no reason to believe that the full priesthood of Jesus Christ did not rest with them as well. This along with the many other changes implemented by Vatican II disenchanted many priests who left the priesthood in droves. The problem was exacerbated by Pope Paul VI decision to allow men to leave the priesthood with the intention that they might follow a calling of paternal love within society and further life of the Church.
Many men had entered the seminary as young boys. After Vatican II the now young men could possibly see themselves as a more perfect image of God if married. Ergo if the man cannot have the full priesthood of Christ then a more perfect image of God as man and wife could give them a better sense of self worth.
What about the men who were unhappy with Vatican II but had no desire to merry. What about the men who approved of Vatican II because it was seen as a great liberating force that would allow them greater freedom and expression. These were men who were use to having a significant amount of clout in society. Outside the priesthood they would little clout. If there is one group of people whose existence is more obscured than single men and women please let me know for reference sake.
These men who remained after Vatican II would carry on the work of the Church, and among their ranks where the gay men who had true callings and the gay men who knew that their dignity outside the priesthood would be denigrated because of the prejudice society has toward single people and especially against gays. This prejudice is one error that the parishioners must shoulder. The prejudice against gays not only helped to create the conundrum within the Church but has fuel a disproportionate backlash against social convention. The ugliness of prejudice caused the problem in the first place.
The men that remained in the priesthood would fill in the seats of authority vacated by those who left. They would fill in for the administrators and teachers in both the seminary system and private Catholic school system. They would also be the ones most likely to achieve the full priesthood of Jesus Christ. They are now the bishops and they now select men for ordination who conform to their way of thinking.
The Catholic conundrum is deeper still and only in Truth with the expectation of full disclosure of Truth by all the members of the Church will we ever be free to live the glorious role as a priestly people, a glorious gem in the crown of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
I’m very happy to discover that the church is still a human church and so can have some of her children making some shameful mistakes. Fortunately or unfortunately, the media in this part of the world does not blow it so so many do not yet know about the extent of the crisis over there in your part of the world (esp. Europe and America). I believe that the ‘gates of the underworld shall never prevail against this church’ of Christ. We just have to keep praying for this church that her servants, especially the clergy and religious may gain the grace to face the challenges of our time. This is a season of triumph, the year of Priests? Our God never sleeps or slumbers, o no.
Msgr. I love this work, keep it up. I’ll however suggest that we make a demarcation between sexual abuse and ‘child abuse’ as in flogging a child. God bless you.
I’m a little late to this discussion having just come across this post. Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, has commented extensively about the true nature of the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. I find myself agreeing with much of what he has to say, but there is much more to the story of accused priests that most in the Catholic media have ignored. When one understands the role of the contingency fee bar in sex abuse litigation, it becomes a virtual certainty that some priests have been falsely accused for money – substantial amounts of money. There is a certain naiveté in Catholics who still believe that no one would make such a false claim merely for money.
A case in point is that of Father Gordon MacRae analyzed by Dorothy Rabinowitz in the Wall Street Journal (“A Priest’s Story,” April 27/28, 2005). That particular priest seems to be taking the high road in challenging his own false accusations while remaining faithful to the tenets of his faith and his Church, and that is most commendable. I have researched this case extensively, and it is worth reviewing at http://www.TheseStoneWalls.com .
Father MacRae wrote a recent post entitled, “As the Year of the Priest Ends, Are Civil Liberties for Priests Intact?” He made many of the same points that Msgr. Pope made here, but with some additions that are very important. I do hope that you will read this blog, Msgr., and perhaps recommend it to other priests and some of your lay readers as well.
Bill Donahue has urged all Catholic League members to visit this site and review this case, and to read this priest’s writings. Your readers would do well to support this man’s cause as would other Catholics. There is indeed another side of the story and it can be found at These Stone Walls.
Greed ranks right up there with lust among the Seven Deadly Sins.
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