Defending the Faith

Quick, name a group of people that has more sex abusers than any other. I bet you thought Catholic priests, right? The same way that Tiger Woods’ career has been reduced to a punch line, the priesthood has become associated with the few who besmirch its good name. Just the other day, I read an uninformed statement by Roseanne Barr urging parents to keep their kids away from all Catholic churches.

The truth is that sexual abuse is more than just a Catholic problem. Yesterday I saw a Newsweek article that confirmed my belief that “Priests Commit No More Abuse Than Other Males.” I think that abuser priests get more negative publicity because, in addition to their crime, they are also breaking their vow of celibacy. However the percentage of pederasts is about the same among teachers, scout leaders and ministers of other denominations.

We’ve all heard gossip about who is sleeping with whom in our workplace, community or school. I guarantee that when the rest of us hear about an attractive female teacher having an affair with an underage male student, his classmates are not surprised by the news. When I was a kid, the rumors in my neighborhood were about a scout leader who got too friendly with a boy trying to earn a merit badge. The rest of us took it as a warning to avoid being alone with the older man. Throughout my entire life, I have never heard any rumors about an abusive priest in the parishes near where I have lived. The only thing that was close were unproven rumors about a priest at a parish in California and an adult woman.

Bishop Richard Stika posted a pastoral letter this week about the policies to protect children in the Diocese of Knoxville. Before becoming our bishop, Stika was director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. As you may have gathered from reading my blog over the years, I know many employees of the Diocese of Knoxville. They are required to go through strict VIRTUSĀ® training to get and to keep their jobs.

Media reports yesterday keyed in on the Vatican’s plan to post easy-to-read procedures on its website. The news stories said that the unfortunately named “lay guide” should be released Monday. The mainstream media was full of reports about the “church in crisis” during Holy Week. If you read any of those articles in the New York Times and elsewhere, you should also read the other side of the story from the canon lawyer who prosecuted a case involving deaf students in Milwaukee.

The Catholic Church has mishandled the crisis in the past. However, those victims who courageously spoke up have had a tremendous positive impact. The current policies make the Church safer now than ever. The bishops are quick to remove offenders from the priesthood, instead of giving them a second chance. When I think about why the pederast priests were formerly transferred and allowed a fresh start at a new parish, I always remember that the entire organization is built on the concept of the forgiveness of sins. The criminal priests may have sought forgiveness from their superiors but they neglected to observe the final line of the Act of Contrition: “to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.”

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10 Responses to Defending the Faith

  1. Philip says:

    I think you are right about the numbers. Priests are supposed to be living a Holy life. Priests are human and I understand as humans we are weak and will make mistakes.
    I think the general public has less tolerance for a priest who is a man of god to abuse children. Not acceptable no matter who you are but we, as humans, do tend to put value on what we see as degrees of sin.

  2. Johnny Vega says:

    Frank,

    You are spot-on.

    I believe the Catholic Church is a wonderful religion that is immensely helping mankind.

    It is an absolute travesty that “a few criminals” chose / choose to “hide” and commit their heinous crimes “disguised as priests.”

    They are not, and never were, priests. They were / are criminals… hiding their evil intentions… under the guise of goodness… that is the Catholic Priesthood.

    Johnny Vega

    Friend / Christian / Scientologist

  3. MJ Pitts says:

    It is sad that in the past the Catholic Church looked the other way and buried their heads in the sand. People have to understand that Catholics as a whole do not condone such actions by anyone especially a priest who is hiding behind a collar. We as US Catholics have taken actions to prevent this from ever occurring again and we pray for the victims, who have suffered. We as Catholics have to understand that because we are very large in numbers we will get a lot of media attention whether it be good or bad.

  4. alicia says:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304017404575165792228341212.html?mod=wsj from the WSJ – I assume that you are already familiar with the scurrilous article from the New York Times where the journalist violated the basic rules of fact-checking. I am also saddened by other current cases where the abuse of adolescents by adults in power have been systematically hidden – I can recall stories about a hassidic rabbi in new york, some boy scout leaders in portland, and the perennial stories you refer to above. All are tragic. What also concerns me is that the nature of the abuse is not clearly stated – I think there is a qualitative difference between adult males in their 30s, 40, 50s making passes at teenage boys and men of the same age fondling or raping pre-pubescent girls or boys. The gay sub-culture actually celebrates the homosexual seduction of young adolescents – unless the adult is a priest. I personally do not condone molestation, seduction, or rape,. but I do think that all of these actions, while immoral, are immoral to varying degrees.

  5. Casey says:

    There are sick people in all walks of life. My friends and I used to play basketball at a nearby Methodist church. The preacher was a super nice guy who would even tell us where he hid the key so we could use their gym all we wanted. Shortly after I moved away from NC, I learned that he was arrested when “gay kiddie porn” was found on his work computer.
    Catholic priests aren’t super-human simply because they made a vow of celibacy. They are simply held to a higher standard for choosing to take on a more difficult lifestyle than most. When they fall victim to sin, it’s almost more disappointing than when you see a non clergy member do the same thing. Like, if this guy who has dedicated his life to God and the church can’t stay on a straight path, how the heck am I going to have a chance?

  6. Maureen Hanley says:

    Great article Frank, thank you!

  7. Frank Murphy says:

    A local man reported today that he was abused by a priest in the late 1970s when Knoxville was still part of the Diocese of Nashville. WATE has good coverage of the story: http://www.wate.com/Global/story.asp?S=12309411

    The response by the Diocese of Knoxville has been textbook. My wife said they are showing the rest of the world how it should be done. Their first concern is for the victim. The retired clergyman is not allowed to present himself as a priest in any way as the investigation into the allegations proceeds.

  8. Michelle says:

    I was raised Catholic and have continued in the Catholic faith my entire life. This morning my mother called to tell me about the front page story with Father Casey and how he admitted to sexually abusing someone. I was baptized at St. John Neumann in 1978 and Father Casey was the priest there from the time I was 9 till I was 19. I was very active in the church and with the youth and very close to Father Casey. This is personally devastating to me, that I man I looked up to and admired has admitted to committing such horrible acts. It’s even worse that every time I turn around there is some negative comment or joke being made about my religion. I guess the funny thing is, I listen to your show most mornings and came straight to your blog when I heard the news, hoping that someone who cares about the Catholic faith as I do would have something to say about this. In reading this post, it made me feel a little better that people are trying to stick up for our faith while denouncing those who have done bad things in the name of it. So, thank you, thank you for trying to educate those who have only heard or only believe the bad things they hear.

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