A blog post I wrote last weekend needs a follow-up post this weekend. An article about the rate of sexual abuse among all groups of men, not just Catholic priests, inspired me to speak up. Although the percentage of abusers is about the same in every denomination, it seems to me that Catholics get a disproportionate share of the blame and the publicity. A Facebook friend sent me the link to a two-year-old blog post that also pointed out the disparity. It quotes a Jewish businessman who said the media had an anti-Catholic bias then.
Let me make it clear that no abuse should be tolerated or abetted and that all abusers must be removed from their ministry or position of authority. That includes priests, rabbis, preachers, scout leaders, teachers, etc. I am saddened that the crimes of the few overshadow the good deeds of the many. In many cases the abuser tries to get close to the family of his intended victim. He spends time building a false sense of trust with the victim. I spoke with some staff members at Catholic Charities who told me that they provide assistance almost daily to children who have been abused by their uncles, step-fathers, biological fathers or other non-celibate male relatives.
On Wednesday, a man announced to the press that he had been sexually abused by a priest in Kingsport during the 1970s. At that time, East Tennessee was still part of the Diocese of Nashville. Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika met with the now-retired priest, who admitted his crime. The bishop permanently removed the man from the ministry. A letter from the bishop asking any other victims to come forward will be read at all Masses in the Diocese on Sunday. My wife and I feel that Bishop Stika’s response has been textbook. Frank Weathers wrote a blog post on the site Why I Am Catholic that agrees. Back here on my site, a blog reader named Michelle left the following comment on my post from last Saturday:
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.
Through this blog and through my job on the radio, I am openly Catholic. Some of my friends jokingly call me an “out-of-the-closet Catholic” in the Bible Belt where so many people are Baptist. I received the following email on Thursday from a listener named Alicia:
I just wanted to thank you for your response to the news story about the priest who is being investigated for abuse in our Diocese. It was refreshing to hear a well thought out and factual discussion about pedophilia and the Church.
I have had many discussions with friends about this issue and have been frustrated to no end at the accusations that our doctrine and traditions are “causing” priests to act out. I have been working hard to explain to all my friends about the changes the Church has been making to protect children, and to prevent or at least properly handle future crimes. People asking me “How can you stay?” and needless to say, it’s been a difficult few years defending my faith.
Thanks for not being afraid to talk about your faith and our Church on-air.
The mood at Tom & Barry’s on Thursday night was slightly subdued. A mostly Catholic crowd had shown up on Tax Day because the restaurant donated proceeds and tips to Catholic Charities that night. I spoke with fellow parishioners and with some listeners who needed to talk about the day’s events. My friend Fr. Ragan Schriver was extremely unhappy about the ex-priest’s vile deeds against his victim. I didn’t know what would happen should an abuser admit to his crimes within the seal of the confessional. I learned later that the priest hearing the confession will compel the abuser to contact civil authorities. Fr. Ragan told me that abusers often think they are above it all and do not even confess their crimes. Friday’s email contained something happier. I don’t know why listener Kellie chose that day to write but it certainly brightened my mood:
We have never met, but I owe you a great big thank you. My husband, daughter and I moved to Knoxville last June and we are members of All Saints. My step-children are members of [a nearby] Baptist congregation. At home they are taught that Baptists are the only correct religion and that Catholics are wrong. This is something that we struggle with on the weekends that we have them because their mother insists that we drop them at their church on Sunday, and pick them up after. They are discouraged from attending church with us.
My husband and I were at Christmas Eve mass when you were narrating. I told this to my 8-year-old step daughter when I saw her on Christmas and she was fascinated. Ever since then, it has been her mission to see you at church. She now comes with us to church on Sunday. Well, last weekend we were sitting in the front row of church and there you were. You would have thought that she saw Santa! It was a riot. After church, while getting donuts, both of the girls stood there so they could hear your voice just to be sure. Her new mission is to find out who your wife is!
I will do whatever I can to open their mind to the Catholic religion, and for the last 4 months, it has been the excitement of seeing you!