Catholicism’s secret sins

I’m not a Sinead O’Connor fan, but the Irish singer–notorious for tearing up a picture of Pope John Paul on “Saturday Night Live” some years ago–has written a scathing op-ed piece on the priest child-molestation scandal coming out  in Ireland.  She herself says that she was misused in her childhood in a Catholic reform schools, though apparently not sexually.  She does not accept the current pope’s apology:

Benedict’s apology gives the impression that he heard about abuse only recently, and it presents him as a fellow victim: “I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.” But Benedict’s infamous 2001 letter to bishops around the world ordered them to keep sexual abuse allegations secret under threat of excommunication — updating a noxious church policy, expressed in a 1962 document, that both priests accused of sex crimes and their victims “observe the strictest secret” and be “restrained by a perpetual silence.”

via To Sinead O’Connor, the pope’s apology for sex abuse in Ireland seems hollow – washingtonpost.com.

I remember coming across a quotation from a bishop who said that we just didn’t realize back then how traumatic this kind of sexual contact from a priest would be for children! Critics are pointing out that the church authorities treated a priest molesting children as a moral matter, rather than as a criminal matter. They should have called the police. Instead, they imposed silence.

Is there any way to mitigate these charges?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Carl Vehse

    Is there any way to mitigate these charges?”

    Nope. The Antichrist pretty much boxed himself into a corner with those quotes. And if you could find the actual quote and bishopric source you referred to near the end, you will have another damning statement on Romanist attitudes.

    This should serve as a warning to other church organizations, such as the Missouri Synod, on the labyrinth of bureaucractic bylaws designed to intimidate or discourage anyone from bringing a legitimate complaint (sexual or otherwise) against a member, especially a high ranking one.

    The Missouri Synod, with the skeleton of Martin Stephan in its historical closet, should be particularly sensitive to this issue.

  • Carl Vehse

    Is there any way to mitigate these charges?”

    Nope. The Antichrist pretty much boxed himself into a corner with those quotes. And if you could find the actual quote and bishopric source you referred to near the end, you will have another damning statement on Romanist attitudes.

    This should serve as a warning to other church organizations, such as the Missouri Synod, on the labyrinth of bureaucractic bylaws designed to intimidate or discourage anyone from bringing a legitimate complaint (sexual or otherwise) against a member, especially a high ranking one.

    The Missouri Synod, with the skeleton of Martin Stephan in its historical closet, should be particularly sensitive to this issue.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    No, there will be no mitigation to this scandal in the eyes of the world. Your one source could be right, they didn’t understand the lasting impact of clergy abuse.

    In addition, you have them holding fast to their belief in the confidentiality of the confessional. I applaud them for holding fast to that belief. I myself would be hard pressed if I were placed in the same position as we take a similar vow in our ordination in the Lutheran Church.

    Lastly, there is very little distinction between moral and criminal matters. Generally speaking it is amoral to break the law, so I really do not fault them for treating it as a moral matter. Their biggest mistake was a matter of pragmatics, you don’t leave somebody in a place where he can continue to hurt others, they could have made it part of their penance.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    No, there will be no mitigation to this scandal in the eyes of the world. Your one source could be right, they didn’t understand the lasting impact of clergy abuse.

    In addition, you have them holding fast to their belief in the confidentiality of the confessional. I applaud them for holding fast to that belief. I myself would be hard pressed if I were placed in the same position as we take a similar vow in our ordination in the Lutheran Church.

    Lastly, there is very little distinction between moral and criminal matters. Generally speaking it is amoral to break the law, so I really do not fault them for treating it as a moral matter. Their biggest mistake was a matter of pragmatics, you don’t leave somebody in a place where he can continue to hurt others, they could have made it part of their penance.

  • Boaz

    The church has a duty to keep confession confidential, but it is responsible for the conduct of its agents and has a duty to parishioners not to expose them to dangerous people. A parishioner confessing to crime is different than a priest confessing crime. The policy should be to require the priest to confess to police for or face excommunication for unrepentant sins of hiding crimes. This does go to up to JP2 and Benedict, who upon hearing of lawbreaking priests not being excommunicated if they failed to confess to police and go to jail, had the duty to fix it.

    The analog is a “noisy withdrawal” attorneys use. If a client insists on breaking the law, the client’s attorney is required to end representation and terminate the association. That’s a huge signal to everybody that something is going on. Same with the church, it can’t remain associated with unrepentant monsters.

  • Boaz

    The church has a duty to keep confession confidential, but it is responsible for the conduct of its agents and has a duty to parishioners not to expose them to dangerous people. A parishioner confessing to crime is different than a priest confessing crime. The policy should be to require the priest to confess to police for or face excommunication for unrepentant sins of hiding crimes. This does go to up to JP2 and Benedict, who upon hearing of lawbreaking priests not being excommunicated if they failed to confess to police and go to jail, had the duty to fix it.

    The analog is a “noisy withdrawal” attorneys use. If a client insists on breaking the law, the client’s attorney is required to end representation and terminate the association. That’s a huge signal to everybody that something is going on. Same with the church, it can’t remain associated with unrepentant monsters.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Actually, Benedict XVI has acted sternly, both Under John Paul II and as pope in dealing what he has termed the “filth” of priests involved in sexual predation, most of which took place thirty to fifty years ago during the heyday of the secular sexual revolution.

    George Weigel addressed this yesterday in First things article Scoundrel Times including:

    According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members)

    …The Times’ descent into tabloid sourcing and innuendo was even more offensive because of recent hard news developments that underscore Pope Benedict’s determination to root out what he once described as the “filth” in the Church. There was, for example, the pope’s March 20 letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland, which was unsparing in its condemnation of clerical sexual offenders (“. . . you betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals”) and unprecedented in its critique of malfeasant bishops (“grave errors of judgment were made and failures of leadership occurred . . . [which have] undermined your credibility and effectiveness”). Moreover, the pope mandated an Apostolic Visitation of Irish dioceses, seminaries, and religious congregations—a clear indication that dramatic leadership change in Ireland is coming.

    Led by the New York Times and the media have their sights on Benedict XVI during the prime of Lent; so far they have come up with no hard evidence of his culpability, however breathless the allegations. Knowledgeable people are aware that Benedict has taken stern measures to rid the church of what he terms the “filth” of priestly homosexual predation.

    Meanwhile Protestants, many of whom who enjoy any laceration of the Catholic Church, sit back smugly and take their usual small-minded delight in the anti-Catholic scene, knowing full well that not a few of their own ministers and Sunday school teachers have been involved in assorted forms of sexual predation.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Actually, Benedict XVI has acted sternly, both Under John Paul II and as pope in dealing what he has termed the “filth” of priests involved in sexual predation, most of which took place thirty to fifty years ago during the heyday of the secular sexual revolution.

    George Weigel addressed this yesterday in First things article Scoundrel Times including:

    According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members)

    …The Times’ descent into tabloid sourcing and innuendo was even more offensive because of recent hard news developments that underscore Pope Benedict’s determination to root out what he once described as the “filth” in the Church. There was, for example, the pope’s March 20 letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland, which was unsparing in its condemnation of clerical sexual offenders (“. . . you betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals”) and unprecedented in its critique of malfeasant bishops (“grave errors of judgment were made and failures of leadership occurred . . . [which have] undermined your credibility and effectiveness”). Moreover, the pope mandated an Apostolic Visitation of Irish dioceses, seminaries, and religious congregations—a clear indication that dramatic leadership change in Ireland is coming.

    Led by the New York Times and the media have their sights on Benedict XVI during the prime of Lent; so far they have come up with no hard evidence of his culpability, however breathless the allegations. Knowledgeable people are aware that Benedict has taken stern measures to rid the church of what he terms the “filth” of priestly homosexual predation.

    Meanwhile Protestants, many of whom who enjoy any laceration of the Catholic Church, sit back smugly and take their usual small-minded delight in the anti-Catholic scene, knowing full well that not a few of their own ministers and Sunday school teachers have been involved in assorted forms of sexual predation.

  • Booklover

    Of course anytime that anyone has broken the moral code in this way, he should be removed from the supervision of children, and made to suffer the appropriate consequences. Please remember that statement as you read on…

    But we need to be very careful in joining the gnashing of teeth against the Catholics. Much of the present hulabaloo is against Catholics but also is against Jesus and everything he stands for.

    Protestants can NOT stand and say hah hah. Protestants have their own various and sundry evil sinners. Look on tv, or look in your own church. When Protestants join the world in ridiculing the Catholics, we are like a trapped animal gnawing off its own leg. When the world is tired of gnashing their teeth at Catholics, they will turn on other types of Christians. Oh wait, it’s happening already.

    Basically, we need to call out for the repentance of individual sinners, and stop lumping them all into a group. I would hate to be made to feel responsible for Jimmy Swaggart, for example.

  • Booklover

    Of course anytime that anyone has broken the moral code in this way, he should be removed from the supervision of children, and made to suffer the appropriate consequences. Please remember that statement as you read on…

    But we need to be very careful in joining the gnashing of teeth against the Catholics. Much of the present hulabaloo is against Catholics but also is against Jesus and everything he stands for.

    Protestants can NOT stand and say hah hah. Protestants have their own various and sundry evil sinners. Look on tv, or look in your own church. When Protestants join the world in ridiculing the Catholics, we are like a trapped animal gnawing off its own leg. When the world is tired of gnashing their teeth at Catholics, they will turn on other types of Christians. Oh wait, it’s happening already.

    Basically, we need to call out for the repentance of individual sinners, and stop lumping them all into a group. I would hate to be made to feel responsible for Jimmy Swaggart, for example.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Booklover (@5), while I don’t doubt that some are using this to bash Catholics in general, most of what I’ve read is directed at both the priests who did the initial sins and the bishops (et al.) who attempted to cover it up or at least failed to address the problem. I don’t think this isn’t a problem with Catholicism, per se, but it very much is a problem with the Catholic hierarchy. And if we fail to call out the sins of the Catholic hierarchy (as well as the priests who started all this), we fall into the trap that the Catholic Church did. We can’t as Christians be concerned about “Jesus and everything he stands for” and be soft on sin — Jesus died for those sins!

    Now, maybe someone who knows more about the Catholic view of the priesthood could tell me if their theology (wrong as it is) influenced these actions. I’ve heard it said that “once a priest, always a priest” — that being defrocked just takes away their responsibilities.

    Still, the main problem here is an incorrect dealing with sin. Those in the Catholic hierarchy could really stand to read 1 Corinthians 5 right about now. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough”, indeed! The way to protect the reputation of the church is by taking sin seriously, not trying to pretend that we in the Church are free from sin.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Booklover (@5), while I don’t doubt that some are using this to bash Catholics in general, most of what I’ve read is directed at both the priests who did the initial sins and the bishops (et al.) who attempted to cover it up or at least failed to address the problem. I don’t think this isn’t a problem with Catholicism, per se, but it very much is a problem with the Catholic hierarchy. And if we fail to call out the sins of the Catholic hierarchy (as well as the priests who started all this), we fall into the trap that the Catholic Church did. We can’t as Christians be concerned about “Jesus and everything he stands for” and be soft on sin — Jesus died for those sins!

    Now, maybe someone who knows more about the Catholic view of the priesthood could tell me if their theology (wrong as it is) influenced these actions. I’ve heard it said that “once a priest, always a priest” — that being defrocked just takes away their responsibilities.

    Still, the main problem here is an incorrect dealing with sin. Those in the Catholic hierarchy could really stand to read 1 Corinthians 5 right about now. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough”, indeed! The way to protect the reputation of the church is by taking sin seriously, not trying to pretend that we in the Church are free from sin.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@4), let’s see who you blame in this matter:

    “The heyday of the secular sexual revolution”. Ah, right, it’s the secularists’ fault.

    “Led by the New York Times and the media have their sights on Benedict XVI”. Ah, so it’s also the media’s fault.

    In general, when someone lashes out at Parties B and C, rather than addressing the sins of Party A, they don’t seem to be taking the sins of Party A too seriously.

    I think it’s clear that not enough has been done about this problem — then or now — all strongly worded letters notwithstanding. People need(ed) to be removed from positions — whether it’s removed from access to children, or removed from the capacity to assign priests places, or so on.

    And you entirely miss the point by noting that “not a few [Protestant] ministers and Sunday school teachers have been involved in assorted forms of sexual predation.” Yes, they have. Sin abounds. The difference, that I have seen, is that no one in the Protestant churches suggested that such Sunday School teachers go teach children at a different church. The one time this happened (er, sort of) in a church I was in, the man involved was not allowed to go into the nursery or be alone with children. Would that the Catholic bishops involved had had the same strong actions against the sin they knew about!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@4), let’s see who you blame in this matter:

    “The heyday of the secular sexual revolution”. Ah, right, it’s the secularists’ fault.

    “Led by the New York Times and the media have their sights on Benedict XVI”. Ah, so it’s also the media’s fault.

    In general, when someone lashes out at Parties B and C, rather than addressing the sins of Party A, they don’t seem to be taking the sins of Party A too seriously.

    I think it’s clear that not enough has been done about this problem — then or now — all strongly worded letters notwithstanding. People need(ed) to be removed from positions — whether it’s removed from access to children, or removed from the capacity to assign priests places, or so on.

    And you entirely miss the point by noting that “not a few [Protestant] ministers and Sunday school teachers have been involved in assorted forms of sexual predation.” Yes, they have. Sin abounds. The difference, that I have seen, is that no one in the Protestant churches suggested that such Sunday School teachers go teach children at a different church. The one time this happened (er, sort of) in a church I was in, the man involved was not allowed to go into the nursery or be alone with children. Would that the Catholic bishops involved had had the same strong actions against the sin they knew about!

  • fws

    christ mitigates all this. he is the only thing that can mitigate it.

    this is a call to repentance for all christians.

  • fws

    christ mitigates all this. he is the only thing that can mitigate it.

    this is a call to repentance for all christians.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Oops. My comment (@6) should have read “I don’t think this is a problem with Catholicism …”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Oops. My comment (@6) should have read “I don’t think this is a problem with Catholicism …”

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, the Catholic priests and hierarchy didn’t start all of this. What mostly started it was the intensifying of the loose secular sexual revolution in the sixties and seventies that had a major effect on the individuals in many societal institutions including the Boy Scouts, Protestant denominations, and schools, as well as the Catholic Church. The reason that the Catholic Church is exceptionally singled out by such media outfits as the New York Times and Boston Globe is that this church in their view is the most formidable obstacle to the establishment of the secular fundamentalist religion or ideology.

    Weigel remarks on this topic in the article linked to at four as follows:

    The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child’s mother—thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years—some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000. According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).

    Booklover gets to the heart of this, pointing out that we need to call out individual sinners and stop lumping them into a particularly disfavored group.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, the Catholic priests and hierarchy didn’t start all of this. What mostly started it was the intensifying of the loose secular sexual revolution in the sixties and seventies that had a major effect on the individuals in many societal institutions including the Boy Scouts, Protestant denominations, and schools, as well as the Catholic Church. The reason that the Catholic Church is exceptionally singled out by such media outfits as the New York Times and Boston Globe is that this church in their view is the most formidable obstacle to the establishment of the secular fundamentalist religion or ideology.

    Weigel remarks on this topic in the article linked to at four as follows:

    The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child’s mother—thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years—some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000. According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).

    Booklover gets to the heart of this, pointing out that we need to call out individual sinners and stop lumping them into a particularly disfavored group.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter, you said (@10), “The Catholic priests and hierarchy didn’t start all of this.”

    Yes they did, Peter. Yes they did. Those children were unmolested before the Catholic priests started it. And children elsewhere had no sex with adults before the bishops moved pedophile priests into their churches.

    Those children were violated by men claiming to act in the stead of Christ.

    But what do you care about that, when you can make your pathetic little culture-war points against secularists and the media?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter, you said (@10), “The Catholic priests and hierarchy didn’t start all of this.”

    Yes they did, Peter. Yes they did. Those children were unmolested before the Catholic priests started it. And children elsewhere had no sex with adults before the bishops moved pedophile priests into their churches.

    Those children were violated by men claiming to act in the stead of Christ.

    But what do you care about that, when you can make your pathetic little culture-war points against secularists and the media?

  • Joe

    I recall once seeing a statistic that the percentage of clergy who abuse children and young men is the same as the general male population. I have not been able find that data anywhere. That said, I think this is a pretty poor excuse. Review the scriptural qualifications for the being a elder/pastor. They are to be held to a much higher and different standard. The Roman Church has failed -utterly failed.

    I have also wondered if anyone has looked celibacy as a potential factor. Might some of these deviant sexual activities result from a man being forced to suppress his normal sexual desires in order to satisfy a man-made edict that he forgo the marriage bed?

  • Joe

    I recall once seeing a statistic that the percentage of clergy who abuse children and young men is the same as the general male population. I have not been able find that data anywhere. That said, I think this is a pretty poor excuse. Review the scriptural qualifications for the being a elder/pastor. They are to be held to a much higher and different standard. The Roman Church has failed -utterly failed.

    I have also wondered if anyone has looked celibacy as a potential factor. Might some of these deviant sexual activities result from a man being forced to suppress his normal sexual desires in order to satisfy a man-made edict that he forgo the marriage bed?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, answering the point of the secular sexual revolution abetted by the liberal media in relation to assorted sexual scandals by referring to them as “pathetic little culture-war points” is hardly a serious argument. It is mostly a risibly thin rant that explicates nothing.

    Exactly how did the Catholics priests, as distinct from members of other groups, including the Boy Scouts, family members, Protestant churches, and schools, start all of this?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, answering the point of the secular sexual revolution abetted by the liberal media in relation to assorted sexual scandals by referring to them as “pathetic little culture-war points” is hardly a serious argument. It is mostly a risibly thin rant that explicates nothing.

    Exactly how did the Catholics priests, as distinct from members of other groups, including the Boy Scouts, family members, Protestant churches, and schools, start all of this?

  • Joe

    Peter – You are apparently lumping the priests in with the general population. Boy Scout or family member abuse is dramatically different than abuse by a man claiming to act in Christ’s stead. There is a different standard here.

    Its not societies fault when the Church fails – its the Church’s fault. The Church is charged with preserving the Word of Christ and it knows that society writ-large will oppose it, but she is to stand firm. It is not acceptable for the Church to cave in and then meekly say the well its not my fault, really some hippies said, “free love.” What could I do….

  • Joe

    Peter – You are apparently lumping the priests in with the general population. Boy Scout or family member abuse is dramatically different than abuse by a man claiming to act in Christ’s stead. There is a different standard here.

    Its not societies fault when the Church fails – its the Church’s fault. The Church is charged with preserving the Word of Christ and it knows that society writ-large will oppose it, but she is to stand firm. It is not acceptable for the Church to cave in and then meekly say the well its not my fault, really some hippies said, “free love.” What could I do….

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@13), there is little question that you are continuing to wage your culture war here, all the while ignoring the actual issue. And it is of course only my opinion, but it is pathetic that you are unable to pin these sins on the ones who actually engaged in them. Instead, you so quickly point the finger at someone — anyone — else.

    This is not how Christians deal with sin. Paul knew how to man up and call a sin a sin in the Corinthian congregation. He didn’t tell the Corinthians that it wasn’t their fault, that society was to blame. He told them to deal with the sinner, and seriously, if he would not repent.

    A serious Christian never accepts an answer of “but others were sinning also!” Anyone saying that is not repentant, he is just sorry he was caught.

    By your arguments, you seem happy to turn a blind eye to those who committed these sins, these crimes. And the only parties you reserve your scorn for are the media and the 60s. Which you already hated. I see how much you — and the Catholic church — have learned from this whole sordid affair.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@13), there is little question that you are continuing to wage your culture war here, all the while ignoring the actual issue. And it is of course only my opinion, but it is pathetic that you are unable to pin these sins on the ones who actually engaged in them. Instead, you so quickly point the finger at someone — anyone — else.

    This is not how Christians deal with sin. Paul knew how to man up and call a sin a sin in the Corinthian congregation. He didn’t tell the Corinthians that it wasn’t their fault, that society was to blame. He told them to deal with the sinner, and seriously, if he would not repent.

    A serious Christian never accepts an answer of “but others were sinning also!” Anyone saying that is not repentant, he is just sorry he was caught.

    By your arguments, you seem happy to turn a blind eye to those who committed these sins, these crimes. And the only parties you reserve your scorn for are the media and the 60s. Which you already hated. I see how much you — and the Catholic church — have learned from this whole sordid affair.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, cut the moralistic manure. I’m glad to “pin the sins,” to use your crude terms, on anyone, including Protestants, Catholics, Boy Scout leaders and school teachers. What I object to is the overemphasis on the Catholic Church.

    You still haven’t come close to refuting Weigel’s and my point that, if one wants to get at the root of the contemporary problem, the sexual revolution, abetted by the liberal media, is at the heart of the matter.

    You might reflect on another of Weigel’s points:

    Yet in a pattern exemplifying the dog’s behavior in Proverbs 26:11, the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young, with hints of an ecclesiastical criminal conspiracy involving sexual predators whose predations continue today. That the vast majority of the abuse cases in the United States took place decades ago is of no consequence to this story line. For the narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down—and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy. For if the Church is a global criminal conspiracy of sexual abusers and their protectors, then the Catholic Church has no claim to a place at the table of public moral argument.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, cut the moralistic manure. I’m glad to “pin the sins,” to use your crude terms, on anyone, including Protestants, Catholics, Boy Scout leaders and school teachers. What I object to is the overemphasis on the Catholic Church.

    You still haven’t come close to refuting Weigel’s and my point that, if one wants to get at the root of the contemporary problem, the sexual revolution, abetted by the liberal media, is at the heart of the matter.

    You might reflect on another of Weigel’s points:

    Yet in a pattern exemplifying the dog’s behavior in Proverbs 26:11, the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young, with hints of an ecclesiastical criminal conspiracy involving sexual predators whose predations continue today. That the vast majority of the abuse cases in the United States took place decades ago is of no consequence to this story line. For the narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down—and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy. For if the Church is a global criminal conspiracy of sexual abusers and their protectors, then the Catholic Church has no claim to a place at the table of public moral argument.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    My, my, Peter (@16)! How your attitude towards moralism changes when your sacred cow is in the crosshairs. “Moralistic manure”! And what, pray tell, does that refer to, exactly? Which of my points was “manure”? Go on, be specific.

    “I’m glad to ‘pin the sins,’ to use your crude terms, on anyone”. Ah, yes, how crude a term, when compared to “moralistic manure”. Anyhow, if you’re “glad to”, then do so. You haven’t. As you will note, the topic here isn’t Boy Scouts, no matter how much you may attempt to make it so. You have, however, continued to blame the media and/or the vague “sexual revolution” as being “at the heart of the matter”. One can only marvel at how the media made those priests molest those children. Or how the media made those bishops shovel those pedophile priests around from parish to parish. What power the media has!

    “What I object to is the overemphasis on the Catholic Church.” I wonder if any discussion of the topic whatsoever qualifies as “overemphasis”.

    When, exactly, will you be discussing the specific problems on display — and at discussion in this thread — in the Catholic church?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    My, my, Peter (@16)! How your attitude towards moralism changes when your sacred cow is in the crosshairs. “Moralistic manure”! And what, pray tell, does that refer to, exactly? Which of my points was “manure”? Go on, be specific.

    “I’m glad to ‘pin the sins,’ to use your crude terms, on anyone”. Ah, yes, how crude a term, when compared to “moralistic manure”. Anyhow, if you’re “glad to”, then do so. You haven’t. As you will note, the topic here isn’t Boy Scouts, no matter how much you may attempt to make it so. You have, however, continued to blame the media and/or the vague “sexual revolution” as being “at the heart of the matter”. One can only marvel at how the media made those priests molest those children. Or how the media made those bishops shovel those pedophile priests around from parish to parish. What power the media has!

    “What I object to is the overemphasis on the Catholic Church.” I wonder if any discussion of the topic whatsoever qualifies as “overemphasis”.

    When, exactly, will you be discussing the specific problems on display — and at discussion in this thread — in the Catholic church?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, you’re being moralistic, when you righteously claim that I turn a blind eye to the sins of Catholic priests and bishops. Living in the Boston area, I am acutely aware of the sins of some sodomite priests who viciously violated their Christian obligations. I am, also, aware of the strenuous effort that this Diocese has made to rid itself of the filth of sexually predatory priests.

    When Benedict XVI visited Boston, at the urging of Archbishop O’Malley, he met with victims of priestly sexual abuse and apologized to them. He has, also, taken hard steps to rid the Catholic Church of sodomite seminarians and priests.

    Your suggestion that I have avoided this issue is a canard.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, you’re being moralistic, when you righteously claim that I turn a blind eye to the sins of Catholic priests and bishops. Living in the Boston area, I am acutely aware of the sins of some sodomite priests who viciously violated their Christian obligations. I am, also, aware of the strenuous effort that this Diocese has made to rid itself of the filth of sexually predatory priests.

    When Benedict XVI visited Boston, at the urging of Archbishop O’Malley, he met with victims of priestly sexual abuse and apologized to them. He has, also, taken hard steps to rid the Catholic Church of sodomite seminarians and priests.

    Your suggestion that I have avoided this issue is a canard.

  • Booklover

    I would like to clarify my previous letter.

    Of course the individual priests and those who provided cover-up should be made to suffer the consequences for their sin. They should be made an example of because they are to be held to a higher standard. Please remember this paragraph as you read on.

    In my situation, I don’t hear people blaming the priests only. I hear them saying, “Tut tut, those Catholics,” while shaking their heads in a venomous way. I don’t like that the whole group of Catholics are taking the blame for some members.

    Sexual sin is hugely rampant. I had a happy childhood and was raised in a Christian home and would like to think I am intelligent, yet I was molested often by a (Lutheran) brother and a friend’s (Pentecostal) brother. It is unbelievable as I think about it now. Many persons have the stench of this sin, yet the focus seems to be on “the Catholics.”

    When I was the media rep for Right to Life in our city, I used to write letters to the editor of our gazette. Two men assumed I was Catholic because of my stance, and took it upon themselves to write me regular, vile-dripping, evil-drenched hate mail. The venomous words all focused on “my” Catholicism. It was enough to make one’s skin crawl, as well as cry.

    Although I disagree with much Catholic theology, I feel we non-Catholic Christians have more in common with them than we’d like to admit; and we’d better be prepared when the world comes after us and lumps us all in a group.

  • Booklover

    I would like to clarify my previous letter.

    Of course the individual priests and those who provided cover-up should be made to suffer the consequences for their sin. They should be made an example of because they are to be held to a higher standard. Please remember this paragraph as you read on.

    In my situation, I don’t hear people blaming the priests only. I hear them saying, “Tut tut, those Catholics,” while shaking their heads in a venomous way. I don’t like that the whole group of Catholics are taking the blame for some members.

    Sexual sin is hugely rampant. I had a happy childhood and was raised in a Christian home and would like to think I am intelligent, yet I was molested often by a (Lutheran) brother and a friend’s (Pentecostal) brother. It is unbelievable as I think about it now. Many persons have the stench of this sin, yet the focus seems to be on “the Catholics.”

    When I was the media rep for Right to Life in our city, I used to write letters to the editor of our gazette. Two men assumed I was Catholic because of my stance, and took it upon themselves to write me regular, vile-dripping, evil-drenched hate mail. The venomous words all focused on “my” Catholicism. It was enough to make one’s skin crawl, as well as cry.

    Although I disagree with much Catholic theology, I feel we non-Catholic Christians have more in common with them than we’d like to admit; and we’d better be prepared when the world comes after us and lumps us all in a group.

  • Carl Vehse

    An AP story, “Vatican defends pope in US lawsuit
    “, claims the Vatican has a three-pronged strategy on defending the pope from being deposed:

    1. He’s a head of state and has immunity.
    2. The bishops who oversaw the abusive priests weren’t Vatican employees.
    3. The 1962 document mandating not reporting sex abuse cases to police really didn’t.

    The Vatican was recognized as a sovereign state by the U.S. since 1984. Remember all the many Lutheran protests and articles about that?!? ;-)

  • Carl Vehse

    An AP story, “Vatican defends pope in US lawsuit
    “, claims the Vatican has a three-pronged strategy on defending the pope from being deposed:

    1. He’s a head of state and has immunity.
    2. The bishops who oversaw the abusive priests weren’t Vatican employees.
    3. The 1962 document mandating not reporting sex abuse cases to police really didn’t.

    The Vatican was recognized as a sovereign state by the U.S. since 1984. Remember all the many Lutheran protests and articles about that?!? ;-)

  • The Jungle Cat

    One thing that is unclear to me is whether or not priests guilty of sexual molestation are treated by secular authorities in the same way other sex-offenders guilty of the same crimes are treated. Does anyone know the answer to this question?

  • The Jungle Cat

    One thing that is unclear to me is whether or not priests guilty of sexual molestation are treated by secular authorities in the same way other sex-offenders guilty of the same crimes are treated. Does anyone know the answer to this question?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Jungle Cat, there are former priests from Massachusetts now doing jail-time for violating laws relating to sexual predation of minors. District attorneys in this state have been for the most part rigorous in enforcing the law. Also, the Catholic Church has been strict in investigating priests who have broken their vows; those found guilty have been properly defrocked.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Jungle Cat, there are former priests from Massachusetts now doing jail-time for violating laws relating to sexual predation of minors. District attorneys in this state have been for the most part rigorous in enforcing the law. Also, the Catholic Church has been strict in investigating priests who have broken their vows; those found guilty have been properly defrocked.

  • John C

    One should not grumble about living in a secular state Peter, unless one wants to live in a theocracy.

  • John C

    One should not grumble about living in a secular state Peter, unless one wants to live in a theocracy.

  • The Jungle Cat

    Well, if priests can be charged with these crimes, then I think the best way for the Roman Catholic Church to mitigate the problem is to encourage secular governments to prosecute priests guilty of sexual predation, call the authorities when they find priests who are guilty of molestation, etc. In other words, the best solution, I think, is just yielding to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

  • The Jungle Cat

    Well, if priests can be charged with these crimes, then I think the best way for the Roman Catholic Church to mitigate the problem is to encourage secular governments to prosecute priests guilty of sexual predation, call the authorities when they find priests who are guilty of molestation, etc. In other words, the best solution, I think, is just yielding to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

  • Peter Leavitt

    JohnC, other than secular liberal authoritarianism, the last thing i would want would be a theocracy. There are far better alternatives, including a pluralistic culture that respects serious and orthodox religion, along with a free economy and limited government.

    Your stark alternatives of a secular state and theocracy lack nuance.

    Jungle Cat, the Catholic Church encourages civil authorities to prosecute priests to the full extent of the law, while, also, taking stern measures to bar sodomites from seminaries and making clear in its catechism that homosexuality is a disorder of nature that when acted out is a grave sin.

  • Peter Leavitt

    JohnC, other than secular liberal authoritarianism, the last thing i would want would be a theocracy. There are far better alternatives, including a pluralistic culture that respects serious and orthodox religion, along with a free economy and limited government.

    Your stark alternatives of a secular state and theocracy lack nuance.

    Jungle Cat, the Catholic Church encourages civil authorities to prosecute priests to the full extent of the law, while, also, taking stern measures to bar sodomites from seminaries and making clear in its catechism that homosexuality is a disorder of nature that when acted out is a grave sin.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Peter,

    The “causes” of the abuse may be debated and the particular priests may(or may not) be facing justice. What really gets me is the complicity and cover up by the Bishops and Cardinals. Here in LA, Cardinal Roger Mahoney stonewalled and obfuscated the investigations into these charges in southern California. They shuffle these pedophiles around, knowing that they are dangerous, then hide the paper trail when secular authorities investigate. Ultimately some settlements were made, but only grudgingly, and not before much pressure was brought to bear, literally forcing the church’s hand.
    They compounded the outrage and the offense by their subsequent behavior.

  • http://www.newreformationpress.com Patrick Kyle

    Peter,

    The “causes” of the abuse may be debated and the particular priests may(or may not) be facing justice. What really gets me is the complicity and cover up by the Bishops and Cardinals. Here in LA, Cardinal Roger Mahoney stonewalled and obfuscated the investigations into these charges in southern California. They shuffle these pedophiles around, knowing that they are dangerous, then hide the paper trail when secular authorities investigate. Ultimately some settlements were made, but only grudgingly, and not before much pressure was brought to bear, literally forcing the church’s hand.
    They compounded the outrage and the offense by their subsequent behavior.

  • John C

    Just how nuanced do you want to be Peter?
    Do you want to rewrite the constitution?
    Just how free do you want the free economy to be? The US is hardly an authoritarian society.
    Russia now pursues the free market with enthusiasm and it would be difficult to find a government more limited unless you ventured into the third world. Now that’s an autocratic society.
    You do realise that a secular state must retain its primacy over religion.

  • John C

    Just how nuanced do you want to be Peter?
    Do you want to rewrite the constitution?
    Just how free do you want the free economy to be? The US is hardly an authoritarian society.
    Russia now pursues the free market with enthusiasm and it would be difficult to find a government more limited unless you ventured into the third world. Now that’s an autocratic society.
    You do realise that a secular state must retain its primacy over religion.

  • Rob Cartusciello

    While a Catholic, I have been quite impressed with the writing on this blog.

    The recent comments on this thread, however, have given me pause.

    Many comments here exhibit a deficient understanding of the case and of canon law. Jimmy Akin has summarized the matter better than any other commentator I have read thus far:

    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/cardinal/

    First, the crimes committed by Murphy were reported to the police in the 1970′s. No criminal action was ever instituted against him.

    Second, responsibility for investigating & prosecuting these crimes under canon law lies with the local bishop, in this case, Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee. (FYI, Weakland resigned in 2002 after it was it was revealed that he made payments to a young seminarian with whom he had an affair).

    Finally, Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict never advised an end to the canonical proceeding against Murphy.

    In December of 1995, Weakland ordered a preliminary investigation that determined the allegations had merit. Because the charges included the abuse of the sacrament of confession—an offense reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

    Weakland wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger in July 1996 asking for guidance in how to proceed.

    In February 1997, Murphy raised the point that his crimes were committed before the 1983 Code of Canon Law was issued and that under the legal norms in force at the time, the statute of limitations had run out.

    In March 1997, Weakland requested that the statute of limitations be waived. He sent the request in March 1997 to the Apostolic Signatura, noting that he hadn’t heard from the CDF. Because the case involved offenses reserved to the CDF, the Signatura forwarded the request there, and the CDF replied within two weeks.

    The reply came from the secretary of the congregation, Tarcisio Bertone. He instructed Weakland to continue the judicial process against Murphy, thereby waiving the statute of limitations, while asking him to pay attention to certain prior norms that must be read in light of current law.

    In January 1998, Murphy wrotes his own letter to the CDF. He asked the CDF to declare the case invalid because the statute to limitations when the crimes were committed has passed. Murphy also made a mercy-based not to be subjected to a trial at this point in his life.

    Archbishop Bertone refused to honor Murphy’s request to invalidate the pending trial. He did ask, however, in light of Murphy’s health, whether the remedies available under canon 1341 to obtain the reparation of scandal and the restoration of justice should be implemented in lieu of a trial.

    At the time, the case had been transferred to the Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin, in whose territory Murphy was residing. In May of 1998, Bishop Fliss concluded that the scandal in the deaf community was such that the trial needed to go forward.

    The canonical judge in charge of the trial has stated that the trial was scheduled continue, and that the proceeding against Murphy was only ended by his death in August 1998.

    At no time did Cardinal Ratzinger state that the trial should not continue.

  • Rob Cartusciello

    While a Catholic, I have been quite impressed with the writing on this blog.

    The recent comments on this thread, however, have given me pause.

    Many comments here exhibit a deficient understanding of the case and of canon law. Jimmy Akin has summarized the matter better than any other commentator I have read thus far:

    http://www.ncregister.com/blog/cardinal/

    First, the crimes committed by Murphy were reported to the police in the 1970′s. No criminal action was ever instituted against him.

    Second, responsibility for investigating & prosecuting these crimes under canon law lies with the local bishop, in this case, Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee. (FYI, Weakland resigned in 2002 after it was it was revealed that he made payments to a young seminarian with whom he had an affair).

    Finally, Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict never advised an end to the canonical proceeding against Murphy.

    In December of 1995, Weakland ordered a preliminary investigation that determined the allegations had merit. Because the charges included the abuse of the sacrament of confession—an offense reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

    Weakland wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger in July 1996 asking for guidance in how to proceed.

    In February 1997, Murphy raised the point that his crimes were committed before the 1983 Code of Canon Law was issued and that under the legal norms in force at the time, the statute of limitations had run out.

    In March 1997, Weakland requested that the statute of limitations be waived. He sent the request in March 1997 to the Apostolic Signatura, noting that he hadn’t heard from the CDF. Because the case involved offenses reserved to the CDF, the Signatura forwarded the request there, and the CDF replied within two weeks.

    The reply came from the secretary of the congregation, Tarcisio Bertone. He instructed Weakland to continue the judicial process against Murphy, thereby waiving the statute of limitations, while asking him to pay attention to certain prior norms that must be read in light of current law.

    In January 1998, Murphy wrotes his own letter to the CDF. He asked the CDF to declare the case invalid because the statute to limitations when the crimes were committed has passed. Murphy also made a mercy-based not to be subjected to a trial at this point in his life.

    Archbishop Bertone refused to honor Murphy’s request to invalidate the pending trial. He did ask, however, in light of Murphy’s health, whether the remedies available under canon 1341 to obtain the reparation of scandal and the restoration of justice should be implemented in lieu of a trial.

    At the time, the case had been transferred to the Diocese of Superior, Wisconsin, in whose territory Murphy was residing. In May of 1998, Bishop Fliss concluded that the scandal in the deaf community was such that the trial needed to go forward.

    The canonical judge in charge of the trial has stated that the trial was scheduled continue, and that the proceeding against Murphy was only ended by his death in August 1998.

    At no time did Cardinal Ratzinger state that the trial should not continue.

  • mark

    Seems to me that there are multiple issues here:

    the sexual revolution and its consequences;

    allowing homosexuals to become priests;

    the abuse of the young men by those homosexual priests;

    the coverup by the hierarchy of the abuse;

    whether the Pope participated in the coverup, and it seems to me he did not.

    But one thing sticks in my mind, those who are forgiven forgive. The one thing needed is forgiveness. This lady refuses to forgive.

  • mark

    Seems to me that there are multiple issues here:

    the sexual revolution and its consequences;

    allowing homosexuals to become priests;

    the abuse of the young men by those homosexual priests;

    the coverup by the hierarchy of the abuse;

    whether the Pope participated in the coverup, and it seems to me he did not.

    But one thing sticks in my mind, those who are forgiven forgive. The one thing needed is forgiveness. This lady refuses to forgive.


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