Zero Tolerance and the Case of Fr. Jaeger

Fr. Jaeger is in the news in Seattle still. Gave a rubdown to a some kids at camp a couple of times 24 years ago and ten years later one or two of them decided this was abuse. He’s been eyed by the diocese for a decade or so (after the Rudy Kos thing and some trouble here in Seattle in the late 80s resulted in Raised Consciousness for the archdiocese) and is now being yanked from ministry, apparently.

Now, it irks me to have to speak a word of defense for Fr. Jaeger because everything I know about the guy tells me he would irritate the hell out of me. I have little doubt that his life’s work has involved advancing, in whatever ways possible, an agenda of dissent from the Church’s teaching–particularly about matters sexual. There’s a lot of these guys in Seattle. I doubt not a bit that all the frustration and exasperation my friend at Blessed Sacrament felt would have been felt by me if I’d been there to hear Fr. Jaeger speak.

But you know, I have to ask: Is it really just to sacrifice a guy on the altar of Zero Tolerance because he once gave a rubdown to a some kids at camp (the majority of whom don’t seem to have regarded themselves as abused in any way)? Especially since nothing like it has ever happened again and we see no evidence of “pattern of abuse”, merely an imprudent action a quarter of a century ago?

This is what bugs me about Zero Tolerance. It seems like a great idea on paper, but then you run into situations like this and every problem is dealt with on a black and white basis: a basis that appears to me to crucify people for relatively minor things while turning a blind eye to much more serious matters of neglect and betrayal (such as Fr. Cloherty’s betrayal ) which don’t happen to constitute “abuse” as narrowly defined by the Policy.


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