It was only a matter of time before the defenses started.
Yesterday it was brought to light that Father C. John McCloskey, the famous Opus Dei priest who brough Newt Gingrich and others into the Catholic Church, groped woman who came to him for spiritual direction several times in 2005. Opus Dei quietly paid the woman $977,000 and “curtailed” his ministry, telling him to only give spiritual direction to women in a confessional with a physical barrier between himself and his directee. Words cannot express how inadequate this response was.
And right on queue, people began defending the priest’s misconduct. It did not escape my notice that two public Catholics who defended and coddled McCloskey are known for condemnation of “effeminacy” in the Church and fixation on conspiracies involving homosexuals in the priesthood. But when a priest’s victim is female, they rise to his defense.
Father Dwight Longenecker, who thinks the Works of Mercy are pelagianism and that the Fruit of the Holy Ghost known as gentleness is for sissies, has risen to the pervert’s defense. Today he tweeted, “Fr. McCloskey was a good priest who befriended, helped and encouraged me when I was very down. He prophesied my future and helped me move forward to the priesthood. When someone stumbles may we have the grace and mercy to remember the good we did not just their weakness.”
Molesting a woman, is a “stumble.”
Professor Janet E. Smith, whose facebook page is always awash in conspiracy theories about a lavender mafia sending gay priests to infiltrate the Church and molest our youth, has barely a shrug for a molested woman. “Can this really be? I understand he has advanced dementia. I am heartbroken on several counts. Added: “Celebrity” priests are under great attack by Satan. He can bring a lot of people down with them. Added: and why such a huge amount for such an offense?”
Since the molestation took place in 2005, his current dementia has nothing to do with the case, but that’s not the part that shocks me. It’s that last afterthought. “Why such a huge amount for such an offense?”
Why such a huge amount for such an offense?
For being molested by a priest?
Would she opine on how much money would be too much, if the victim were a teenage boy? No, she wouldn’t have time. She’d go back to saying it confirmed her beliefs about a Lavender Mafia hell bent on destroying the Church.
According to folks like these, when a priest abuses a woman, it’s a “stumble” and a “spiritual attack.” We ought to think of good things to say about them. We should offer them all the grace we can and opine that a settlement for their crimes is too high.
Let me tell you, it’s not too high.
I know other women who were sexually abused by priests they went to for help. Their lives were destroyed. It’s not the kind of thing you can get over.
Priests who grope women are like priests who grope men and boys: monsters. Sexual predators are monsters. Whatever show they put on for the public, they are not good men. Their other good deeds can’t offset that indiscretion because it’s more than an indiscretion. They’re not under “demonic attack,” they are themselves attacking others and acting demonically.
It’s not that I can’t empathize with Father Dwight and Professor Janet. I understand feeling betrayed and in denial when it turns out a priest you loved is a monster. I loved Father Mike Scanlan. He was my spiritual director for more than a year. I received very good counsel from him and I definitely look back upon that as one of the reasons I’m still a Catholic despite what I’ve been through. But last year, it was revealed that Father Scanlan attacked and emotionally abused women to defend his sexual predator friend Father Sam Tiesi from being exposed. He cavalierly put the whole university’s student body in danger, to protect a monster. I can’t even describe the horror and cognitive dissonance that such a revelation caused in me. I was beyond shocked.
But I don’t defend him.
I believe the victim. There’s nothing in her testimony that makes me think she was lying. I also believe that the positive experiences I had with Father Scanlan were real, and I will always be grateful for them. But a priest who deliberately abuses– whether sexually like Father McCloskey and Father Tiesi or emotionally like Father Scanlan– is not a good priest under spiritual attack or a man of God “stumbling.” He’s a bad, evil man who can’t control his impulses and victimizes someone he ought to help and protect. And we have to acknowledge that in the aftermath of the scandal becoming public.
We especially can’t stoop to a despicable double standard, whereby priests who abuse men are monsters but priests who abuse women are good men under attack. It’s scandal and grave shame if someone claiming to represent Catholic teaching on sexuality publicly obsesses over the horror of men abusing other men but thinks a large cash settlement is too much for a female victim of the same abuse. It’s indefensible when a priest who is constantly attacking fellow priests for what he views as their errors on the Church’s teaching on celibacy, would suddenly come out so defensive about a priest groping a woman.
What Father McCloskey did makes him a monster– no less so because his victim is a woman. And anyone who tries to excuse him is acting monstrously. They are also guilty of a scandalous double standard if this is their public response to attacks on women when they’ve been so appalled (rightly) by attacks on males.
Female victims are not less valuable than men.
(image via Pixabay)