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DEals and STeals

April 17, 2015

“What’s in a name? That which we call a crime
By any other name would smell as sour.”





Lombardi said Wednesday that the cardinals’ group spoke specifically about “abuse of office, of neglect of responsibility” by leaders in the church in reporting abuse. He said those leaders included “bishops, priests, religious superiors.”


And the laity?


Here, from The American Conservative, a letter from a Roman Catholic priest:
Here is an extraordinary e-mail from a Roman Catholic priest who hopes to give some insider perspective on why Archbishop Myers of Newark may have assigned this sex offender priest to a prestigious archdiocesan position. I republish it here with his permission. I have edited out a couple of things to protect the priest’s identity:

You may remember we corresponded a couple of times, most recently when I testified at a trial for an abuse victim. He’s doing well–God be praised!–but I’m less so. I’ve kept my faith, though.

I think there are certain aspects of the clerical culture at play in Abp. Myers’ decision. There’s no single factor that can be pointed to.

First, I think we have to always remember that priests are in the business of forgiving sins. It’s a constant in pastoral life, whether in the confessional or not, that people tell you things they’ve done wrong, and reveal their dark sides to you. You learn to suppress your judgement, and always to offer hope and the possibility of a new beginning. If, as a priest, a layman came to me as a sex offender of the most horrible kind, I would swallow my disgust, and try to find some way to help him move forward. It’s part of the job description.

I think this dynamic is at work in bishops dealing with priest offenders. They have in front of them someone who, for all the rotten things he’s done, is still a broken child of God.

The second factor that’s important is that priests generally don’t grasp the seriousness of the offense, and the damage it does. We see this in Cardinal Mahony, but it’s not just him. I wish I knew why this was so. It seems to me common sense that assaulting children sexually or otherwise damages them.

The attitude lingers, largely, because even now most clerics haven’t heard a victim’s story. I was revolted by these things from the first moment I heard of them, but it wasn’t until I dealt with a victim that my reaction became visceral. Abp. Myers probably hasn’t had a real conversation with a victim, or a victim’s parent, and so the damage done is still abstract.

It’s a matter of proximity. A broken priest directly in front of you vs. a victim who you perceive as somebody who’s just angry and demanding, but not somebody you have daily contact with.

The third factor is where clericalism comes in. There’s a tendency among priests to hypostasize the priesthood. Being a priest is thought to bestow a certain dignity and grace on a person, and that grace objectively must be safeguarded. The world is objectively better off with more priests than less. So, even if a man is totally corrupt, the idea is that he’s still a priest, and that must be held onto at all costs. I’ve found this attitude myself when I’ve wondered if I can stay part of an organization that, in some areas, has become irredeemably lost. “We have to find a way to preserve your priesthood” was said to me by my superior.

The only analogy to this that occurs to me is in the context of the Eucharist. Karl Rahner was silenced by the CDF in the ’50′s over his writings on concelebration of the Eucharist. Part of his argument in that book was that there was an overemphasis on the phenomenon of transubstantiation–the ex opere operato of the sacrament–to the neglect of the salvific character–the ex opere operantis. His claim was that multiplying masses was pointlesss without the latter. But, some argued that the more masses said, the better.

So, no matter what the person did, the priesthood, as a thing, must be saved. I sometimes think it’s even more important than the person who’s actually a priest. It’s certainly, for many, more important than any victim.

There are other factors than these three. Social phenomena have complicated etiologies. But, these are the most important.

Tonight on HBO the documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God premiers. I saw a preview screening. The only criticism to be made is that it’s part of Rembert Weakland’s attempt to rehabilitate himself and shift some of the blame onto Ratzinger. But, of course, Weakland was the one who said in his diocesan newspaper: ”Not all adolescent victims are so innocent. Some can be very sexually active and aggressive and often quite streetwise.”




What more needs to be said. Isn’t it obvious what is at play here?

And some Catholics say, “What’s it to you, you’re not Catholic?” Do not think I have not experienced abuse at the hands of Catholic men … and women. The details on this will be coming out soon enough, and not by me. There is another, and he also goes by the name FRANCIS, but he is truer to pastoral care than most of his Superiors.




Peace and Love





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