The ongoing dilemma – well its more than a dilemma I suppose – the ongoing troubles in and with the Catholic Church an institution of which I am a member is the continuing exposure of the past abuse of minors by the members of the clergy, the priests, and the hiding or covering up of that abuse by the bishops and cardinals. Here in Boston we had Cardinal Bernard Law who had a stellar reputation who some looked upon as a potential first American Pope. He was not accused of abusing any child or young adult; his wrong was that he covered up that abuse.
Yes, he had cover for his cover-up. He could point to psychiatrists, psychologist, or lawyers who told him the abuser priests had been cured and were no longer a danger to the children. Be that as it may, the idea that he would tolerate one priest abusing a child in the first place was something he could never justify.
His blindness to his permissiveness in allowing such priests to return to positions where they could abuse more children for the sake of saving the Church embarrassment resulted in opening a real Pandora’s Box. From it flowed and continues to flow the countess stories of sexual sins against children by priests throughout the nation and the world. Like with the box that Pandora opened when the lid was put back on what remains is hope; a hope the bleeding stops and the Church does not die the death of a thousand cuts from the ongoing scandals and can recapture its beauty.
In Pennsylvania a grand jury reported up to 400 priests in six diocese abused more than one thousand children. Yes, grand juries have many faults as the prominent defense attorney Al Johnson and others pointed out in comments to this blog. Yes, the figures may have been highly exaggerated. Even so, many in the Church accept those figures recognizing the Church opened itself up to this scandal by perpetuating the harm. I’ve read that at least four more attorney generals in other states are going to follow Pennsylvania’s example .
There is no way the Church can stop this damning publicity. It will continue drop by drop until what? Or until when? What then is the purpose of these continuing exposés?
Do we need to see more priestly sins against the children? Do we need to know more about how those in the upper echelons of the church hid and abetted these actions? Only if going into the past discovers and roots out priests or bishops who are still active who have been involved in these matters does it make sense but judging from Pennsylvania we can expect little of that.
Whatever its purpose or whatever the outcome it will add very little to our knowledge. We know what happened in the Church. I assume most if not almost all will agree there were many priests who abused many children. They will agree that their actions were abetted by and covered up by those above them.
What we need is for the Church to ensure that it never happens again. Not so much that no priest will ever abuse a child again, for is that is impossible; but to ensure that upon discovery that priest will be cast out of the Church expeditiously upon proof of the wrongdoing.
How then does the Church ensure there will be no future cover-ups? This brings me to the question of gay priests. Is this possible to do if gays are members of the priesthood?
We have seen that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick engaged in gay sex with young seminarians. This was well-known in the Church. Yet he went on year after year rising in prominence. His actions were reported to Pope John Paul II but he was not deterred from giving McCarrick his cardinal’s cap. We learned as recently as Sunday that a complaint that a “current priest in the Diocese of Paterson, N.J., allegedly had seduced an 18-year-old man from Lasch’s parish in the mid-1980s was ignored.”
There are some who assert: “Most of the abusers were homosexual priests abusing adolescent males.” Santa Clara University psychologist Dr. Thomas G. Plante who has spent more than 30 years researching and treating psychological issues among Catholic clergy and laypersons would disagree. He avers: “It’s perfectly understandable that people could be confused by this, because we know that 80 percent or more of the clerical sexual abuse victims are boys. So people conclude that if you get rid of homosexuals in the clergy, then you’ve got the problem solved. And it doesn’t work that way.”
He says most of the abusers are “situational generalists.” Generalists do not have a specific sexual preference for youth, but instead “turn to children as a sort of substitute.” They seek readily available victims. “Priests for the most part had access to boys, and trust with boys, much more so than girls,” Plante said, noting that this proximity has led to the erroneous correlation between homosexuality and clerical abuse.
Cardinal Raymond Burke has a different view. “It was clear after the studies following the 2002 sexual abuse crisis that most of the acts of abuse were in fact homosexual acts committed with adolescent young men. There was a studied attempt to either overlook or to deny this. Now it seems clear in light of these recent terrible scandals that indeed there is a homosexual culture, not only among the clergy but even within the hierarchy, which needs to be purified at the root. It is of course a tendency that is disordered. . . . I believe that there needs to be an open recognition that we have a very grave problem of a homosexual culture in the Church, especially among the clergy and the hierarchy, that needs to be addressed honestly and efficaciously.”
What then to do?