It’s not undeserved
To the Editor,
We are inclined to judge the past by out cultural consciousness of the present. Good examples of this are the Hollywood #MeToo movement, current racial perceptions and the Catholic church sex abuse scandal.
Recently the Pennsylvania Attorney General released a grand jury report of 301 former priest abusers who are deceased, defrocked or in jail for crimes occurring predominantly over a 50 year period ending in 2000.
Since the first airing of the abuse 18 years ago, the church has enacted stringent policies and guidelines for anyone involved with minors in the church. Any accusation calls for immediate reporting to the police and suspension of duties of the accused. They are presumed guilty until proven innocent. Because of these rules, now in place for over 16 years, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has dramatically decreased and with the psychological screening conducted today, unsuitable candidates for the priesthood mostly eliminated.
There is no question the sexual abuse was and is an abomination of the desecration of the innocence of children. And the coverup and transfer of abusers to other unwitting parishes was the height of hypocrisy and incredibly ignorant.
Yet the cultural naivete of the period contributed significantly to the problem. Priests by the laity were placed on super human pedestals beyond moral reproach. Today we see them as flawed human beings, like ourselves, readily capable of being sinners as well as saints. Young men naively believed becoming priests would inoculate them from their predisposition to sexual deviation; and the church as well viewed pedophilia solely as a spiritual problem that could be solved spiritually. When they shifted to the behavioral sciences for solutions, they, like many parents today who invested $20,000 to $30,000 in residential treatment centers for their opioid addicted children, eventually realized that arena could not cure either. That sexual, like drug addiction, is incurable, often with numerous relapses until the addicted become desperate for freedom and with the help of God, navigate a new beginning “one day at a time.” Another tragedy of abuse is too often the abused become abusers themselves, thus perpetuating the pernicious cycle.
Regardless of the institution, the knee-jerk reaction is always self preservation. Hiding the truth magnifies, perpetuates and compounds the problem and is always counter productive. It diverts our attention from what is most important and focuses our energy on covering up. We lose our integrity and therefore our credibility.
And so now, diocese by diocese, state by state, there will be a rehashing of the abuse scandal for years to come, until every diocese is brought financially to its knees and it will no longer be lucrative for law firms to litigate against the church.
Until then, the church will periodically be steeped in shame. And sadly, I can’t say it’s undeserved.