Time to go
to first principles
Commentary by ADAM
… it seems (the
Pope) and other leaders of the Church still do not appreciate the gravity
of what has allegedly transpired.
case of John Oeday: a married man, a gifted middle school science teacher.
He pays taxes, raises his kids—a regular American.
out John is attracted to younger women. In fact, not just younger women,
but teenagers. One day he decided to force himself on a 13-year-old girl
down the street named Mary. In other words, he raped her. And he was
What do you
think happened to Mr. Oeday? Scenario one is he was convicted of rape and
sent to prison. End of story.
two is the jury told him what he did was wrong but sent him back to his
suburban home to see if he could behave better next time? Or perhaps the
judge told him he had to move across town to a different suburb.
Mary Lou were 9 years old instead of 13? Was John acting as a pedophile,
or as sexual abuser of minors, or as a rapist? Does it matter? (John Oeday
the Pope summoned the American cardinals and bishops to Vatican City. It
was an unusual meeting called to address the subject of the sexual abuse
of minors. In the statement that came out of the two-day meeting, the
Pope, bishops and cardinals affirmed, among other things, that "The
sexual abuse of minors is rightly considered a crime by society and is an
appalling sin in the eyes of God …" The statement went on to say
"Even if the cases of true pedophilia on the part of priests and
religious are few, all the participants recognized the gravity of the
problem … Attention was drawn to the fact that almost all the cases
involved adolescents and therefore were not cases of true
with the fact that a link between celibacy and pedophilia cannot be
scientifically maintained, the meeting reaffirmed the value of priestly
celibacy as a gift of God to the Church."
to the problem, the church leaders proposed "Pastors of the Church
need clearly to promote the correct moral teaching of the Church and
publicly to reprimand individuals who spread dissent … (emphasize)
fidelity to the Church’s teaching, especially in the area of morality
… (observe) a national day of prayer and penance, in reparation for the
offenses perpetrated and in prayer to God for the conversion of sinners
and the reconciliation of victims."
proposed a process for the removal of a priest "who has become
notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory, sexual abuse of
what I am most confounded by is why we, the public, were waiting on the
edge of our seats for the Pope and the cardinals to speak. Why were we
waiting for the Pope to reveal to us that these abuses were rightly
considered a crime?
Why are we
not hearing from district attorneys, prosecutors, police chiefs? If the
victims are coming forward—and they are by the dozens, perhaps hundreds—why
aren’t these cases considered criminal? Forget the debate about
dismissing priests or not. It seems the relevant debate is why aren’t
people going to jail?
more, there are reportedly hundreds of documents that allegedly detail the
ways in which deviant priests were moved around by bishops to cover up the
scandal. If bishops and cardinals did, in fact, know about sexual abuse
cases, even enabled abusers to continue, why aren’t they being
prosecuted? From a layman’s perspective, it would seem they were aiding
and abetting the commission of felonies.
It seems we
are confusing church and state—the very first subject addressed by the
Bill of Rights.
It is all
well and good for the Church’s appointed leaders to speak to issues of
conversion and morality within the Church. But these alleged cases of
sexual abuse—hundreds of them—did not happen only within the confines
of the Church. They were—if true—perpetrated against members of the
Church who are also members of society at large. And once the people have
been violated, it becomes a problem not just within the Church, but for
all of us, for the state. It is incumbent upon the law enforcement and
judicial branches of government to step in and decide what happens to the
alleged perpetrators. While Catholics may believe God is acting through
the words of the Pope and so will guide us out of this morass of
depravity, not all the nation believes that. It is through our laws—in
theory the voice of the people—that that we arrive at some aggregate
measure of the people’s sense of right and wrong. These should be our
it was dramatic and appropriate for the Pope to summons the leaders to
Rome, it seems he and other leaders of the Church still do not appreciate
the gravity of what has allegedly transpired. Their statement is riddled
with ambivalence and lacks leadership.
For one, to
draw distinctions in their statement between pedophilia—which involves
prepubescent children—and sexual abuse of adolescents, the church
leaders are drawing a fine bead on the issue and missing the colossal
they dismissed the notion that celibacy played any part in this problem,
saying the link cannot be "scientifically maintained." It is a
curious approach for the Church to selectively invoke science to argue a
point. I cannot remember a time when the Church has deferred to science.
is not in the statement is what may be the most telling. If the problem is
not celibacy then the implication is that the problem is rooted in
homosexuality. This last proposition, that pedophilia is linked to
homosexuality has been almost uniformly debunked by the scientists who
study sexual disorders.
statement very pointedly addressed those priests "notorious and …
guilty of the serial, predatory, sexual abuse of minors." They would
be dismissed. But what of the others—those that aren’t
"notorious"? (Do they mean those more discreet?) What about the
sporadic abusers? Apparently those who molested or raped just a few kids
here and there would be left to "conversion."
well and good for church leaders to have faith in the power of conversion
for priests who have strayed, but tell that to the children who were raped
is a luxury victims may or may not choose to partake in. It is not
something that comes about as a by-product of conversion.