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Abuse and Arrogance Cannot be Tolerated

A Wayne resident writes that her faith community "can emerge from this dark veil of tears."

These are certainly dark days for the Catholic Church--especially for those of us who live in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

I have felt and continue to feel blest to be a product of a Catholic education from elementary school through college. The faith my parents gave to me through the sacrament of Baptism was nurtured by their example at home and it grew in maturity and understanding immersed in the safe and loving and well-run Catholic schools in which my siblings and I were educated. In June, my youngest will join her older three siblings as a proud graduate of St. Katharine of Siena elementary school in Wayne and she will go on to 4 more years of Catholic education at my alma mater, Villa Maria Academy in Malvern.

In recent days, it seems as though Wayne is ground zero for news concerning accusations of priest misconduct. I can only speak for myself, but I am weary and sad, so terribly sad.  Sad for any boy or girl who was ever violated; sad for the families who have to deal with their hurting children; sad for the priests who may be wrongfully or mistakenly accused; sad for the priests who got so terribly off-track sexually, spiritually and emotionally that they abused their positions and corrupted young innocents and I feel sad for our local Catholic Community.

No doubt, more of my fellow Catholics will be so disgusted with the latest round of priest suspensions that they will “leave the Church.” But I will not leave.  And I hope that my children will not become so discouraged or horrified that they abandon their faith.  Because although it is both unacceptable and immoral for any priest to abuse another human being and for a church administrator to fail to keep known predators from coming into contact with innocents again through reassignments, my faith is in the Catholic Church, founded by one God-Man, Jesus.

That a few sick, perverted or misguided souls use their free will to hurt individuals and an entire community is unfortunately not a new phenomenon. We only need review the distant and not-so-distant history of mankind for examples of abuse of power and trust by one set of human beings against another.  Yet, I know from my personal faith journey of 49 years on this planet that most priests are truly good people. In fact, at my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary Mass and party last month, we had six priests help us celebrate their beautiful Catholic marriage.

None of these wonderful, self-giving and joyful men have had their names and photos splashed in the local newspapers for inappropriate behavior. Instead, they live out their vocations with great generosity and love day in and day out, not perfectly, I am sure, but with a commitment to the message of Jesus and in service to His people.

They, too, are hurt and disgusted and bewildered by the sinful actions of some of their own.  How hard it must be, I have thought, to step outside on a city or suburban street wearing a Roman collar these days.  What kinds of looks do they feel penetrating their persons as they walk by?  Not all priests are holy.  Certainly not all Catholics are holy.  But I have had the privilege to have known some holy folks.

We need to keep our eyes fixed on the life and message of the person of Jesus.  Those who are arrogant or abuse their power in the name of the Catholic Church distort the message of this Servant Leader and their haughtiness cannot be tolerated.

I do have hope that our faith community can emerge from this dark veil of tears.  But to do so, I believe each member of the Catholic Church needs to re-visit the simple yet powerful lesson Jesus gave in his Sermon on the Mount. 

Matthew 5:3-12

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Stasia Marie Baier March 17, 2011 at 11:24 AM
I don't believe that anyone is condoning the issues at hand... or how it was handled... and it is apparent that the abusers are no longer allowed to hide in the darkness of their sins.
Rev James F Moran March 17, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Stasia, but they are allowed to hide in the darkness. There are only a handful of (Arch)Dioceses throughout the country who have published a list of known credibly accused priest predators. Those perpetrator pedophile priests are hiding in neighborhoods where no one knows their past, and no way to track them down.
Kathy Siciliano March 17, 2011 at 07:44 PM
Understanding the Nature of Sin Understanding the nature of sin can better allow us to comprehend the abuse these priests inflicted. No man is free of sin...that includes the Catholics clergy. As a Catholic, I am extremely disturbed by the criminal and immoral behavior of these clerics, but I am not surprised by it. Priests are no freer of sin than anyone else. They should just know the rules better. I cannot, however, condone the churches roll in the cover-up. Their arrogance is especially appalling. Recognizing, disclosing and sentencing the individuals responsible for the despicable acts are small steps toward atonement. We should not allow sin and down-right bad behavior to deter us from our own faith, God, and enlightenment.
Toni J March 18, 2011 at 01:16 AM
I agree with Father Moran. The victims have been the ones bringing the issue into the light, not the Church. In a parish in my home town a very popular priest, (I thought the world of this priest at one time), adopted 13 children 11 of them boys. The Archdiocesan knew of this priest's previous acts of pedophilia against boys and remained silent on his adoptions. He was a pastor of the same church for 18 years. It came to light the Church knew in the late 1960s this priest had a problem before he was ordained in 1975. He served until 2002. His victims brought the issue to light not the Church.
Ed March 18, 2011 at 01:17 PM
SarahTX2 you are right on the mark! As a result of the organizational structure of the RC Church it can never "emerge from this dark veil of tears." The bishop has absolute control of what takes place within his diocese. The best the people can hope for is a benevolent bishop, a matter of luck. They have no choice in selecting their bishop, and no means to remove him if he is evil. There is no system of "Checks and Balances," and laypeople can not make binding decisions that are independent of the bishop. The Church will never relinquish its power. For the people who remain in the RC Church this is a hopeless situation. The RC Church is a world monarchy, holds all the cards, and likes it that way! The only recourse the people have is when civil authorities step-in on their behalf, and this is always "after the fact." They are there to prosecute offenders, not to maintain a healthy environment within the Church. Offenders have been put in prison, and other successfully sued.However, vast numbers of pedophile priests and their supervisors, escape any penalty, being hidden, protected and defended by the RCC. Many dismissed pedophile priests receive their retirement and health care at the people's expense. Others receive promotions, and live a life of luxury under the protection of the Vatican, i.e., Cardinal Law. I take two action to combat this corrupt organization: keep the Church's evil actions fresh in the mind of the public; never give money.

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