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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.

ginger March 16, 2011 at 07:35 PM
My anger is over much more than the priests who actually molested children---I am beyond horrified and outraged by the cover-up. Unfortunately, molesters exist in every walk of life. Not to excuse their behavior in any way (they need to be put behind bars for the safety of society), but often they are probably influenced by deviant obsessions and previous abuse they may have received as children that may actually mitigate, if only slightly, their heinous crimes. Those who in calm, cold-blood, kept putting these sexually deviant men into situations where they would have access to children, make my blood boil far more. The bishops and other hierarchs who calmly circulated these men around cared not one whit for either souls of those priests or for the souls and bodies of the children they abused. I remain Catholic, only because I believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist and cannot find that in any other Church. The more I learn about the corruption and evil within so many members of the hierarchy, the more disturbed and ashamed of the institutional Church I become. Educating myself about the saga of Marcial Maciel and how his money and influence bought the protection of so many cardinals was a real eye-opener to me. I remain Catholic, but my eyes have been opened in a way I never believed possible. I no longer have any faith in the hierarchy whatsoever. My faith is in Christ alone.
SarahTX2 March 16, 2011 at 07:38 PM
Your faith community is not going to simply "emerge from this dark veil of tears." That is exactly the problem. Keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus is not going to save these children. Did you read the Grand Jury Report? This is your church doing this. You are the church. You either are a Catholic and a member of the laity who are allowing and financing this deviance, or you are not. How are your children supposed to filter these filthy messages and remain Catholic? What your children need to see more than anything is you doing something about it rather than just wringing your hands. Remaining passive in the midst of child rape is not what Jesus preached on the Mount.
Rev James F Moran March 16, 2011 at 07:43 PM
Mary Sheila McDonald, Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic of clergy sexual abuse and for standing up for those preists who are "the good guys." Unfortunately is goes over and above the level of priesthood and shows us the brokenness of the hierarchy as well as those "bad apples" who abused the spiritual and phsycal elements of the children and vulnerable adults under their care. I was in seminary ahen I was raped by a priest (Anthony J> Laurnao) in the parish I was assigned to as a Deacon (Sacred Heart, Roslindale, MA) The day after the rape he informed me that he had no remorse for what had happened, said that I had asked for it, and that he used to come into my room in the rectory at night and watch me sleep. To this day, some 40 years later, I cannot sleep through the night. At times I even feel his skin on me andI go frantic. I am a priest. I was ordained after wrestling through a LOT of emotions and theological concerns. In the end I determined that I was a better and bigger person than he was. When I experienced my flashback in 2001 my life was shattered. I feared I was having a nervous breakdown. For the 30+ years of ministry I had hoped that the little good I could do would offset the evil I had experienced. then came the explosino in Januaury 2002 in Boston, and the realization that bishops and cardinals all across the country were part of the cover up.
Rev James F Moran March 16, 2011 at 07:43 PM
Part 2 As a priest I am a "representative" of the bishops and stand for all ltheyi say, do and teach. In conscience I cannot do that. I have been out of medical disability/retirement since 2006. At that time my rapist priest diied at the age of 81 or 82 -- and he was STILL actively abusing people at that time. So, while you pary for the "good guys" please know that the "bad guys" have marked their victims FOR LIFE. You can find more details at www.clergysexualabusevictims.com and www.vimeo.com/13900438 (this is a Cable show myself and two other victims produced to teach non victims the results of abuse of people.)
mark March 16, 2011 at 09:50 PM
The problem with the Catholic Church is that it is a just a secular organization pretending to be a religious one. From the moment it was founded and they fraudulently claimed Peter as their first pope through all the torture and murders they committed, supposedly in God's name they have been a fraud. Read a good novel about the church called On this Rock by Dave Leonard, a good read and lots of interesting facts woven into the story.
Toni J March 16, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Sexual assualt is not primarily motivated by sex, the primary motivations are power, control, and anger. It's insensitve to state these priests became "terribly off-track sexually". The victims were assaulted they were not corrupted, they were children and innocent. The cover-up and protection by the church is inexcusible. I am not sad I am angry. I am a graduate of both a Jesuit high school and university and for this reason and others left the church long ago. It was the right decision for me and respect the decisions of others to remain with the church. However, the language used in your article doesn't seem to acknowledge the gravity of the situation.
Rev James F Moran March 17, 2011 at 12:51 AM
Toni Thanks for your comments - you are right on!
Sarah March 17, 2011 at 12:58 AM
I think the hardest part is not knowing what the charges are. Three priests in our small community are on "the list." They come from three different parishes--St. Katharine of Siena, Our Lady of the Assumption, and St. Isaac Jogues. As a member of St. Katharine's I would like to know what the charges are. I want to know whether my children or other children were put in danger by a Church hierarchy that cared only about self-preservation. Did they just transfer a priest if an unspeakable incident occurred? Sure sounds like it. I believe in my faith but I no longer believe in those who run it. With each Sacrament after Baptism we made conscious decisions to travel further along in our faith, to commit ourselves to the Holy Spirit. The Church demandes we spend years in catechism classes to "deserve" and "qualify" to receive Sacraments, yet when it comes to the sexual abuse issue we are supposed to have no brains and to look the other way. I am saddened and disgusted. Cardinal Rigali needs to tell us what each of these men are accused of--NOW.
Maureen Heron March 17, 2011 at 01:03 AM
There is a culture of secrecy, power absolutism, and suppression of women that has existed in the hierarchical structure of the Church for centuries which has contributed to the crisis we are now facing. For decades there have been psychologists and theologians warning about what can happen when this culture goes unexamined. Individual priests have committed the worst of crimes against children, mis-guided clerical leaders have enabled it in the name of " protecting the church" and most Catholics, myself included , have remained fairly passive. I have a sense that there is finally a " sea change" occurring among the lay people who are the future of a church . I think we have found a voice that says the statute of limitations should be changed so that all victims may find their voice and be heard. I hope that we support a more active role for women in church ministry and I pray that out of this crisis, a renewal of faith will emerge, a faith based on the teachings of Christ who promised that he would not leave us orphans.
Stasia Marie Baier March 17, 2011 at 03:04 AM
With so much pain entwined on this subject, I don't believe the author or ANYONE is trying to minamalize the tragedies thrust upon innocent victims... just name the 'other innocent victims.' I would be remiss if I did not state openly the extreme gratitude that I feel for the wonderful religious n MY life that touched me in a 'life giving' way... I am blessed to have never been touched by the evil of abuse. Yet just as the victims need to be heard to heal - many of us need to be heard on some of what was RIGHT with our church. My heart and prayers, have and will continue to be with those whose lives have forever been scarred by these sins.
Toni J March 17, 2011 at 04:06 AM
The teachings of the Catholic Church, of Jesus Christ are not in question, the the decision(s) of the Church to cover-up abuse and protect sexual predators is what is being addressed. I am not a victim of abuse by a priest. To this day I have nothing but gratitude for the Jesuit education I received. However, condemning this issue with the Church and respecting the faith, what the Church stands for are not mutually exclusive.
Ed March 17, 2011 at 11:12 AM
--Ginger - I'm with you completely. I now have nothing to do with the RC Church emotionally. I attend Mass (physically present) on Sundays because it makes my wife happy, but my heart is far from it, and I never give money. I was once a very committed Catholic seminarian. While I there, I found out about the filth that was taking place, as well a the cover-up. It was extensive, not isolated, as some would like you to believe. Before I left I blew the whistle on a pedophile priest and my superiors detested me for doing it. That priest is now in prison, and consider that to be one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I hate the hierarchy, and disrespect them whenever it is warranted. You stated, "I remain Catholic, only because I believe in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist and cannot find that in any other Church." Actually, there are alternatives. The Orthodox Church in America, and the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, all have the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, as well as all of the other sacraments. The validity of their sacraments had always been recognized by the RC Church. If it weren't for my wife I would be a member of one of them now.
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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