With dismay I cannot ignore the latest pedophile scandal in the Pennsylvania dioceses. Pennsylvania’s my home state…Philadelphia (and in every Pennsylvania diocese) so this is particularly galling, not only to my friends who are Catholic but to all there I know who care about justice for kids.
300 and more priests are caught up on this latest series of violations and cover-ups extending back three generation, having deeply harmed well over a thousand children.
Any institution so prizing celibacy invites psycho-sexually compromised young men; it offers them community respect, room, board, a calling. Whomever else becomes a priest, too many do who do not understand what presses them more than, at best, in inchoate ways...why would they not enthusiastically take up the Church's sanctuary?
I share here a piece I offered some years ago on this issue, in 2012:
The Church Should Not Ditch Its Pedophiles
My hometown, Philadelphia, is most recently well-known for its criminally accused and criminally liable priests, thirty-seven of them. One, Monsignor William Lynn -- the first member of the U.S. Church hierarchy to suffer a conviction in the scandal -- is serving a serious prison term not for rape but for helping to bury the pedophilia scandal by shredding internal Church documents. Copies were subsequently found (by my guess saved by some heroic female office lay worker in the Archdiocese).
The diocese is also now known for the fact that the Church there has not lived up to its no-tolerance pledge. Like many mammoth institutions, the Church has found moving molesters onward and, at times, upward, far simpler than confrontation.
It's tempting in enormous organizations with global reach not to confront.
(It happened in the United States Army, for instance, when layer upon official layer noted that Major Hassan, well before he shot up Fort Hood, had increasingly behaved erratically and yet he was not considered for discharge. When he committed his crime in November, 2009, a conventional wisdom adopted by many had it that his being Muslim, that in itself, made his superiors tender about taking steps. I remain convinced that even if there's something to that, the answer lies more in the ability of large institutions to avoid unpleasantness.)
So…back to my hometown priests and to the Church and what to do with these molesters, rapists, and officials who protect them.
I am not in favor of the Church simply ridding themselves of these priests. If that's zero-tolerance, it's flawed. The Church should have to be held accountable to its faithful and to the rest of us -- including those who have taught distraught teens after they've been pulled from diocesan schools by horrified parents -- by taking full responsibility for these men. The Church recruited, groomed, educated, trained, and ordained these men and provided them, worldwide and for generations, extraordinary access to tens of millions of children.
Cashiering these men would force secular society to assume a responsibility wholly that is not wholly ours. There's no reason to think that pedophilic priests, defrocked and loosed onto the streets, would be less dangerous than they were, say, at Saint Paul's or Saint Bart's. In fact, defrocked and on the loose, they'd be harder to identify within the thousands of communities their presence would make vulnerable.
Unless civil society is prepared swiftly to try, convict, and imprison these men, all of them and for decades, the Church should not be now permitted, having fostered and perpetuated this enormous, rolling crime, to foist pederasts, one after the next, on the rest of us.
Zero-tolerance should mean that the Church should keep them, with an oversight arrangement with secular criminal authority, pay for their upkeep, and in positions and locations that never allow them, not one time, to associate with anyone under twenty-one.
That's not as much of a stretch as it may seem. States Attorneys have, in fact, considered using RICO (anti-organized crime racketeering) statutes to go after malignant dioceses.
While the Church has become a far too safe haven for the sexually and emotionally compromised, it has shown itself too many times unwilling, on its own, to keep these priests isolated. They must be cloistered, overseen by both church and government, until each of them is dead.
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