The Roman Catholic Church, the sexual abuse of children, the media: making sense of it all

pope-benedict I wanted to hold off launching a blog discussion about this issue till after Easter. I thought media attention on the issue might have peaked by now but it seems to be escalating. 

So let’s discuss this issue here: the allegations of sexual abuse of children by priets, the facts, the church’s and Pope Benedict’s handling of the issue, the media’s coverage of it. I’ve deliberately not linked to any media stories in this blog post, so please add links that you think others should consider following like pornaddiction.help to help the nation their porn addiction.

FYI, I grew up Catholic, and spent 7 years in a Catholic seminary where I got a very good education and loved my time there. Yes, I’m an atheist now but that has little to do with my experience as a Catholic.

235 thoughts on “The Roman Catholic Church, the sexual abuse of children, the media: making sense of it all”

  1. On This American Life this past weekend: Confession:

    Patrick Wall was a special kind of monk. He was a fixer. The Catholic church sent him to problem parishes where priests had been removed because of scandal. His job was to come in, keep events from going public and smooth things over until a permanent replacement priest was found. But after four different churches in four years, after covering up for pedophiles and adulterers and liars and embezzlers he decided to make a change. Carl Marziali tells his story. (21 minutes)

  2. Somehow, Griff, I’m having a hard time being convinced that your experiences as a Catholic has “little to do” with your atheism. Call me an equal-opportunity skeptic. 🙂

    1. David,

      Many people contend that Pope Benedict has done much to address the problem. Others see him as part of the problem.

      Many are criticizing the media coverage in the past few weeks, especially the New York Times. Others think they’ve done a good job.

      So there’s room for debate, it would seem. 😉

  3. Here’s a column by Father Thomas T. Brundage that appeared in the Catholic Anchor, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska: Milwaukee church judge clarifies case of abusive priest Father Murphy: “Then-presiding judge for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee gives first-person account of church trial.”

    I will limit my comments, because of judicial oaths I have taken as a canon lawyer and as an ecclesiastical judge. However, since my name and comments in the matter of the Father Murphy case have been liberally and often inaccurately quoted in the New York Times and in more than 100 other newspapers and on-line periodicals, I feel a freedom to tell part of the story of Father Murphy’s trial from ground zero.

    As I have found that the reporting on this issue has been inaccurate and poor in terms of the facts, I am also writing out of a sense of duty to the truth. The fact that I presided over this trial and have never once been contacted by any news organization for comment speaks for itself.

    My intent in this column is to accomplish the following:

    To tell the back-story of what actually happened in the Father Murphy case on the local level;

    To outline the sloppy and inaccurate reporting on the Father Murphy case by the New York Times and other media outlets;

    To assert that Pope Benedict XVI has done more than any other pope or bishop in history to rid the Catholic Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse and provide for those who have been injured;

    To set the record straight with regards to the efforts made by the church to heal the wounds caused by clergy sexual misconduct. The Catholic Church is probably the safest place for children at this point in history.

  4. Apropos of nothing in particular, simply because this thread has “Catholic” in the title, I have to share a link that is probably one of the most astonishing uses of web technology to date.

    It’s a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel and it is truly amazing – allows one to have a 360-degree view, and zoom in on everything including the ceiling. It’s almost enough to make me want to convert. To Catholicism, I mean, I’ve already converted to the technology.

    (Sorry for the thread hijack.)

  5. Plain and simple the Pope needs to be replaced and behavior like abusing minors should never be tolerated or swept under the carpet. That is all I have to say. It is not about being Gay. It is about being Pedophiles they use control to be powerful over the vulnerable. The Church and other entities of society need to more vigilante so this behavior can Stop. That is all I have to say

    1. Patrick: Most media accounts aren’t too far from the Onion’s – humorous in a middle-school kind of way – but of little value to thinking adults.

  6. David,
    The Onion excepted, I haven’t found much of anything that’s humorous in the accounts that I’ve read.

    Although I can’t say that I keep up on “most media accounts,” what I’ve read has only been “of little value” to the extent that The Church does not answer to its membership. Or anyone else.

    1. Patrick:

      There is nothing humorous about sexual abuse no matter who commits it.

      But, c’mon, let’s be fair. One of the current allegations directed at the Pope is that he knowing let a priest transfer to another parish in 1988. That was 22 years ago. His involvement was very peripheral.

      Catholics are the new Jews. Can you imagine the Onion printing something like that about a Jewish leader?

      1. “The new Jews.” Really?

        Perhaps you could explain that comparison in greater detail, because I fail to see your point.

      2. Yes, David. I can imagine The Onion printing something like that about a Jewish leader. They have made fun of many Jewish leaders over the years. That’s what makes them great: no real sacred cows that I’ve been able to discern.

        Also, your analogy of “Catholics are the new Jews” only holds if you can prove that Catholics are being systematically relocated, oppressed, persecuted and slaughtered because of a religious belief. In which case, you’d have to further prove that belief in child rape by church leaders is a religious belief held by Catholics, because that’s what some, select Catholics should have been prosecuted for – in public courts – for many years.

        Instead, they were systematically sheltered and shuffled around by a hierarchy more concerned about institutional reputation than integrity, honesty, morality and the very real pain inflicted on some of its most vulnerable parishioners.

        The Catholic Church, in which I was also raised, has brought this “persecution” on itself by its own complicity in covering the crimes of its leaders.

        Smart Catholics should rescue the Church by breaking from its past using one of their own sacraments: confession.

        Demand that all church leaders involved in these cases be held accountable, from the Pope on down, to outside courts – not complicit ecclesiastical bodies – then rebuild the integrity of the faith. Continued denials of culpability in this pedophile shell game only drag out the pain and exacerbate the damage to the institution.
        .-= (Brendon Etter is a blogger. See a recent post titled Things You Might Hear Me Say to Subtly Remind You That Today Is My 40th Birthday) =-.

      3. Good points, Brendan.

        David: I don’t know who any Jewish religious leaders are (making it very hard to satire them), but how about this Onion satire of a Jewish political leader?

        Israeli PM Debuts New Road Map For Continued Strife

        JERUSALEM—In a historic speech before the U.N. Tuesday, newly elected Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled a comprehensive plan to extend political discord and senseless violence in the Middle East through the next 25 years. Key elements of the 60-page road map include a symbolic and ultimately fruitless 2010 regional summit, a tenuous cease-fire that will be violently broken mid-autumn by an as-yet-unnamed splinter group, a series of hope-shattering assassinations, and two untimely comas. “I intend to lead the nation of Israel out of this senseless, bitter fighting and chaos, and into a new era of organized, carefully thought-out fighting and chaos,” Netanyahu said. “If Israelis and Arabs work together, we can put off lasting peace indefinitely.” Sources close to the prime minister indicated that Netanyahu would be willing to consider Palestinian statehood if such a move led to a full-scale Mideast war.

        http://www.theonion.com/articles/israeli-pm-debuts-new-road-map-for-continued-strif,6715/

      4. David L. – Claims? Seriously?

        I suppose I have the claims of thousands of victims of abuse by clergy and those clergy being shifted around to abuse other children. I guess, since you are stating that Catholics are the new Jews, those claims must be part of some international conspiracy against Catholics? I’m completely unclear on your position here.

        In what way does denial help the Catholic Church move forward? Are you also so in denial as to claim that this sexual abuse was not going on? Are you willing to state that these priests were not shuffled from parish to parish, many who re-offended and never faced criminal trials? What Catholic Church publications are you reading that give you contradictory information; because I know of no credible, objective sources that actually deny the extensive sexual abuse and the hierarchy’s involvement in covering for the offenders.

        Are you honestly trying to claim that none of this happened? Wave your hands or plug your ears, and it will all go away? Is that where you are with this? If so, I’m not sure what I could possibly present here that would poke through that cocoon.

        If I were still active in the Church, I would want the bad extracted, punishment meted out and new leadership in place, so that all the good could continue without their horrible influence.

        This scandal represents a small percentage of priests and bishops and others within the Church. At the very, very least, they are bad employees. At worst, serial criminals. Excise them. They tear down all the good clergy and leaders by association. Make them face the secular court system. Do not continue to legitimize the rape of children by covering for or excusing any of them anywhere. The longer a decisive response is delayed, the greater the damage to the Catholic Church.

        Now, David, if you are in need of “reliable sources,” here’s the English translation of the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s 2001 De delictis gravioribus letter which states, among other things, that –

        “A delict against morals, namely: the delict committed by a cleric against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue with a minor below the age of 18 years.

        Only these delicts, which are indicated above with their definition, are reserved to the apostolic tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” (Ratzinger’s Vatican department at that time)

        and, later in the same letter referring to these “delicts”-

        “Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret. Through this letter, sent by mandate of the supreme pontiff to all the bishops of the Catholic Church…”

        Here’s the link:
        http://www.bishop-accountability.org/resources/resource-files/churchdocs/EpistulaEnglish.htm
        .-= (Brendon Etter is a blogger. See a recent post titled Things You Might Hear Me Say to Subtly Remind You That Today Is My 40th Birthday) =-.

      5. Brendon,

        I’m not denying that it happened. Nor, am I denying that priests were moved after committing these abuses. But, “systematically sheltered and shuffled around a hierarchy more concerned with institutional reputation than integrity, honesty, morality, …”. That is more of a personal bias than a fact.

        The fact is that for many years almost all sexual abuse was kept hidden, including by the victims and their families. Rape used to be grossly under-reported because it was thought that the trauma of having to go through the exposure would just make things worse. If the victim(s) and the priest agreed to keep things quiet, are you saying that the Church should have overridden that decision and should have reported it to the authorities?

        Were these victims prevented from the Church from coming forward before? Did the Church actively prevent law enforcement from engaging in their secular duties to catch and prosecute these people? Those are questions that deserve more attention from the media.

        The idea that the Church should reveal every past allegation and bring it to light sounds like a great solution in this age of everyone bearing their soul,but there are serious problems with this approach. First, should the false allegations be brought up? Second, what if the victim just wants to put things behind them, and bringing forward the allegation is going to cause more harm than good? Third, what if the confession or allegation was given in confidence? Fourth, what if the statute of limitations has run? Fifth, what if a deal was reached to keep matters quiet? etc.

        One of the reasons (my theory) that the Church has received so much attention is that the Catholic Church, unlike many other denominations, has a hierarchical structure that allows lawyers to pursue the institution and not just the individual. Sue the people with the money has been the approach. Obviously, it looks worse when there are more lawsuits. As a result, many archdioceses are now in financial ruins because the archdioceses has voluntarily paid millions to these victims. What about the other denominations and institutions who don’t take responsibility for their employees?

        The media’s solution is to indict the whole Church because a small percentage its employees committed unspeakable acts against children. It’s easy to look back now and say that the Church should have done things differently. But, it is not as if the Church is still doing that. In fact, the Church may have some of the most responsible policies of any institution. And, it may be the only institution that has stepped forward and assumed some responsibility for its complicity. Name me one other employer or institution that has assumed any responsibility for its employees in this area.

        This is indeed a sordid chapter in the Church. But, we need to keep it in perspective. Chasing after the Pope for 22 year old allegations that he didn’t even control sure seems like more of a witch hunt, than responsible reporting. How about the NY Times going after this big story – Two slave-owners prominently featured in stone on Mount Rushmore as being our greatest presidents. What’s with that?

  7. David L is quite correct in pointing out that this is not just a Catholic problem/issue. According to the John Jay report of 2004, between the years 1950-2002 a total of 10,667 individuals had made allegations of child sexual abuse against the Catholic church and dioceses were able to substantiate 6,700 accusations against 4,392 priests in the USA. That would be a rate of 205 allegations and 129 substantiated accusations a year. But according to the Christian Ministry Resources (CMR), a tax and legal-advice publisher serving more than 75,000 congregations and 1,000 denominational agencies nationwide, there are about 3,500 total allegations filed against churches annually. It would follow then that 6% of the total annual accusations of child abuse are filed against Catholic churches. Of all churches in the USA 5% are Catholic, so it would appear that the chance of being abused in a Catholic church are pretty close to as likely as in any other church.

    1. Phil- Thanks for the statistics. There is nothing like some well researched data to put things into perspective.

      1. it also says that priest/clergy are just normal people, not some super human emissary of god or anything.

      2. i’m not letting this go.

        it should be 0 kids molested, if these clergy people are holy,not an acceptable percentage.

        it’s wrong, they should be punished severely and an oversight group should be appointed to watch them for the next foreseeable future. and tax them.

    2. Phil: Do you have the cite for that report? I thought that there was also a more recent report done.

      1. David,

        The 2004 John Jay report can be found here:
        http://www.usccb.org/nrb/johnjaystudy/index.htm
        For the quick and dirty summary there is always the wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Jay_Report
        The CMR numbers can be found in a Christian Science Monitor article here:
        http://www.reformation.com/CSA/csmonitor.htm
        Re later research by John Jay, a new report is expected in December. See http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2009/09-240.shtml

  8. Anthony, I’m in complete agreement. I guess I should take some consolation from the fact that Catholics are no more likely to be molested than members of other churches, but as an ex-Catholic (7 years of Catholic school, even), the actions and inactions of the Church still appall me.

  9. Here are just a couple thoughts I’ve had on this. It seems there is an outcry to remove anyone in a position of authority within the Catholic Church who knew anything about the abuses that have occured. This seems to be a blanket indictment against these people whether they knew nothing (accusation- should have known), knew and did nothing, or whose efforts to do something were not effective. Let’s consider a secular organization whose members in positions of influence have committed such crimes, namely some public school systems. Some of these perpetrators have been exposed as having a pattern for some years. In these cases, should the principle in charge of the school and the superintendent of the system be removed from their positions for being “ineffective” in their handling of some of these cases? It just seems there should be a uniform standard of judgement applied to both organizations, but I may be wrong in my estimation.

  10. if any secular organization would have had the kind of coverup that teh catholic church had, they would be out of business and everyone would be fired that knew anything about it. AND everyone would be in jail.

  11. Anthhony: The data suggests that lack of reporting by the victims is why so many of these cases are now coming to light. That seems consistent with sexual abuse reporting in general.

    1. David,
      It’s not the new cases of abuse that are the source of greatest concern about the Church. Rather, it is the growing body of information about how the Catholic Church responded to these crimes that is most disturbing.

    2. Patrick: I think that it is fair to say the amount of “growing information” is mostly media hype with a significant anti-Catholic bias.

      Here is an example: Today’s headline on page A1 of the Strib, “Pope put off punishing abusive priest.” It isn’t until paragraph 11 on page A11 that the reporter gets to the facts. After 10 paragraphs of describing the Vatican’s (terrible) actions, the reporter notes that the priest pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of lewd conduct. As his civil probation was ending, he asked the Vatican, specifically then Cardinal Ratzinger, to allow him to leave the priesthood.

      The headline is not only inflammatory, it is dead wrong ON THE FACTS. The priest had already been punished by the civil authorities. There was no additional punishment coming. There was no cover-up. The Pope did not put off punishing.

      Yet, this garbage, which is somewhere between 25 and 32 years old is sold as if it were news. If this kind of garbage makes the headlines, don’t you question the veracity of the “growing body of information”? Surely, there must be something from – uhm – this century?

      The Catholic Church today is an easy and popular target on many of the conservative social issues, including abortion and gay marriage. And, she gets very little credit when she speaks out on liberal issues like the war in Iraq or capital punishment. So, there is something for everyone to dislike.

      I wouldn’t expect the media to be fair to the Catholic Church partly because most of them have little or no experience in differentiating the secular from the religious, in either creed or action. However, they could try to do a better job of getting the facts right. The hatchet job like the one in the paper this morning leads me to believe that even the editors don’t spend much time on the FACTS.

      I’m not defending the practice of shuffling priests around after allegations of abuse. But, when those practices are looked at in light of what was the practice of that day, it is not surprising. That was the generally accepted practice. Not reporting is what both victims and perpetrators did.

      If you find what the Church did to be disturbing, I assume that you also find it disturbing that so few parents reported the allegations to the civil authorities.

      1. Anthony: A significant percentage of the allegations that contained credible allegations were settled financially. That was also an incentive for the parents to keep quiet. Parents AND the Church were responsible for the culture of secrecy.

        Currently, financial motivations are one of the many reasons for so much current disclosure.

      2. David,
        You wrote:

        I’m not defending the practice of shuffling priests around after allegations of abuse. But, when those practices are looked at in light of what was the practice of that day, it is not surprising. That was the generally accepted practice. Not reporting is what both victims and perpetrators did.

        David, how do you reconcile your first sentence with what follows after?

      3. David,

        In comment 8.1.6 you rail against what you see as “personal bias” in discussion of this issue. Fair enough, but such a view sits oddly with your reference in 14.3 to a Strib report (it’s picked up from the AP, actually, not that that matters) as decades-old “garbage”.

        Like others, I have no special knowledge whatever of the situation referred to in the Strib story you reference —

        http://www.startribune.com/world/90418614.html?elr=KArks:DCiUBcy7hUiacyKUUr

        and I have no opinion on the the factual accuracy of the AP’s report. But I disagree with your summary of the AP story. If you want to diss the story, fine, but please diss the story that was actually published.

        What seems to have struck you as most garbage-y about the story is an apparent contradiction between the headline, “Pope put off punishing abusive priest” and the fact that (as reported 11 paragraphs later)

        In 1978, Kiesle had been sentenced to three years’ probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two young boys in a San Francisco Bay area church rectory.

        In fact, there’s no contradiction whatever.

        The Pope does not and should not administer criminal punishments. The punishment to which the headline alludes is clerical: defrocking as a priest. This is made perfectly clear in the first sentence of the story, by the way — no need to look 11 paragraphs down to find it.

        The serious allegation against the Pope is that (while still Cardinal Ratzinger) he dragged his feet in acting on the clerical level to defrock this by-then-legally-convicted child molester, and assure to the extent possible that no further such heinous acts should occur in any church-related context — least of all a rectory. (Ugh. Phew. Icky. If that’s “personal bias”, so be it.)

      4. Paul: If you read paragraph 12, it was the priest’s request to leave the priesthood, NOT the allegation of abuse that caused the matter to come to the attention of the Vatican. It was not the matter of defrocking a convicted child molester. (The story says that the conviction was for a misdemeanor charge of lewd conduct. I don’t know if that qualifies him as a convicted child molester.)

        If you read further, you will note that the request for leave was later given (punishment received?). After the priest left the priesthood he later committed another act of abuse.

        So, “Pope put off punishing abusive priest” is not only contradictory to the story itself, it is inflammatory. At that time, both secular and church officials thought the matter was handled. Neither authority was trying to prevent further heinous acts. Is it really fair to require that Vatican to respond to every single allegation taken out of context?

      5. Patrick: I’m also not defending the practice of owning slaves. But, I can understand how George Washington and Thomas Jefferson thought it was permitted in light of their own time.

      6. David,
        In this case, though, you are describing a situation where the slave-holding was secret, took place in a very recent time where everyone agreed that slave-holding was wrong, and the former slave-holders are now supposedly the moral leaders of the Church.

        I remember 1980 – it wasn’t all that long ago. In fact, I was attending a Catholic grade school back then. However, I don’t remember any ambiguity about whether or not ‘inappropriate touching’ was in any way acceptable, excusable, or ‘just something to discretely sweep under the rug.’

        From Wikipedia:

        By 1968 44 out of 50 U.S. states had enacted mandatory laws that required physicians to report cases of suspicious child abuse. Legal action began to become more prevalent in the 1970s with the enactment of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974 in conjunction with the creation of the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect.

        You could, if you choose, say that in the 1970’s and 1980’s, not everyone recognized the importance of observing these laws, or preventing these criminals from repeating their crimes on new victims. That might even be true. However, the Catholic Church was, and is, supposed to be a leader in promoting morality and human decency – not a straggler that gets into compliance against its will.

      7. Patrick: The Church has never said it was acceptable. The Church has, according to its long-standing principles exercised a practice called reconciliation, which means that sins can be forgiven. (This has something to do with someone dying on the cross – if you remember your schooling.) This practice is not “excusing” the behavior; rather, it is recognizing our humanity.

        Lastly, with regard to the allegation that the behavior went unreported to most civil authorities, the allegation has merit. However, you need to remember that in the majority of the cases NEITHER the victim nor the Church reported the incidents. I wouldn’t think about blaming the victim for not reporting the incidents.

        The allegation that the Church was simply moving priests to hide them and the problem doesn’t have much merit. If you listen to the report of Pat Wall cited by Griff from MPR you will notice that detailed records were kept. This is one of the reasons that it has been easier for lawyers to sue the Church.

        Yeah, in 1980, we all knew that it was wrong. But, we hadn’t settled on the best approach to deal with the problem. At that time, we thought therapy (rehabilitation) was the best approach. The mindset in 2010 has shifted to primarily a punishment approach.

      8. David,
        There is a difference between forgiveness and leaving a person in a position where they are likely to sin again – especially if their sin is inflicted on others, and not merely upon themselves.

        You don’t put a junkie in charge of a methadone clinic, and you don’t put a convicted pedophile in a protected position of authority over children.

      9. Patrick: If you look at the statistics from the John Jay report, 59% of the priests accused had 1 allegation against them. We need to remember also that the John Jay study was from 2004. The recent incidents of sexual abuse are comparatively speaking, very low. I believe the updated report suggests that there were 6 in all of 2008.

        The little statistical data that we have suggests that what we are seeing is a lot of media hype about a single organization whose rates of incidents of sexual abuse are unremarkable. Furthermore, the data also suggests, although there is very little data available, that the rates have been reduced to an extent that is remarkably low.

      10. Patrick: I’m not absolving the Church of any responsibility. I’m just trying to keep the issue properly framed with facts instead of anti-Catholic media rants, like the one that I cited above. If you think that constitutes forgiveness, well …

  12. There is no excuse for the behavior of the Catholic Church in this child abuse issue, but there is no excuse for any organizational structure, religious or vigilante, that sets itself above the law on their presumed right to be “above the law”.

    But this happened with a Church, and a person who they had put in the position of ‘Youth Leader” just a few years ago. And even after it was public knowledge, and accusations had been made , the church kept this person in the same youth related position and defended him.
    He should have been immediately removed until the situation was resolved.

    Ultimately the person was convicted. It is a very sad case because more violations occurred while the Church continued to defend their parishioner/employee. It would seem that the Church found itself to be “above the law”.

    This raises a fundamental question of hierarchy; I personally believe that the laws created in a democracy must be adhered to by all, ***although they may not be fair to all***… and there are both historically, and currently, situations of non-equality… but as a society we need to address conditions of non-equality by strong verbal opposition to the existing law, and strong advocacy for change .

    But for a Church to set itself above the law, and especially in a situation of moral behavior, is intolerable to me and most perfectly when there is no conflict with a deeply held religious tenet. I suppose the Churches think they can correct the aberrant behavior; most times this is an empty hope.

    P.S. there is an anonymous commenter on the NFNews who call him/herself “Uberstadt”… does that give you pause?

  13. More today on the liberal-media-hate-the-Church theme from Katherine Kersten:

    http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentary/90405449.html?elr=KArksc8P:Pc:U0ckkD:aEyKUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUU

    This is an op-ed, and so shouldn’t be faulted for “personal bias” — that’s what an opinion piece is all about.

    But Ms Kersten’s bias does show. She complains, for instance, that “the media consistently portray the Catholic Church as having a corner on the sexual abuse market.”

    This is nonsense.

    Remember Jim Jones? The Children of God? David Koresh and the Branch Davidians? Any number of stories about treatment of girls and women among Mormons, Muslims, and others? FGM? I’m not asserting anything about the relative veracity or seriousness of such stories. But the idea that “the media” diss only Catholics in these areas is absurd.

    Ms Kersten’s main point, as I understand it, is that sexual abuse of children among priests is not known to be higher than among other groups. This is interesting, if true, and a fair point to make.

    But it’s beside the main point in the current uproar.

    The live question, for me at least, is not whether some sexual abuse occurs in a very large organization which (rightly) puts many adults in contact with many children. Nor do reasonable people disagree that any such abuse is a terrible thing. The live question is whether any organization has faithfully (no pun intended) and with due diligence done whatever it can—on its own and in cooperation with legal authorities— to minimize such occurrences and prevent re-occurrences. It does not seem to me to be Catholic-bashing to ask such questions.

    1. Paul: I don’t think it is Catholic-bashing to ask whether the Church has faithfully and with due diligence cooperated with legal authorities to minimize future occurrences and prevent re-occurrences. The problem is: I don’t hear anyone asking those questions, or anyone listening to the answers when they are given.

      True, Catholics aren’t the only ones being dissed. But, almost every media account is negative when it is given.

      I am not aware of any evidence that suggests that the Church has ever failed to cooperate with law enforcement efforts to punish priests. It seems to me that the suggestion that the Church is “covering up” for abusive priests is the same kind of covering up that occurred and occurs with sexual abuse.

      The Catholic Church has taken very substantial steps to limit sexual abuse among minors. That was part of the reason the John Jay study (that Phil cited above) was done. The Church wanted to learn the extent of the problem, and have some objective measurement tool to gauge the effectiveness of her actions. The preliminary report from the follow up of the study (again cited above) suggests that the efforts have been extremely successful.

      If you have an answer, why do you think the media hasn’t reported on those figures? Why does the Strib suggest that they have the “…strongest evidence yet of Benedict’s role in unresolved cases”?

      1. Anthony: I don’t have any personal knowledge of the case. A reading of the Strib article and the one you cited reveal the same alleged facts.

        Here are the facts:
        1. A priest is convicted of a misdemeanor charge of lewd conduct.
        2. Three years later, as his criminal probation was ending, the priest asked to be discharged from his duties.
        3. That request was supported by his bishop.
        4. About 5 1/2 years later, his request was granted.
        5. This all happened more than 20 years ago.

        So, this all proves what?

    2. Paul- Re. your comment-

      “Ms Kersten’s main point, as I understand it, is that sexual abuse of children among priests is not known to be higher than among other groups. This is interesting, if true, and a fair point to make.”

      See Phil P’s post #10.

    3. David,

      You say:

      I don’t think it is Catholic-bashing to ask whether the Church has faithfully and with due diligence cooperated with legal authorities to minimize future occurrences and prevent re-occurrences. The problem is: I don’t hear anyone asking those questions, or anyone listening to the answers when they are given.

      I don’t get your point here. The NY Times may be imperfect, but haven’t it and other publications been asking these questions all along. And, of course, any church’s moral obligations include—but go well beyond—cooperating with the police. A church need not wait for criminal convictions in order to move potentially dangerous adults out of children’s way.

      If you’re right that few people pay much attention to the Church’s answers—I have no idea either way—then this may indeed involve crowd psychology, a natural human appetite for scandal, statistical innumeracy, or poor reporting. But the Vatican hasn’t helped, either, on the PR front by circling its wagons, alluding to the Holocaust, etc.

      1. Paul: My point was that the Catholic Church has faithfully and diligently worked, for many years, to address these problems. Further, she has been successful. Does the NYTimes write about this? No. You speculate that this is just a natural human tendency. That argument has merit. We like to pick upon those we don’t like, especially if they aren’t very good at fighting back.

        I think that there is something insidious going on. I think Catholic bigotry is alive and strong, especially in politically liberal circles.

        True, the Vatican hasn’t done a very good PR job. On the other hand, while PR is integral part of running a secular organization, there is not much room for it in a true religious organization. The Catholic Church’s job isn’t to look good; it is to be good.

        If you look at what the Church has been doing, some of it is far in front of most of the secular world. For example, Church leaders have been meeting with victims for years to offer support, and to seek forgiveness for the Church’s lack of oversight. The Church has settled almost all the civil cases paying out millions and bankrupting entire archdioceses. The Vatican, which had no responsibility in this area for years (it was the bishops’ responsibilities) decided to take control. These proactive measures have contributed to the substantial decline in allegations.

        The Catholic Church, and all Christian churches, hold themselves out to be led by the Holy Spirit. As individuals, we do and should expect higher standards of conduct from these institutions and their leaders than we do or would from secular institutions. After all, it would be a scandal to the institution if the Pope was getting BJ’s in St. Peter’s, whereas when the President does so we might rush to his defense (even after he lies under oath about it).

        By the standards the Church sets for herself, she has failed her most vulnerable members. She is aiming to do much better. However, by the standards that society had set at that time, she seems to have been acting fairly consistently with the norms of the times.

      2. Interesting story on All Things Considered yesterday, about a newly unambiguous directive from the Vatican to cooperate with law enforcement. A key quote:

        The Vatican says that it has always been church policy to report sex abuse cases to the police. Not so, says Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer who works with victims.

        “In fact, there’s a number of statements by high Vatican officials — including Cardinal [Tarcisio] Bertone, the papal secretary of state — that say quite the opposite, exactly the opposite,” he says.

        In 2002, Bertone, the Vatican’s second-ranking official, said, “In my opinion, the demand that a bishop be obligated to contact the police in order to denounce a priest who has admitted the offense of pedophilia is unfounded.”

        David L., you say, “I am not aware of any evidence that suggests that the Church has ever failed to cooperate with law enforcement efforts to punish priests.” This seems to point to that evidence.
        .-= (Rob Hardy is a blogger. See a recent post titled Bands in the Family) =-.

      3. Rob: Not so fast. The Cardinal is correct in his assertion. No person, including the victim, is required to report incidences of abuse to law enforcement unless that person is a mandated reporter. The suggestion now that Church officials were somehow obligated to report all incidences, EVEN against the victim’s requests is unfounded.

        I asserted that I am not aware of Church officials refusing to cooperate with law enforcement once an allegation has been reported. Most of the allegations were not reported to law enforcement – by anyone, including the victims or their families.

        Of those that were reported, most were not prosecuted.

  14. Kiesle continued to volunteer with children, according to Maurine Behrend, who worked in the Oakland diocese’s youth ministry office in the 1980s. After learning of his history, Behrend complained to church officials. When nothing was done she wrote a letter, which she showed to the AP.

    “Obviously nothing has been done after EIGHT months of repeated notifications,” she wrote. “How are we supposed to have confidence in the system when nothing is done? A simple phone call to the pastor from the bishop is all it would take.”

  15. According to Wikipedia, the John Jay Report repeatedly cited above did not absolve the Church of wrongdoing. Rather…

    “The John Jay report identified the following factors contributing to the sexual abuse problem:[14]

    * Failure by the hierarchy to grasp the seriousness of the problem.
    * Overemphasis on the need to avoid a scandal.
    * Use of unqualified treatment centers.
    * Misguided willingness to forgive.
    * Insufficient accountability.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Jay_Report

    …which seems to mesh pretty well with what critics of the Church are finding in these new reports.

    1. Patrick: Now we are starting to get somewhere! Defenders of the Church found the same things to be true.

      The larger question, as noted by Paul (16) is have they responded to the situation in an appropriate fashion. By and large, the answer is yes.

      The Archdiocese of Mpls/St. Paul was one of the first to attack the problem. No doubt it was spurred on by Jeffrey Anderson, a local attorney, who, if I recall correctly had a child who was abused by a cleric. Not only did and does Anderson have that motivation, but he also has made a pile of money – by some accounts, up to $60 million suing the Church.

      As I said before, the Catholic Church is an easy financial target because of her structure. Unfortunately for many Catholics, the people end up paying for the perpetrators’ criminal actions.

      1. David L.- Your comment,

        “Unfortunately for many Catholics, the people end up paying for the perpetrators’ criminal actions.”

        is true for any large organization that does not produce or market a real product. The same could be said for someone suing the city if Northfield or the school system. We citizens end up paying the settlement money, not the entity. A business can at least produce something to cover its losses, unless those losses far surmount any possibility of recouping them. A case in point is what seems to be dawning on Toyota. If negligence can be proven, and it looks pretty likely, then they are going to be in the straights, and perhaps out of business.

      2. John: The Catholic Church is different than the other churches for the purposes of these kinds of lawsuits. In other churches, which apparently have about the same rate of abuse, the congregation is not affected because lawyers only have the pastor to sue.

        My guess is that the same kind of predatory behavior was happening in other churches (and schools, and camps etc.) but when things got reported in the other parishes, the pastor just packed up and left to another place to potentially abuse again. Granted, there is no “coverup”, but that’s only because there isn’t any person responsible.

        That’s essentially what happened in the case to which I was referring above. After the Pope granted the request to leave the priesthood, he left and abused again. So, what good did getting him out of the priesthood do for society at large? It was probably worse. At least within the structure of the Church his bishop was maintaining some oversight. The priest’s bishop was essentially told to watch the guy while the Vatican decided if he should stay in the priesthood or not.

      3. David L.- I think your differentiation between the Catholic Church structure and most Protestant denominations is accurate. There are some statistics on Protestant pastor sex abuse here:
        http://www2.tbo.com/content/2007/jun/15/na-protestant-sex-abuse-counted/news-nationworld/
        These are not exhaustive by any means, but they support your estimation of the differences.

        I agree with your position that it is not necessarily wise to remove a pastor from the church entirely. As long as they are in the organization, the leadership has authority to exert treatment/requirements for change. As your example illustrates, just because a pastor is removed does not mean he will not repeat his offense. The pastorship has no bearing on the offense. Society does place higher expectations on a pastor than someone who is not. This may not be realistic (they are not super-human), but is is a reality.

  16. Abusing a position of power and influence to take advantage of anybody is reprehensible, especially children.

    The demand for catolic priests to stay unmarried is unatural and goes against human nature.
    Think about it guys..imagine a life with no sex of any kind. Yikes !! Priests are men too and a denial of their own sexuality must be torture and create an unatural state of mind.
    Are priests more likely to commit pedophilia? I don’t know, but the absence of any sexual outlet can certainly mess with your head… we all know how it feels when our SO has a serious of “headaches”..LOL.

    The catholic church has brought on the current media frenzy a little bit on their own, by putting their priests and other officials in to a “holier than though” position.
    The only man that I know who is perfect, died 2000 years ago..and even he had some flaws.

    Of course the media plays it up and relishes another attack against christianity and those who chose to believe in God.

    “The one without fault, shall cast the first stone” (BTW I am catholic)

  17. NY Times columnist Ross Douthat had a column on Sunday titled The Better Pope: "Pope John Paul II let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Benedict XVI was left to clean them up."
     

    In the 1990s, it was Ratzinger who pushed for a full investigation of Hans Hermann Groer, the Vienna cardinal accused of pedophilia, only to have his efforts blocked in the Vatican. It was Ratzinger who persuaded John Paul, in 2001, to centralize the church’s haphazard system for handling sex abuse allegations in his office. It was Ratzinger who re-opened the long-dormant investigation into Maciel’s conduct in 2004, just days after John Paul II had honored the Legionaries in a Vatican ceremony. It was Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict, who banished Maciel to a monastery and ordered a comprehensive inquiry into his order. So the high-flying John Paul let scandals spread beneath his feet, and the uncharismatic Ratzinger was left to clean them up.

    Has Benedict done enough to clean house and show contrition? Alas, no. Has his Vatican responded to the latest swirl of scandal with retrenchment, resentment, and an un-Christian dose of self-pity? Absolutely. Can this pontiff regain the kind of trust and admiration, for himself and for his office, that John Paul II enjoyed? Not a chance.

    But as unlikely as it seems today, Benedict may yet deserve to be remembered as the better pope.

    1. Griff- It really isn’t important what men remember about you, because we just don’t look at things the way God does. I would rather be remembered by Him. See James 1:22-25. These scriptures would seem to support Douthat’s assertion:
      “But as unlikely as it seems today, Benedict may yet deserve to be remembered as the better pope.”
      The emphasis should be on “deserve.”

    2. Here is what Douthat is saying in a shorter summary: “Blah, blah, blah, … bash Pope John Paul II … blah, blah, blah … bash Pope Benedict … blah, blah, blah … Amen.”

      1. David L.- Much of what I have read recently in the secular media (and I certainly have not read every article) seem to bash the Catholic Church in general, as if there is something about its structure that has contributed to the sexual abuse. I do not believe this, and the statistics cited above would appear to support my belief. I thought Douthat was at least offering an olive branch in his last comment.

      2. David,

        Did you read the last sentence of the Ross Douthat quote:

        But as unlikely as it seems today, Benedict may yet deserve to be remembered as the better pope.

        Does this read to you like Benedict-bashing?

      3. Paul: Did you read the paragraph before?

        Has Benedict done enough? No. Has it shown contrition? No. Has the Vatican responded with resentment, retrenchment, and an un-Christian dose of self-pity? Yes. Can the Pope regain the trust that Pope John Paul II had? No.

        But, at least he is better than the pope before. Faint praise.

        The fact is that the Vatican had very little to do with the sex abuse scandal in the Church. Under Ratzinger’s leadership the Vatican decided that it had to assume responsibility for problems that it did not create.

      4. David,

        I read the entire Douthat piece in the NYT before it was linked to here. Here’s the link:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/12/opinion/12douthat.html

        IMO its general tone is balanced enough — indeed, I’d describe it as somewhat contrarian to the liberal zeitgeist, as indeed Douthat often is. For instance:

        The more recent smoking guns, though, offer more smoke than fire. The pope is now being criticized not for enabling crimes or covering them up, but because in the 1980s and 1990s the Vatican’s bureaucracy moved slowly on requests to formally laicize abusive priests after they had already been removed from ministry.

        Earlier you said:

        I think that there is something insidious going on. I think Catholic bigotry is alive and strong, especially in politically liberal circles.

        Sure, anti-Catholic bigots exist; it’s a big country.

        On the prevalence of such feeling, “especially in … liberal circles”, I have no information. But Ross Douthat seems to me neither a liberal nor an anti-Catholic.

      5. Paul: I don’t know how Douthat gets from the conclusion that it is mostly smoke, not fire to his conclusion that not enough is being done now.

        I don’t know what he, or anyone else the Vatican should be doing differently. Patrick alludes to what could be done. But, it seems the Vatican has been doing those things. Douthat suggests that even that isn’t enough.

        But, how is the Vatican supposed to clear the smoke? How does it clear the smoke when the media just keeps on pumping in more smoke?

      1. …pretty much the same as everyone else’s.

        If The Church simply puts its fingers in its metaphorical ears and goes “lalalalalalalalala “new Jews” lalalalalalalala “anti-Catholic bias” lalalalalalalalalala everyone else was doing it too lalalalalalalala…..,” then the Church is only hurting its standing among (some) Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

        A far more constructive and enlightened response would be along the line of “We made these mistakes. We are very sorry. These are the things that we have done to make amends. These are the things that we have done, and the things that we will do, to prevent these things from happening in the future.” Heck, as I understand it (and as the Douthat column you have dismissed out of hand mentions), under Ratzinger’s leadership The Church has made some significant strides in fixing these institutional problems. However, this vehement, hostile, knee-jerk reaction of The Church to (deserved) criticism of its past errors is undermining whatever authority that The Church has.

      2. Patrick: The Church has taken the constructive and enlightened position that you are talking about. Here in this archdiocese there have been changes for at least 10 years. It has admitted its mistakes, it has paid out lawsuits, it has met with victims, it has corrective actions, it has developed more screenings for priests, it does background checks, it doesn’t move priests around etc. But, we aren’t hearing about that.

        Instead we are hearing about events from 25 years ago.

        Douthat’s article is more fair than others, like the AP article mentioned earlier. But, it is still lacks objectivity.

      3. David,
        1) It’s an opinion piece.
        2) “Objectivity” often seems synonymous with “agrees with my point of view.”
        3) Just because the Church thinks that it has made things better in the present does not mean that it gets a free pass on everything that happened prior to its reforms.
        If I were a physician who had committed gross negligence in my past, I wouldn’t expect that my defense of “I’ve been very careful since 2001” would absolve me of having to answer to a new revelation of another thing that I had done wrong in 1981.

      4. Patrick: It is Douthat’s opinion that Pope Paul John II had some responsibility for the events that happened. But, he doesnt’ base that opinion on any fact of responsibility. The Catholic Church is not a giant corporation where the Pope has ultimate responsibility for everything that happens. It’s structured more like the state/federal system of government, where their are independent spheres of authority. If he wants to claim that the Pope breached some duty, he should provide some basis for believing that Ratzinger had a duty to conduct an independent investigation of the nature of the allegation to see if it warranted removal.

        This case is even more stretched. Even if the Ratzinger committed some error of judgment in 1981 by not removing the priest, it didn’t cause any harm (from what I can tell). His duties were merely administrative within the rules of the Church. The priest was removed.

    1. Actually, when looking for trends in the media reporting of this issue I’ve noticed that Catholic journalists seem to have been the most forceful in their denunciations. Of course, I have no statistical evidence so it could just end up being a perception.

    2. Certainly, the Douthat opinion piece is more balanced than the crap the AP put out. Nevertheless, it still lacks the objectivity concerns that I expressed above.

      Patrick: The anti-Vatican bias is even stronger than the anti-Catholic bias. Tell me this – when is the last time you remember the press reporting that the Vatican has always been steadfastly against the Iraqi war? It is very rare to see praise of the Vatican, even when it is dead on right. Why is that?

      I’m not sure of the basis of the bias. Part of the bias can be attributed to those factors Paul pointed out above. Journalistic sloppiness is a factor. But, I have to believe that part of it is due to the media knowing that people will eat it up without much of a critical analysis.

      Hey, the Church didn’t do quite a few things right. I’m not defending that. But, I am against the idea that the Pope should do better PR. There is no real defense against some of crap. It is better to put the time and effort into the things that they are already doing right.

      1. David,
        You present a shifting target. Now it’s no longer a crusade against the ‘new Jews,’ it’s anti-Vaticanism.

        Further, you cite media bias as a given. I don’t have any interest in trying to figure out bias – it’s a very difficult thing to prove one way or another, and your standards for bias are clearly quite different from my own.

        What I want to know is: are the reports accurate? You have not shown that anything that was reported by the NYTimes or the AP (or Douthat) is actually erroneous.

  18. David,

    You say (somewhere above):

    I don’t know how Douthat gets from the conclusion that it is mostly smoke, not fire to his conclusion that not enough is being done now.

    Maybe Douthat believes that not enough, or not enough of the right things, is being done to clear the smoke. In any case, you seem determined to believe that Douthat is on an anti-Catholic tear. I just don’t read him that way, but so be it.

    More:

    But, how is the Vatican supposed to clear the smoke? How does it clear the smoke when the media just keeps on pumping in more smoke?

    Again, you seem to “stipulate” but not defend the idea that the media are overwhelmingly anti-Catholic. If you’d put even Douthat in this category, then I think we disagree mainly on definitions.

    You keep saying, too, that the Church, and the Pope, have done various good things to address this problem. No doubt that’s true. But it can (and seems to be) also be true that these efforts have sometimes, perhaps often, not sufficed.

    1. Paul: I don’t disagree with most of what you say. Douthat believes that more should be done to clear the smoke. He blames Pope John Paul II for much of the problem, and Benedict for still not doing enough, especially today.

      In reality, nothing can be done to clear the smoke when allegations from 20 years ago are brought up as fresh news. Even if the Vatican and the Church is doing everything correctly now, the charges, many of them well-founded, will continue to build, not because they have any relevance, but because they can stir the emotions of readers.

      Cases like the Kiesle case are out there. These stories will continue to be spun as if somehow the Pope is at fault for the abuses that happened. Every time some Church official tries to make some comment that the stories are all smoke, that statement itself becomes more smoke.

      To state that the Church didn’t do enough is to state the obvious. However, by the standards of that day, much of what she did 40, 30, 20 years ago was standard routine outside the Church. Take the Kiesle case. The headline could have just as easily read, “Civil authorities fail to contain a convicted child molester even after the Catholic Church defrocked him.” “What the hell were they thinking?” On a broader note the headline could be, “Of all the molesting priests that the Church reports, less than 30% are convicted, and more than 70% run free to molest again.” While both of those headlines would be accurate, neither would be fair.

      Some better balance on this issue and on broader social issues would be nice. Perhaps that is too much to expect from a media that seems to have little time for thoughtful analysis.

    1. Paul,

      I think Douthat is right, Hitchens is probably embellishing. The issue is so much larger than one particular case, however. I posted this earlier, but no one responded.

      I shall repost:

      Joseph Ratzinger’s 2001 De delictis gravioribus letter states, among other things, that –

      “A delict against morals, namely: the delict committed by a cleric against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue with a minor below the age of 18 years.

      Only these delicts, which are indicated above with their definition, are reserved to the apostolic tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” (Ratzinger’s Vatican department at that time)

      and, later in the same letter referring to these delicts-

      “Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret. Through this letter, sent by mandate of the supreme pontiff to all the bishops of the Catholic Church…”

      Here’s the link:
      http://www.bishop-accountability.org/resources/resource-files/churchdocs/EpistulaEnglish.htm

      So, here we have Pope John Paul II telling church leaders through the current Pope’s office that cases of molestation of minors are to be handled within the church and should also be given the designation of “pontifical secret.” And this is in 2001.

      Also, there’s a good amount of evidence that victims and their families were threatened with excommunication if they went public with accusations. A very serious threat for a faithful Catholic.

      Additionally, in the BBC documentary, “Sex Crimes and the Vatican” – and I quote from the Wikipedia entry on it – “…Rick Romley, a district attorney who initiated an investigation of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, stated that ‘the secrecy, the obstruction I saw during my investigation was unparalleled in my entire career as a DA…it was so difficult to obtain any information from the Church at all.’ He reported archives of documents and incriminating evidence pertaining to sex abuse that were kept from the authorities, which under the law could not be subpoenaed. ‘The Church fails to acknowledge such a serious problem but more than that, it is not a passiveness but an openly obstructive way of not allowing authorities to try to stop the abuse within the Church. They fought us every step of the way.’ [22]”

      I think issues like these point to a more concerted and institution-wide effort to sweep the issue under the rug. Cases like Kiesle’s are individual points made possible by the broader culture of inaction, obstruction, denial and exceptionalist immunity within the whole institution.
      .-= (Brendon Etter is a blogger. See a recent post titled Things You Might Hear Me Say to Subtly Remind You That Today Is My 40th Birthday) =-.

    2. Brendon: The document is tough to read, but I don’t think your interpretation of the document is supported.

      It appears that the document is a proclamation of authority where no authority previously existed. From the date of the proclamation forward, any allegations regarding abuse of a minor less than 18 had to go through the Vatican. It is a proclamation like the one made by Obama regarding the health care/abortion issue. Or, more famously, it is like the Emancipation Proclamation made by Abe Lincoln declaring slaves to be free in spite of the Supreme Court’s definitive holding in the Dred Scott case 6 years earlier that a black man had no rights that a white man is required to obey.

      That’s not to say that the bishops had been doing their job; however, it does point out that Ratzinger, through John Paul II decided that the issue was serious enough that the Vatican was going to usurp the bishops’ power. (Notice that the document is labeled “Bishops Accountability”.)

      I’m not aware of threats of excommunication if the accusations went public. I have heard of settlements, perhaps one-sided settlements, which included agreements not to go public. Those kinds of agreements are not favored in the law, but they have been held to be enforceable. But then again, many of the victims wanted to sweep things under the rug also.

      Regarding the alleged failure to cooperate with civil authorities, if the documents cannot be subpoened then they cannot be subpoened. That is not a lack of cooperation. People can’t subpoena my records if I represent an alleged sex offender. In fact, if I turn them over, I am committing malpractice. That seems like a show by the DA. The DA representing truth, justice, and the American way asks for records that he knows he cannot get by law, and then proudly proclaims that he tried to help the victims.

      It strikes me that the issues regarding sexual abuse in the Church are suprisingly human, much more human that I would like to believe should exist in an organization which dedicated to teaching to helping me and other Catholics rise above the common temptations of humanity. But, then again, I am reminded that 150 years ago, blacks were slaves, 90 years ago, women couldn’t vote, 80 years ago the German people, with the assistance of a number of charismatic leaders systematically killed 6 million Jews, the unborn fetuses are aborted at the rate of 1 million per year, and that only 7 years ago a substantial majority of our Congressmen voted to invade a foreign country on a dubious claim of weapons of mass destruction. We don’t need a concerted effort to be evil; it comes quite naturally to all of us.

      What we have are gross sins of omission, not commission by the Church officials. The idea that there was a systemic effort to sweep these matters under the rug doesn’t have any significant evidentary support. It makes for a great play. But, it makes for poor history.

  19. yes david.

    you forget that most of those transgressions of humanity were sanctioned by the catholic church.

  20. NY Times about 30 minutes ago: Cardinal’s Words Roil Abuse Scandal

    Tensions rose on Wednesday over comments made Monday by the Vatican  secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who called homosexuality “a pathology” and linked it to pedophilia. The comments came as the Vatican was trying to calm a scandal over sexual abuse by priests.

    The comments, raising for the first time the touchy issue of homosexuality amid the sexual abuse scandal, once again spoke to the Vatican’s continued difficulties in effectively tackling the crisis. In suggesting a link between sexual abuse and homosexuality, Cardinal Bertone stirred up the waters rather than calming them. And even as he distanced the Vatican from those remarks, Father Lombardi answers directly to Cardinal Bertone, further evidence of the Vatican’s less-than-orchestrated message.

    The issue is even more charged because Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 1986 wrote the document presenting the Vatican’s most recent stance condemning homosexuality, which determined that it was “not a sin” but “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil,” and thus “an objective disorder.”

    1. David,

      You should point out that the article you link to was written by “a senior representative and member of Opus Dei”. I would expect as much objectivity from him as from the Pope.

      Here are a couple comments from readers of that article which sum up many of my thoughts on this issue:

      First, from reader stevehill:

      “On Monday 12 April 2010, for the first time, the Vatican issued clear instructions that information about abuse cases must “always” be reported to the appropriate civil authorities.

      Since then, has the Pope instructed Cardinal Bernard Law to go back to Boston to answer the Grand Jury’s remaining questions about what he knows of abuse cases?

      Has the Vatican answered the outstanding questions of Ireland’s Murphy Commission, and handed over the files it spirited out of Ireland to frustrate that enquiry?

      Or does “always” mean something else in Catholic theology?

      This article is another in a depressingly long line of (I presume) “official” Catholic responses to the crisis which seek to blame others, deny, frustrate enquiries, which continue to alienate their own members, and which add insult to the abuse victims’ considerable injuries.

      It is on every imaginable level the wrong strategy, and it risks destroying the church.”

      And from stevehill again on the supposed tough procedures used in dealing with accused priests:

      “So was the practice followed by Cardinal Brady of swearing victims to secrecy forever and promising they would never tell the police usual or exceptional?

      And either way, why is Brady still in office?”

      From the reader freeport:

      “In short even the author clearly accepts that the central accusation which is that a cover up (which is the alleged crime) in the interest of the Church was carried out. In this case its merely saying that this was done whilst they have their own internal enquiry, rather like a chess club deciding not to inform the police. In the Catholic Church the normal result of such an internal enquiry is that the paedophile is allowed to continue their activities somewhere else.

      ‘There is nothing in that letter preventing victims reporting the case to the police, and the assumption is that they should.’

      Assume away, but the facts don’t support this fairy-tale. Cardinal Sean Brady swore the victims of Father Brendan Smyth to silence for life on penalty of excommunication. Oddly he failed to mention to the children that he didn’t really mean it.”

      And from freeport again:

      “Even more nonsense:

      ‘The time Rome took over each defrocking says nothing whatsoever about cover-up or collusion. It says only that defrocking was then a complex and elaborate procedure that took too long.’

      Time taken to excommunicate a priest (Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, of Zambia) that allowed married priests: 3 months

      Time taken to defrock a priest that was convicted of tying up and raping children: 9 years from time of arrest

      Hm. Interesting to see which is considered to be “complex” and “elaborate”.”

      And from reader stitchups:

      “Resorting to the word ´mob´ to describe people who disagree with you – some of whom will have suffered abuse at the hands of priests – is hardly the way to conduct a discussion on a matter which has repercusions far beyond the Vatican. Again the writer blames the system, and not those charged with administering it. As head of the Roman Catholic Church the Pope has a duty to know what goes on his his backyard. The same applies to cardinals. Yet it seems Cardinal Ratzinger, though aware of what was going on, as it had been reported to him, didn´t take appropriate and decisive action, putting more children at risk.

      Whether a priest commited more abuse before or after he was suspended or defrocked isn´t worthy of comment except to say it´s no compensation to the individuals abused, and shows a complete lack of respect.

      People are rightfully enraged upon discovering a number of men charged with the responsibility of teaching their children, and the children of others, moral standards, chose to abuse them to satisfy the sexual needs they renounced as a prerequisite to taking up office.

      The saddest thing about this article is that Jack Valero appears not to consider the victims at all, they are hardly mentioned. Just an unfortunate bunch of kids in the wrong place at the wrong time. The wrong place happened to be in church under the protection of priests, who proceeded to abuse them in ways most of the rest society finds abhorrent.”
      .-= (Brendon Etter is a blogger. See a recent post titled Things You Might Hear Me Say to Subtly Remind You That Today Is My 40th Birthday) =-.

      1. Brendon: Does it really matter who wrote it if is factually accurate? Can you see anything in the article that isn’t true?

        People are rightfully enraged about the complicity of the Church. But, as this article points out, the Pope is the wrong guy to be mad at. A large part of the blame falls on Adam for eating that damn apple.

      2. David,

        Many things can be written which are factually accurate but tell a very skewed or spun version of the whole truth.

        For instance, a plane carrying 100 passengers crash lands in a mountain range. The report comes through stating that, miraculously, only two of the passengers died from hypothermia. The report is entirely factually accurate, but it doesn’t mention that the other 98 passengers died on impact.

        Based on my reading of that article you cited and the many comments after it which point out the way it has been skewed, the author appears to be telling a “spun” truth.
        .-= (Brendon Etter is a blogger. See a recent post titled Things You Might Hear Me Say to Subtly Remind You That Today Is My 40th Birthday) =-.

      3. Brendon: Agreed. The article is only a good defense to the Keisle offense charging that the Pope did something wrong. But, it does explain why the Kiesle accusation is completely unwarranted.

    2. Also, David, simple question: Why did it take until THIS WEEK for the Pope to finally decree that all sexual molestation accusations must be turned over to police?

      This wasn’t 1981 when the first of these cases started to be publicly known, nor during the 1990s, nor the first decade of this century. This is 2010.

      29 years for the Vatican to say something as simple, “Bring all these cases to legal authorities.”

      One sentence. It is absurd on its face.

      In their efforts to keep secrets as a means of avoiding scandal, they amplified both the scandal of clergy sexually abusing minors and created a far bigger one.
      .-= (Brendon Etter is a blogger. See a recent post titled Things You Might Hear Me Say to Subtly Remind You That Today Is My 40th Birthday) =-.

      1. Brendon: I remember being at a drug education seminar at the high school. Someone asked what is the first thing a parent should do when he/she discovers that their child possesses drugs. The answer I heard ranked with some of the worst parental advice I have ever heard, “Turn them into the police.”.

        Zero tolerance is zero thought and zero discretion. My guess is that the Pope said what he did to get the fact-finding duties out of Church and into civil hands.

        There are still plenty of problems with just turning these matters over to the civil authorities, especially in countries where the civil authorities may have different standards regarding how the accusers are treated. It would be a double tragedy to have bishops turn over accused sexual molesters only to have the civil authorities in those countries abuse them and their families to disown them.

        That doesn’t even address the possibility of false accusations, which are a real threat to true justice on both sides.

        It seems incredible to me that Thomas Jefferson, who wrote much of the founding documents of the country owned slaves. It is also incredible to me that it took the North losing the Civil War for Lincoln to try the political move of freeing the slaves. And, it is incredible to me that priests who were abusing were allowed to continue on ministering to children. But, that is what was happening in secular and religious circles. The Catholic Church doesn’t have a corner on the market on covering up sexual abuse.

      2. David,

        I would draw serious and marked distinctions between parents turning in their children for drug possession and church leaders turning in employees because of child molestation.

        Absent evidence of selling some, drug possession and use is a “victimless crime.” Though I don’t entirely believe that in a global sense, it is true in the specific instance. The kid is victimizing themselves. Plus, the offending party is a minor.

        These are adults committing felonious acts on children. Adults who are typically supposed to be or are esteemed to be in positions of power – physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and morally.

        Also, drug use is deemed by law to be a less serious offense than sexual molestation of children.

        Plus, this is an employer / employee, not a parent / child relationship. We cannot possibly equate the two.

        Yes, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, but it was legal for him to do so given the laws of Virginia at the time. Though we rightfully heap opprobrium on the concept now, it was legal. Regardless, Jefferson has received extensive criticism and revision of his legacy based on being a slaveholder and fathering a child with one of his slaves. Sexual molestation of minors has never been legal in any way, to my knowledge, at least not within the past 40-50 years.

        I am in no way pretending that the Catholic Church has or had “a corner on the market on covering up sexual abuse.” Yet, they covered up sexual abuse just the same.

        Charles Manson had no corner on serial killing market, but that doesn’t make Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy’s crimes any less horrible or any more excusable. We don’t say, “Well, you have to understand, many people were being senselessly murdered at the time, so let’s be lenient in our criticism of this serial killer.”

        In what way does that context free them from facing consequences, including the great scads of unfavorable press, for those actions today? They brought it on themselves. No one else did.

        This is a huge institution – the second largest religion comprising one-sixth of the world’s population. Over 1.1 BILLION members. I think that there would rightfully be enormous quantities of reporting on this issue and the church’s mishandling of it. The giant is always going to stand out in the crowd. It does not mean other institutions that covered up similar crimes are free from blame. They too should be asked to account for everything and face the full extent of legal consequences.

        However, as Paul Z. likes to say, those other institutions are not the live question right now.

        The real issue is not the Catholic faith, nor its members, nor is it the celibacy vows of its clergy, the issue – the live question – concerns the culture of the Catholic hierarchy attempting to float above secular jurisdiction. For a very long time, wielding immense power over many centuries and many countries, the Church has been able to play by its own house rules outside the legal structures of the many nations in which it has been established. They tried to shepherd this issue within their own house rules, and people everywhere rightfully started saying, “Excuse me?”

        Instead of saying “we were wrong,” and then cleaning house, the Church has blamed the victims, blamed the media, blamed the lawyers, blamed homosexuals, and stamped its feet at not being allowed to handle matters in their own way. They have taken a horrible situation and made it so much worse with their petulant, slow and arrogant responses.
        .-= (Brendon Etter is a blogger. See a recent post titled Things You Might Hear Me Say to Subtly Remind You That Today Is My 40th Birthday) =-.

      3. Brendon: I would disagree with your conclusion. The Catholic Church has taken a horrible situation (the amount of sex abuse), and they have made it much better (the amount of abuse has dropped dramatically). That should be, but isn’t the “hot” story. For whatever reason, the hot story seems to be focusing upon how the Vatican should have done something differently 20 or 30 years ago.

        What the Church has not been very good about is getting out the message that today’s Church is very different than the Church of the 70’s and 80’s (regarding abuse). I suspect that most of the drop in the rates of abuse are due to the changing societal attitudes which has quite naturally resulted in less secrecy, more reporting to civil authorities, and less dependence on treatment. However, I am of the opinion that rates have been further reduced because of changes that have occurred, including the Vatican assuming responsibility for every case. This makes sense even though it would be difficult to prove empirically.

        It’s true but irrelevant that the Church has wielded enormous power throughout the ages. The Church has very little temporal power today. It has no army, its membership is voluntary, and it is leader of a very tiny country in the middle of Rome.

        I don’t think this problem is or was the result of a power structure of the Church. It is the result of a significant number of individuals using their individual positions to exert power for sexual gratification. The problem was exacerbated because many of these individuals were not prevented from engaging in further abuse once the abuse was discovered. (But, note, most of the abusers only had one reported incident – another fact commonly overlooked.)

        This is a decidedly human problem. This happened because people are people, not because the Church is the Church. That indictment is perhaps the harshest indictment of all for those of us who are still Catholic. Even if most of the Church officials were acting as people of that time acted, I expect a higher standard from my Church. I’m not sure the Church can do much now except take the slings and arrows. Any defense, no matter how reasonable and rational (like the Kiesle defense), is turned and twisted into additional accusations.

      4. Thank you, David. I think that’s a fair and well-reasoned response.

        I do feel that they relied on in-house procedures and rules for much longer than they ever should have, if indeed they ever should have at all, for crimes of this magnitude, but I am certainly glad that steps are being taken now to address that problematic approach.
        .-= (Brendon Etter is a blogger. See a recent post titled Things You Might Hear Me Say to Subtly Remind You That Today Is My 40th Birthday) =-.

      5. Brendon: I suppose it is time to stop if I am starting to sound fair AND well-reasoned.

    1. I hope you boys realize that before you can fall asleep in church you have to ah.. ah.. go to church. I would be more than delighted to take you. Fr. Dempsey does a wonderful job of leading the worship.

  21. Raised Catholic, but am a non church goer, can’t stand the out of tune music being offered, allow me a small indulgence and let me make a few observations.

    First,the Catholic Church has set up a standard of morality that no law enforcement group could ever match as far as being educators and forming charitable and social networks…doing without it would be worse than no
    thin blue line.

    The level of standards is quite unattainable, as it goes against basic nature, as DL mentioned.

    It’s hard to be the only good one in a bad patch and it’s equally as hard to be the only bad one in a good patch.

    No convicted child molester who has served time and been released is any better watched than a priest removed from his parish, where he was once loved and revered by many people, and relocated to a new one where everyone is watching his every move. It IS a huge punishment in itself.

    The Catholic Church was in denial, I believe, that men were hiding in the church who never should have been there in the first place and that’s the real embarrassment for them. They had no way to avoid being victimized themselves by very manipulative and convincing actors.

    The attempt to attain perfection is a journey and we all know it’s about the journey and not the goal so much. This is how the churches keep us out of trouble…too busy trying to reach the goal.

    1. Bright: It was good of you to point out the Church has much higher standards than society in general. Because of that standard, the Catholic Church in America (and the world) has been at the forefront of offering social services. The Church has a long history of institutions of education, health care, and charity. For example, St. Dominic’s School in Northfield saves the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars by educating students who otherwise would educated at public expense.

      For whatever reason, the Church’s charitable activities rarely make the news.

    1. Rob: Good headline – very proper and English. Too bad there is so little substance.

      One obvious question question arises from Purves’s article – If we intend to arrest the Pope for crimes against humanity (jurisidictional and procedural issues notwithstanding) are we also going to arrest all those parents who failed to report abuse? If those parents knew their child had been abused, and they let the abuser go on to another parish to abuse again, aren’t they also guilty of complicity for future abuse?

      1. I’m glad you finally did. All I could think was “If my sense of humor doesn’t even fit in a college town, then I’m truly hosed”.

      1. Anthony: How do you think the Roman Catholic Church’s recent history compares to the American government stealing Native American lands, enslaving Negro people, or invading foreign countries?

      2. Anthony: By what argument do you hold the Church to a higher standard of conduct than the United States government?

      3. So …??? Does that mean that the 77% of Congressmen who voted to invade Iraq are forgiven?

    1. Paul: I’m not really interested in whether Douthat or any other media person is liberal, conservative, Catholic, or even a Catholic-basher. The more important questions are whether the facts are accurate and complete and whether and the conclusions are relevant, logical, and consistent.

      For example, in Douthat’s article, he states that Pope Benedict (and the Vatican) had little authority over these matters at the time they happened (true). He also states that Pope Benedict has been an advocate of assuming control (true) and, has assumed control (also true). Lastly, he and the Church have taken some strong measures to prevent this type of thing from happening in the future (if not true, certainly not a subject of serious debate).

      So, what is the relevant, logical, and consistent conclusion? Once the law has had its opportunity, shouldn’t the Pope take action that is consistent with the Church’s own principles of forgiveness, reconciliation, and repentence?

      Douthat seems to suggest a solution that has no basis in the law or Church doctrine. Basically, he suggests that the Pope start firing bishops as a means to appease everyone outside of the Church. It’s not a relevant, logical, or consistent conclusion from the facts.

  22. Douthat seems to suggest a solution that has no basis in the law or Church doctrine. Basically, he suggests that the Pope start firing bishops as a means to appease everyone outside of the Church. It’s not a relevant, logical, or consistent conclusion from the facts.

    facts and science, the enemy of religion.

      1. david you should really look out for this threat.


        Another threat to be reckoned with is scientism. This is the philosophical notion which refuses to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive sciences; and it relegates religious, theological, ethical and aesthetic knowledge to the realm of mere fantasy. In the past, the same idea emerged in positivism and neo-positivism, which considered metaphysical statements to be meaningless. Critical epistemology has discredited such a claim, but now we see it revived in the new guise of scientism, which dismisses values as mere products of the emotions and rejects the notion of being in order to clear the way for pure and simple facticity. Science would thus be poised to dominate all aspects of human life through technological progress. The undeniable triumphs of scientific research and contemporary technology have helped to propagate a scientistic outlook, which now seems boundless, given its inroads into different cultures and the radical changes it has brought.

      2. Anthony, I don’t agree with a number of things David has said, but I must back him up a little on this. There is a portion of the Catholic Church that I have the utmost respect for, and that’s the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). When growing up in Latin America the only local high school with a math and science focus was run by the Jesuits. The astronomical observatory my Dad worked at was often visited by Father McCarthy, a Jesuit astronomer from the Vatican Observatory. He was a great guy, and unfortunately he passed away last February.

        http://vaticanobservatory.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=142:funeral-homily-frmccarthy&catid=1:latest-news&Itemid=50

      3. Anthony, I guess my comment was more in response to the idea that science is necesarily the enemy of religion (comment 38). I don’t think it is, and have seen evidence amongst Catholics that many of them don’t see it that way either.

      4. Anthony- “as science progresses, religious ‘facts’ gets disproved.” Do you have some examples that do not require belief and adherance to some presuppositions? The last I studied this, there is more and more evidence being produced that support “religious ‘facts'”, or at least Biblical observations of facts revelant to “science.”

    1. Anthony: The age of the earth is not generally considered a religious “fact”. That is a competence of science (see 38.1). For essential tenets of the Roman Catholic Church see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicence_Creed.

  23. It is interesting that both Bright and David L are quick to point out all the good of the Catholic Church-as if it can offset the damage the church has done.

    However, it is typically the people of the Catholic Church and not the hierarchy that have brought wonderous good to peoples all over the world. There is nothing that compares with the variety of Catholic orders dedicated to education.

    Name one good thing that this (or any pope) has done for the good of the world. Yet they will usually all attain Sainthood.

    Claiming that somehow good works make up for the sins of the hierarchy is repugnant.

    As a child, I went to confession every week and dutifully did my penance. It wasn’t until I met a Lutheran who explained that they thought confession was ended with “go forth and sin again” –an absolution so you could sin with impunity and be cleansed every Saturday in confession. Along this same line, the Pope and Rome believe they are above secular law–and only on the threat of “crimes against humanity” and a populous uproar do we hear: A mea culpa? NON. A big white wash.

    Bright–most priests transferred for molestation were NOT watched with eagle’s eyes by their congregation because the congregation didn’t know about the pedophilia! That is what is making everyone upset.

    Only god can know whether there is repentance. Man must use secular laws and the justice system in order to safeguard society.

    And this says nothing about how the Catholic Church is making the AIDS epidemic worse in Africa due to their devotion to convincing promiscuous men that they would be committing a terrible sin if they use condoms. Or their many other failures in moral leadership–including their misogynistic approach to their own members or their persecution of homosexuals.

    The Catholic Church, through many religious orders, has educated its best and brightest members to the point that they reject the church because of its teachings, while a few try valiantly to change from within. Thus the church hierarchy seems bent on its own destruction which result will be a blessing to faithful world wide.

    1. Jane: People, not the Church, has caused damage. People committed acts of sexual abuse. People moved priests to new parishes where the priests committed additional acts of abuse. It has never been a “Church” policy saying that sexual abuse is OK. It was never acceptable for priests to be moved to abuse again.

      It has been the Church policy to do good deeds, take care of the sick, educate the uneducated, and perform acts of charity.

      Your post shows some of the biases against the Church. How exactly the Church makes the AIDS epidemic worse is beyond logic – except someone with a decided anti-Catholic bias. The Church is telling people NOT to have sex outside of marriage. If people would listen to the Church there would be a lot LESS AIDS.

      The Church has persecuted homosexuals? Do they use their army? Not even murderers are denied church membership or participation. Sure, lots of people chose not to belong because they don’t like the teaching, but that’s another matter.

      I maintain that bigotry against Catholics and the Catholic Church is one of the few remaining acceptable social bigotries. Thank you for making my point better than I could.

  24. The truth is that all government and religious institutions are filled with tales of good and evil. And one is not more evil because it says it really shouldn’t be evil.
    And if you knew how word gets around in the Catholic community,you wouldn’t say they weren’t being watched.

    Putting men into prison does not necessarily keep them from hurting other people, either while in prison or after their release. Neither system is perfect. But if you would look further into the matter, I think you might find that the occurance of pediphilia amongst priests is about the same as compared to the broader society if one can rely on the accuracy of any numbers, given the closed up expression as to admission on either side of the act.

    I worked in the sacristy as a third grader two times a week for an hour at a time, all by myself for a full school year without any priest interference accept once when a priest asked me if I saw the altar boys swiping a drink of the sacrament wine out of the open safe. I did.

    The Catholic Church is undergoing a lot of change, and change will happen if only very slowly. I was never crazy about Benedict, the way I was for John Paul, but
    as is said for the Presidency, the office raises up the man.

    I am not going to get into the other issues because I wouldn’t blame any church for AIDS and I don’t know what is going on with that at all. I am not there.

  25. David L: The church deny’s communion to gays and other targeted minorities. It denys communion to politicians. There are many churchs where the priest spells out clearly who is NOT welcome to share in the sacrements. Yeah, the priests are people,too.

    The Catholic church–the pope, the administration, the cardinals-whoever you want to call the “church” throughout history has endorsed the persecution of several different groups–including jews, gays, Lutherans, Episcopalians, or whomever they decide to target–including Native Americans and indiginous peoples everywhere. The nuns and priests in various countries have done good works and ignored the directives of Rome to help their out-of-favor neighbors, perhaps. But the church has instructed persecution regardless.

    The Catholic Church and its unfailing claim that condoms are a terrible sin have condemned thousands and probably millions of women to death in Africa–an absolutely forseeable result of their directive. Fortunately educated people in other contries have seen the danger of following the directives of the Church–and have used birth control, including condoms to help prevent dangerous and unwanted pregnancies as well as protecting themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. To condemn women to death because their husbands are promiscuous is unconscionable.

    The Church contiues to teach that women are second-class–unworthy of serving as priests because the misogyny of the church history, not because of what Jesus taught.

    The Church has recently backed away from their infallibility claims of the Pope, but their internal teachings have not changed on that score–just the spin they give to the public.

    The pervious pope was an anti-semite, as is the current. The weakness of the church is the weakness of its administration–and change will only come from the people.

    Answer one question–what good has the Pope ever done? ANY Pope.

    1. Jane: Here is an example – Pope John Paul II supported the Solidarity movement in Poland. Primarily because of the Church’s support, the Solidarity movement succeeded. As a result, other Eastern European countries followed Poland’s lead, and communism (at least in the Western world) became almost non-existent. With the fall of communism, the Cold War was essentially ended.

      Here is another example – Pope John Paul II also spoke out passionately against the invasion of Iraq. Too bad most of the politicians, even professed Catholic politicians, didn’t listen to his advice.

      Lastly, although it is impossible to measure, there are probably millions of people who were born after 1973 who wouldn’t be alive but for the Roman Catholic Church’s strong and active stance for the human rights of unborn children.

      I could provide you with a long list of issues for which the Roman Catholic Church holds what is considered a liberal political position.


      1. What made this situation even more ironic is the fact that Pope John Paul II very explicitly linked his rejection of the justness of invading Iraq with his rejection of the justness of actions like abortion. For him, it was all part of the “culture of death” which he has been attacking throughout his pontificate. Conservatives who accept this rhetoric on some matters were openly rejecting it on others — specifically, the invasion of Muslim nations.

        Eventually, though, even Pope John Paul II had to give up his opposition to the war and deal with the cold, violent realities on the ground. He no longer inveighs against the invasion and Vatican officials insist that Western troops need to stay in Iraq as long as is necessary in order to ensure the stability of the nation and freedom of the Iraqi people. To quote one source at the Vatican, “The vase had been broken, and we have to try to find a way to mend it.”

  26. Here is what I think condoms and birth control pills do to a culture and state of mind.

    They say, it’ okay to have this sexual experience solely for pleasure and satisfaction. It’s just like saying it’s okay to eat fatty fast food all the time because it tastes so good…heck with the fact that in the long run, it will do in your heart, and other organs before their time.

    To men, using the condom means, I don’t have any responsibility to this woman who will lay down for no reason other than to please me and to women it says, here is a piece of material that makes me useful only as a pleasure giver and/or taker.

    The birth control pill actually changes the female chemistry to where she is no longer the person she was born to be. Now, she is a person who is defined by how much sex she can have without having the burden of motherhood.

    It used to be that motherhood was honored, and that mothers were honored and respected, but we said, no, be your child’s friend. Don’t teach them, don’t prepare your self for motherhood, let your child guide you along.

    Gee, why do we celebrate motherhood, then? Too many mixed messages for me. Too much dabbling with natural tendencies. That’s where the Catholic Church messed up, not knowing about the true animal nature of men, and that some men were more animalistic than others. Gee, men shave so much, no one would ever suspect.

    1. You are talking about sexuality, which is NOT the same as the sexual abuse and raping of innocent children.
      Birth control has NO place in this discussion of sex abuse in the Catholic Church. You are placing blame on the culture, instead of where it belongs. Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has been going on ALOT longer than the Pill has been around.

      The birth control pill was invented by a woman who’s mother had 20, yes, TWENTY children. What quality of life would you have, bearing twenty children? I doubt very much if she felt HONORED and RESPECTED. Probably more like DRAINED and EXHAUSTED beyond our comprehension.
      Sexuality was invented by GOD and given to us as a gift. The Catholic Church denies priests the right to marry and insists that they resist the gift of sexuality, and since most men have a very strong sex drive (also given by God, to insure that the human race continues) the priests find other outlets. What you resist, persists.

      1. Annita: The Church doesn’t “deny” priests the right to marry. The current rule is that priests can’t marry. All priests know that long before they take their vows. Priests “deny” themselves, if they so choose.

        Statistics seem to suggest that the rate of sexual abuse among priests was about the same as denominations that permit married clergy. I would not be surprised to find that the current rate for priests is substantially lower given the new policies put in place by the Church over the last 10-20 years.

        The issue of sexuality is certainly an area that the Church has received a lot of criticism. Some of the criticism, such as the Church’s policy on condoms is causing AIDS, is not only incorrect, but it misstates the Church’s policy. Some of the criticism, like that of abortion, is scientifically untrue. Some of the criticism, like that on homosexuality, is distorted beyond recognition. What most of the criticism shares is a lack of justification.

    2. Bright- Interesting comment, here:
      “That’s where the Catholic Church messed up, not knowing about the true animal nature of men, and that some men were more animalistic than others.”
      This espouses the foundation of evolution, that man is basically a domesticated animal, and, given the right environment, will revert to his basic animal instincts regardless of the intellectual training he has recieved. Afterall, human sexuality is a basic instinct instilled (evolved?) in us for the propigation of the species. If some person reverts to this, then the answer is generally that he did not have the proper education to “overcome” his instincts. Thus, the reliance upon education as the answer to all our societal moral ills.

      The Scriptures present an entirely different foundation for man- he is created in the image of God. And, even though he lives in a fallen world, and posesses a fallen nature, he can “overcome” his fallen nature by the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit. The hope of Christianity is that we do not have to be driven by animalistic impulses, because our foundation is not in animals. It is in God.

      If the church “messed up”, it was in allowing the teaching of evolution to dilute its original message. James 4:4 says, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” The term world here refers to the system of thinking in the world.


      1. If the church “messed up”, it was in allowing the teaching of evolution to dilute its original message. James 4:4 says, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” The term world here refers to the system of thinking in the world.

        ahh thats why the teabaggers don’t don’t believe in global warming climate change and want to drill baby drill and drive huge 1 mpg suvs!

      2. Anthony- I’m not sure where you made that leap of comparison, but it is certainly an interestingly broad brush stroke.

      3. John,

        Evolution … here we go again. You say:

        If the church “messed up”, it was in allowing the teaching of evolution to dilute its original message. James 4:4 says, “You adulteresses …

        I’m not professionally trained in evolutionary science (and have even less expert knowledge of “adulteresses”). But among the several areas in which, as a non-Catholic, I admire the Catholic church is in its (relative) openness to science — including that of evolution. Pope Benedict might not fully agree with, say, Richard Dawkins, on these matters, but it’s probably fair to say that the Pope would explicitly reject the idea that evolutionary science somehow “dilutes” the church’s original message.

        It is not difficult to find sources to this effect. Here’s one:
        http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0800627.htm

      4. Paul- Not being a member of the Catholic church, I really do not have a dog in this fight, as you say. Also, my estimation of this mixture of doctorines is my own opinion. Since about the ’50’s, there has been a movement within the major denominational churches to somehow adjust creeds and make it easier for adherants to say they believe in science and evolution along with believing in God. I just don’t adhere to this “mixed” doctorine. We all will have to answer for what we adhere to, so I am willing to let the Judge of all define this when He desires to. I do see precedent in scripture, not just the James reference, to beware of mixing other doctorines into Christianity. I will rest on those tenets. If I am deluded, I will not have missed much in the whole scheme of eternity. If not, then eternity becomes a valuable prize.

      5. Paul: As a Catholic, I think your observations are accurate. I think it would be fair to say that Pope Benedict is much more open to the gains and advances of sciences than Richard Dawkins is open to the gains and advances of theology.

        John: Today’s Catholic Church embraces the hard and soft sciences. Nevertheless, the two recent popes have been critical of philosophies that overemphasize science (“scientism”) and reason (“rationalism”) without considering that almost all human traits to which we aspire and which we hold dear are not gained by acquiring facts. See Anthony’s post at 38.1.1.

      6. John:

        You claim to have no dog in any fight over Catholic doctrine, but you felt free earlier to chastise Catholics for having “messed up” on the matter of evolution. Sounds like a dog to me.

        As for handicapping eternity, you’re in good company: Blaise Pascal, a gifted mathematician, philosopher, and Catholic apologist, famously made a similar argument around 1660.

        And about those adulteresses …

        As a missionary kid I have some stray (now fainter, I admit) traces of Bible knowledge, and something about that quote didn’t seem quite right. So I checked the KJV, the ESV, the NIV, and one or two others, and none of them seemed to single out the ladies for special opprobrium. “Adulterers” and “adulterous people” get the brunt of it in those sources.

      7. David,

        I think that Richard Dawkins would agree fully that

        Pope Benedict is much more open to the gains and advances of sciences than Richard Dawkins is open to the gains and advances of theology.

        Indeed, I suspect Richard Dawkins would claim that openness to the “gains and advances of theology” makes no more sense than openness to the “gains and advances” of, say, alchemy. I believe Dawkins is wrong in this instance — but let’s acknowledge that being open to anything is not itself an unalloyed virtue. If it were, there would be no Catholic church.

      8. Paul Z.- Chastise? Seems a little strong discription for a comment prefaced by an “IF”. IF they have done this, then they are like a lot of other (not all) main-line denominations over the last half century. Seems like there was a push back in my college days to try to accomodate the scientific community, and if it meant bending some scriptures away from literal meaning to figurative meaning, then that was acceptable in some seminaries. But, I really don’t want to go farther with that as it has been the source of many books worth of discussion and doesn’t have a lot of bearing on pedophilia and the supposed tolerance of it in the Catholic Church, IMO. (Unless a claim could be made that the weakening of scriptural authority in ANY church organization opens it up to other sins. In any case, we are still dealing with the fallen nature of man and how he accomodates the redeeming power of the written Word in his own life.)

        As far as your hang-up on adulterers, James is using this term here to describe the same action as adulterate, “…to corrupt, debase, or make impure by the addition of a foreign or inferior substance or element…” Just as a marriage is considered adulterated when another person is mixed into the relationship in the same capacity as the spouse, so mixing non-christioan doctrines, such as evolution, into scriptural doctrine, such as creation, then the resulting mix is considered an adulteration of the original. A person who mixes these “foreign” doctrines into Christianity is considered an “adulterer.” Also, note that in Eph. 5, our relationship with Christ is likened to a marriage relationship. All this to say that I believe there is a consistency in the scriptures, and James use of the terms is valid.

  27. Wearing a condom can mean the difference between life and death for thousands and perhaps millions due to AIDS. Luckily, Bright, you can reflect on all of the abstract reasons that men don’t want to wear a condom…. and for millions of women all of the world, being able to control and plan their pregnancies means the difference between abject poverty and even death and life with some order and control. It is so nice that the Catholic elite can pronounce how everybody else feels about sex. WOW! Every woman on the pill a nympho! Really?

    1. Jane: I don’t recall the papal announcement that evey woman on the Pill is a nympho. What I do recall is that the rather obvious conclusion of Pope Benedict that the distribution of condoms will not solve the AIDS epidemic. To blame the Catholic Church for AIDS speaks volumes on the bigotry the Church faces.

      Do you have any evidence to suggest that number of couples who don’t use a condom because the Catholic Church teaches against it? My guess is that the number is fairly close to zero.

      Furthermore, the Church teaches that men are supposed to respect women, which includes not having sex with them until they have made a marriage commitment to them. So, if they followed the Church’s advice, condom use wouldn’t be an issue.

    2. David wearing a condom is an issue if you don’t want to get pregnant or if you want 1/2 chance at avoiding aids. Unfortunately in Africa, a mans devotion to his proving his manhood by having multiple sexual partners without using condoms, including the misogynisitc belief that sex with a virgin will cure him of aids, is stronger than his devotion to the catholic church–but he proudly will hail the catholic proscription against condom use to convince his wife she must have unprotected sex with him because of her belief in the catholic churches pronouncement.

      Bright said the nympho thing in 42-suggesting that avoiding pregnancy was purely pleasure-based.

  28. I’ll speak to the issue of having twenty children in one family. First, I think that is a rarity. But, in the few families I have known with over 2.5 children, the oldest children help to take care of the home and the younger children.

    I don’t think God or the Universe created evil. I don’t think animals are evil. I think people are confused about who they are, and I don’t blame that on anyone. I am not looking to blame or condemn. I am looking for people who parent their children well and for all men or women who abuse their authority over children to cease and desist. I am looking to educate the children better on this matter. Even if someone threatens death to their family, they are to tell their parents what is going on. I am looking for people to step up if they suspect any unsavory business going on with predators in any field whatsoever. I am looking for people to not trust anyone until that person earns it. How about it?

    Let’s stick to the real heart of the matter…the safety of our children.

    1. And the safety of (our) children is what the church did NOT put first.

      And by the way, the argument of some of the high church hierarchy, Pope and Bishops, who have been quoted as saying that it is better for a small number of people to have been molested than have a country lose its faith (this in the case of covering up a lifetime of abuse by the now deceased Mexican Bishop) is the most monumental piece of twisted ethics/morality.

      What about a whole lot of practitioners of a faith losing said faith because the ‘faith’ doesn’t practice what it preaches?

      I don’t see this as much different than the case of one of the founders of “Focus on the Family” coming home from Europe on a ‘vacation ‘ with a rentaboy male prostitute, and when confronted, saying he was trying to bring the poor boy to Jesus!

      Hypocrites… doesn’t the Bible have something to say about that?

    2. Kiffi: I would like to see that quote in its original.

      Also, just because some of the hierarchy has said inappropriate or even untrue things doesn’t mean that the quote can be attributed to “the Church”. Bishops, and even priests, are not puppets controlled by the pope. There are bound to be some hierarchy who say and do stupid (and illegal) things. Even the pope has limited authority to speak for “the Church”. (Papal infallibility is a very limited concept.)

      Blaming the Church for these folks is like blaming “the Media” when Rush Limbaugh says stupid things. Or, better yet, it is like blaming “the Government” when Newt Gingrich does something stupid.

      There are lots of reasons to be in love with the Catholic Church just as there are lots of reasons to be in love with America. And, there are lots of reasons to be cynical and hateful if that is your choice. I’m just not sure why the vast majority of the media seems to have chose the latter over the former.

      1. David- There is a second definition of “hypocrite”: ” a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” I don’t think this behavior has any religious, cultural or racial boundaries. If we dig around 30 or 40 years ago, I think we could find many both “religious” and “non-religious” people guilty of pedophilia. Woody Allen and Roman Polanski are two that come to mind. But, perhaps these men can be excused as they are “artists”, even though both fled the country to avoid prosecution.

      2. I dont remember the SAG moving them around to protect them and the other artists that believe in making movies.

      3. Anthony- No, I don’t either. It may be the differences in the expectations people place upon those guilty of these crimes. There is a high expectation upon Churches and their representatives. There is not nearly the same level placed upon these actor/writers. But, does that make either more or less acceptable (reprehensible)?

      4. Original source is New York Times article, about a week ago, about the Mexican Bishop whose name begins with M and died a couple of years ago… sorry can’t take the time to research more thoroughly.
        he founded a ‘philanthropic organization that contributed mucho $$$ to the Church in Rome, and the article said that was one of the justifications , by the Pope, to not “out” his crimes, at the time.

      5. David: forgot to say that I find your parallel with the media to be not a good model; there are many media sources, under many controls.

        The Catholic Church would appear to me… and I certainly may be wrong … to be a direct hierarchy, one might say a Pyramid.

      6. Kiffi: The Catholic Church isn’t a direct hierarchy. Even if it were, it isn’t fair to indict the whole church just because one of its leaders says something stupid.

        Most of the current indictments against the Catholic Church have been issued by the media. Most of the indictments, like the ones against Pope Benedict, are meritless. The fact that there have been so few apologists says volumes about the power of the media to suppress vigorous debate, and fair defenses. After all, who wants to rush to the defense a man or a Church being beaten by the media mob?

        I think that the strongest indictment is the charge that the hierarchy failed to act according to the higher standards we would expect from our spiritual leaders. The reasons that they failed to act according to the higher standards has much more to do with human nature (and original sin, if you believe in such a concept) than it has to do with systemic evil within a Catholic cult.

        Fortunately, the Church (at least in America) has been about a decade (or two) ahead of the media. For the most part, what the Church has to endure right now is not the “sex abuse crisis”; what it has to endure is a public relations crisis perpetrated by media bullies and thugs.

        To its credit, the Church has not buckled under to pressure from outside influences to adopt a secular approach to resolving the media crisis. Calls to fire people, pay damages, and other secular approaches, especially at this late date, don’t get to the root of the problem. Sins of this magnitude also require a spiritual answer that includes examination of conscience, contrition, confession, and penance.

        We’ll see when the new John Jay report comes out how well the situation has been administratively addressed.

  29. Many institutions in many societies are hierarchy. It is basic natural structure formed on common ground between men. Janitors have supervisors who answer to someone else, bankers answer to their constiuents, and even the beloved Twins are there.

    No matter what the structure, there were and still are men and women who take their issues out on children…in government, in foreign countries, in family units.

    This is one reason to develop an honor for all life, to desire to protect the vulnerable without allowing them to over take their protectors with similarly vile behavior. Any policy that promotes looking at children as if they were less than human from the very time of their birth is of course abhorrent.

    Also, I will defend every other Catholic priest or any other minister of God now.
    These men work tirelessly, especially in large cities, tending to all manner of misery including ministering to the dying anytime of the day or night, overseeing
    all the dealings of the parish, like a mayor might do, and the church buildings,
    loads of time each day for study and prayer, reigning in their own misgivings if any, tending to the schools, political situations and much, much more, all the while knowing they will never have money, fast cars, slow gin or other tender mercies given to others who work hard each day.

    I hope I don’t see any more generalization or reaching out to the extremes to prove any points in the future. It gives thinking a bad name.

  30. David: in response to #45.2.6… Do I misunderstand the word ‘Hierarchy’?

    I think not, and Random House thinks not:
    “1. any system of persons or things ranked one above another.
    2. government by ecclesiastical rulers.
    3. government by an elite group.”

    (nothing omitted, nothing added in that quote)

    1. Kiffi: Was Obama responsible because Jeremiah Wright said some inflammatory things? Of course not. Was Obama responsible because he hired tax evaders as part of his Cabinet? Of course not. Is Pope Benedict responsible for every act of sexual abuse that happened in the Catholic Church in the last 33 years?

      1. In my HUMBLE opinion, David, you are being ridiculous…

        O f course Pope Benedict is NOT responsible for every act of sexual abuse that happened in the Catholic Church in the last 33 years; we do happen to be centered on the Roman Catholic Church, in this thread, as the heading/title poses the question.

        We all have equal moral responsibilities… but is it possible that leaders of religious institutions have even a tad more responsibility to show an example of moral leadership?

      2. Kiffi: The heading suggests that at some point we are going to have a frank discussion of the media’s role in the sexual abuse crisis. I maintain that the media has grossly inflated the current situation.

        Why they have done so is not entirely clear to me. Why do you think the Church can’t get a fair hearing in the media?

      3. Because it’s a big ongoing story that will sell papers, and because they are watching their bottom line like everyone else, and because newspapers especially are losing their journalistic principles as they lose their revenue… and because the Roman Catholic Church, in the decisions made by those elevated in its hierarchy covered up this problem of abuse for way too long, and because although they say they are exemplary, people are just people… there are good and bad in all degrees, and the Church, any Church, covers up its errors because they do not wish to lose their control/power/ influence over their parishioners.

      4. Kiffi: I agree with everything except the very last part that the Church is trying to maintain control/power/influence over its parishioners. She has no army, she charges no taxes, and membership is entirely voluntary.

        Furthermore, even though membership is without any commitment, she (the Catholic Church’s hierarchy) has taken some very unpopular positions on a number of political and moral issues.

  31. There is an interesting article in the Strb today. The link is here:

    http://www.startribune.com/local/west/93067314.html?elr=KArksUUUoDEy3LGDiO7aiU

    This is a very interesting quote in the fourth paragraph:

    “At a news conference Friday, reporters repeatedly asked County Attorney Mike Freeman how nearly 50 years of abuse could go unaddressed until 2010. “This was not society’s finest hour,” he said, adding, “The world was different in 1970.”

    This is the account of what was going on in a law enforcement organization. From this, I don’t think we can make an EXCLUSIVE case against the Catholic Church for covering up sexual abuse. In fact, there are some of the most sickening accounts of other sexual abuse in the B section that I think a person is going to want to come across. Perhaps the world WAS different in 1970. It makes me wonder how much progress we have actually made as a society.

    1. I say we have made little progress. My Navaho friends in Arizona are being discriminated against today…people on tv are arguing for legalizing prostitition, which to me means promoting the idea that prostitutes are people who may be thought of as pleasure toys and as sacred beings, not so much…that hardly any woman in this country walks outside alone feeling safe, that every few minutes someone is getting beat up in their own home, and that whole countries still promote children as sexual partners. Argh. It makes me physcially ill, and I am a lucky one. 1970?
      Go back, go way back.

  32. I don’t want to make this thread about abortion but Nicholas Kristof’s column yesterday is relevant to the discussion here:

    Sister Margaret’s Choice
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/27/opinion/27kristof.html

    The Roman Catholic hierarchy is entitled to its views. But the episode reinforces perceptions of church leaders as rigid, dogmatic, out of touch — and very suspicious of independent-minded American nuns.

    Sister Margaret made a difficult judgment in an emergency, saved a life and then was punished and humiliated by a lightning bolt from a bishop who spent 16 years living in Rome and who has devoted far less time to serving the downtrodden than Sister Margaret. Compare their two biographies, and Sister Margaret’s looks much more like Jesus’s than the bishop’s does.

    I’ve written several times about the gulf between Roman Catholic leaders at the top and the nuns, priests and laity who often live the Sermon on the Mount at the grass roots. They represent the great soul of the church, which isn’t about vestments but selflessness.

    When a hierarchy of mostly aging men pounce on and excommunicate a revered nun who was merely trying to save a mother’s life, the church seems to me almost as out of touch as it was in the cruel and debauched days of the Borgias in the Renaissance.

    1. Of course there is more to the story–the Church’s institutionalized misogyny. The low value placed on the life of women. The strange idea that men are closer to god.

      1. Jane,
        You are unclean! How dare you question the idea that men are closer to God!

        Anyway, it is not The Catholic Church who forbids women from being priests, it is God who forbids women from being priests:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_doctrine_on_the_ordination_of_women#Doctrinal_position_and_its_supporters

        In recent years, responding to questions about the matter, the Church has issued a number of documents repeating the same position.[6] In 1994, Pope John Paul II declared the question closed in his letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, stating: “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance…I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”[7]

        In 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a clarification, explaining that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, though “itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church…. This doctrine belongs to the deposit of the faith of the Church. It should be emphasized that the definitive and infallible nature of this teaching of the Church did not arise with the publication of the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”.[8] Instead, it was “founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium,” and for these reasons it “requires definitive assent.”[9]

        The Church teaching on the restriction of its ordination to men is that masculinity was integral to the personhood of both Jesus and the men he called as apostles.[10] The Roman Catholic Church sees maleness and femaleness as two different ways of expressing common humanity.[11] Despite the common academic phrase “gender roles,” which implies that the phenomenon of the sexes is a mere surface phenomenon, an accident, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that there is an ontological (essential) difference between humanity expressed as male humanity and humanity expressed as female humanity.[12] While many functions are interchangeable between men and women, some are not, because maleness and femaleness are not interchangeable. Just as water is necessary for a valid baptism, and wheaten bread and grape wine are necessary for a valid Eucharist (not because of their superiority over other materials, but because they are what Jesus used or authorized), only men can be validly ordained, regardless of any issues of equality.[13]

        Actually, there might be an interesting digression here: what actually is the definition of “woman” or “man” that the Church uses to determine eligibility for the priesthood? Although uncommon, there are persons with different sets of ‘intersex’ biological traits. Has any such person ever been admitted to the priesthood? If so, which ones are accepted as men, and which ones are women?

  33. I am sure that this nun knew what she was doing and did it anyway. Maybe she was trying to make a statement, maybe she was too pressured to stay in the position of power she had and wanted it taken away. Maybe she no longer wishes to hold with the tenets of the church and maybe the bishop recognized that. And yes, I bet there is more to the story as well.

    1. Maybe she thought saving a life was important. Maybe she thought that the fairly-new rule she was breaking was not as important as 2000 years of valuing life. Maybe she thought that if it was her sister or her mother, she would not say “let her die” so she would not do it for someone else’s sister or mother.

    2. Bright and David,
      I am glad that you two share so much faith in the Catholic Church. Perhaps you can find the “more to the story” that you’re looking for on The Church’s decision here:
      http://news.google.com/news/search?aq=f&pz=1&cf=all&ned=us&hl=en&q=sister+margaret+excommunicated

      On the other hand, what if there is no more to this story? Do you support the Church’s position?

      Interestingly – and almost certainly not coincidentally – the Mayo Clinic only practices Obstetrics and Gynecology at Rochester Methodist Hospital, rather than at its primary facilities at St. Marys Hospital, which is still loosely affiliated with the Sisters of Saint Francis.

    3. Patrick: The first thing that isn’t clear is why the issue is coming to light now given that the abortion happened last year. It is also not clear if the Sister agreed or disagreed with the excommunication.

    4. Possibly, David, the reason is did not come to light is that neither the church or the hospital wanted to advertise that their attitude is a woman is better off dead….It has taken this long for “friends” of this nun to get the story out there and circulating–I think the story would have spread faster if the pregnant woman had died and her family sued the hospital for failing to save her life.

      Whether the nun “agreed” with the excommunication is not that important–and shows a cavalier attitude–the important issue is that the church would rather a woman die than have an abortion–that they chose this “natural” solution over life-saving science, and that they will act in a most agressive manner to enforce their misogyinistic agenda-by choosing the most severe punishment for any woman who would disagree. (Ex communication of the nun.)

      It is only recently that the church claims abortion is murder–sort of this “if the pope says it is true it is the word of God” –a clever way to keep the women barefoot and pregnant–the church does not like uppity women–and they do not want women to control their own bodies–especially when it comes to reproduction. No birth control.

    5. Jane: If the Sister (or others who were excommunicated) agreed with the excommunication, then there aren’t any public issues to debate. If the Sister believes that she was wrongfully excommunicated, then there are debatable issues – some issues which might reach the public, and some that are internal Church affairs.

      You and Kristof assume that the mother’s life was in immediate danger because of the pregnancy, and that an abortion was the only way to save her life. You also seem to assume that she was excommunicated by the bishop because she participated in the decision. I’m not sure any of the assumptions are accurate.

      According to Church teaching, the active participation in an abortion results in excommunication without any official act of the Church. While an abortion can never be considered a moral act, the gravity of the offense may be lessened, and even justified, if the life of the mother is in immediate danger and an abortion is the only means of saving the mother’s life.

      The rationale for killing the unborn is nearly identical to the rationale for killing the born. It is never moral for me to kill someone. However, if my life is in immediate danger, and the only way to avoid the danger is to kill the person, the killing can be considered justified (but never moral).

      For individuals who believe that abortion is a matter of liberty (choice), any discussion of when the unborn human’s right to life may be terminated must seem silly.

    6. David: The facts are that the life of the mother was in immediate danger-she was in cardiac arrest due to a condition caused by the pregnancy. They did not even move her to an operating room to perform the abortion as they could not wait and the movement may have killed her.

      To you the big deal is the excommunication. To me it is the churches policy of making new rules, claiming they are the word of God, and then applying them to subjugate women.

      The bishop stated that it would have been better to let the woman die (which would have also ended the life of her 11 week old fetus) than to abort. The mitigating factor was saving the life of the mother–not important in the eyes of the bishop. Also, even though medical professionals advised that the woman’s death was almost certain without the abortion, you and other church apologists claim that we cannot know if the doctors are right–an odd position if someone’s life hangs in the balance–the Catholic church, always ready to sacrifice the life of a woman.

      1. Jane: I looked for versions of the incident. I couldn’t find any first hand accounts. Of the second-hand accounts there wasn’t anything reliable indicating that death was imminent, or that abortion was the only viable medical treatment for the condition. Both may be true.

        I read the bishop’s statement. I don’t remember reading that he said that it would have been better to let the woman die than to abort. If he did, that isn’t the Church teaching.

        The more interesting part of this story to me is that this event happened last year, and now the Sister’s excommunication is suddenly a big story. Are guys like Kristof manipulating our emotions and the good Sister’s situation from their own benefit, or to grind their own axe?

      2. David: The excommunication is only part of the story–the whole story of one woman’s situation was probably kept quiet because no body wants their personal medical stories bandied about in the press. Griff reprinted from one article and Patrick Enders has a link in his post. Please research this so you know more about it. The bishop was interviewed and said that it would have been better to let the woman die.

    7. Oh-also David. Abortion was not considered murder in the Catholic church until recent years. The life of the unborn (and stillborn) was not equal to a born baby (a baby that breathed at least one breath.) A fetus was considered a fetus without a soul until it had breathed–and only then did it receive its soul and become a potential limbo baby if you didn’t baptize it.

      Some time ago, the church and church hospitals banned ceasareans as unnatural and required the women die rather than have the baby–and there are many other life-saving procedures that the church has denied to women, including birth control.

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