Monday, June 10, 2002

Cardinal Dulles has an opinion piece in the New York Times today . He mentions two schools of thought, this would be the one that I'm in:

The Bishops and the VaticanEarly reactions to the draft fall into two general categories. One school, adopting slogans like "zero tolerance" and "one strike and you're out," favors rigorous psychological testing of seminary candidates, the exclusion of homosexually oriented seminarians, perfect orthodoxy in the teaching of moral theology (especially on sexual questions), immediate reporting of all accusations to civil authorities, public disclosure of the names of accused priests, suspension of accused priests from the active ministry, and streamlined processes for the dismissal of those found guilty of serious or repeated offenses.

This school will have the support of bishops for whom the first priority is to shield the church against disrepute and liability. Draconian measures will also be welcomed by angry parishioners and by priests who feel betrayed by those of their number — too many, though proportionally few — who have brought discredit upon the clergy and upon the church itself.

But check out the other school of thought, which I presume the Cardinal is advocating as the "correct" one:

This school will wonder about what measures should be taken against a priest who committed a serious offense long ago but who has repented, reformed and given decades of irreproachable service. Should such priests be removed from ministry even if it can be shown that they pose no discernible threat to young people in the future? Should priests not be treated as innocent until proven guilty?

Should someone be free from consequences because their victim was too young to stand up and point out thier accuser? Why should perpetrators who are caught be excluded immediately and those who do a good job of convincing their victims to remain silent be able to remain years later when the truth is finally known? Plus there is the myth of "one act" which I would modify to say "one 'known' act," these things are almost never solitary events.


To return a priest to the lay population is to obfuscate this theological principle. Is it not better, the second school will ask, for the church to take responsibility for its erring priests and continue to care for them as priests rather than dismiss them, as if expelling them from its ranks would protect society from them? There may be a need to limit a priest's ministry, even severely. He may have to be sent to a monastery for a life of seclusion and penance. But involuntary return to the laity should be very rare and (as the draft recognizes) should never be imposed without due process.

We do not want babies for priests. Grown men do not need to be "taken" care of. If they are criminals--there is jail and prison. If they are mentally ill--there are insane asylumns and politics. There is no "safe environment" where children and young men are totally excluded. I was at a monastery this past weekend and they hosts a youth training camp throughout the summer. They also have a seminary there, young men abound. This is where you are going to send someone with a track record of abuse? Fire them, just like you would fire a layperson or a priest who left to marry!

Yes, let me reiterate--"Fire them," either by excommunicating them, laicizing them, or just plain kicking them out on their can. Nothing to complicated about that theologically.

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