Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Morning After

Well, we're all digging out today here. The above is the editorial cartoon from Tony Auth in today's Inquirer.

The editorial pages are reacting with predictable fury. The Daily News leader says
No horror novel could capture the depravity described in this report....

And what was the archdiocese's response yesterday? Shamefully, it was to continue to deny the undeniable and imply that the report was a smear on the Catholic Church.

In the face of such arrogant denials, why should anyone trust this archdiocese?

True though that is, I'm starting to take umbrage at all this dumping-on. It might be my Philly Catholic DNA ("When in doubt, circle the wagons.") coming to the surface, but still: A 40 month grand jury came up with no charges -- when they could've indicted a ham sandwich if they wanted to -- and yet we still have this report on our hands.

As no charges were filed, the word "libel" has already been thrown around. And some rightly-deserved good reputations will be tarnished as a result of this. While I'm irate at the pulling of the anti-Catholic card on a report of actions which the church brought on itself, it is far from a strictly black-and-white moment.

I'm not looking out for the institution, but those who undeservedly have been swept under this tidal wave and will forevermore be tainted, seen as suspect and inhibited from the complete and credible service of souls. Yet, charges or not, it's not an invalid question to ask how far the church has gotten from its mission -- as the Inky editorial points out
So many victims over so many years. This was not proper pastoral care of young souls. This was not living out the Gospel. The archdiocese says it cooperated fully with the probe. City prosecutors, however, said the archdiocese's lawyers put up obstacles every step of the way.
To close, I feel for my archbishop. Justin Rigali had nothing to do with any of this, but he now faces the most painful moment in the long and triumphant history of Catholic Philadelphia. Moving forward, business as usual is most certainly NOT the answer, but as the sitting master of the culture, he holds the keys to its future in his hands.

And if anyone can bring things into line here, it's Rigali. I hope. I guess we'll have to wait and see. He's got a high place in my prayers.



Blogger patrick said...

Well, that editorial was a piece of moralistic humbug. The "How Dare the Archdiocese Take Issue With Anything the DA Says" tone is beneath contempt. Is the Archdiocese not allowed to defend itself? That's unfair and unAmerican to boot. In fact, the Archdiocese made some important points about the one-sided nature of the investigation and the unfair castigation of Cardinal B. (The Archdiocese's defense of Cardinal K and its invocation of the Know-Nothings was lame).

And tarring the Archdiocese with the parade of horribles, like the oral sex in front of a crowd story seems rather exploitative since this sort of thing could just as readily happen in any educational institute in this country.

You want a parade of horribles? How about the recent outrageous case of the SEXUAL HARRASSMENT ADVISOR at George Mason University who was sentenced last week for child pornography and extortion. Apparently, he had sex with young men, both under and over 18, videotaped them without their knowledge and threatened exposure of the videotape to family members unless they paid him money and had further sex with him. Some of these young men were so terrified that they actually succumbed to this absurd blackmail. Were there screaming national headlines about this? No. Were there any calls for a thorough investigation of sexual interaction between university staff/faculty and students? No. Were there calls for a thorough investigation of sexual abuse in the Virginia state university system? Of course not. And, believe me, there are some rumored cases in the Virginia state system by well-known figures that, if verified, would blow the whole damn thing sky-high. But, does anyone want to go there? No one in their right mind does.

I'm ranting, but writing this makes me angry.

22/9/05 15:54  
Blogger Fr. John said...

It is all just too horrible for words. The actions of moving priests to prevent "scandal," and thereby to virtually ensure new victims, is so clear, so obvious, so misguided, as to be nearly unbelievable.

Yet the Grand Jury Report is written in the style of yellow journalism. It is not a legal presentiment, but a polemic. It does not give credit for changed policies, or for the absence of cases from more recent years. Its style is rightly to be condemned, even as the actions it describes are to be condemned.

It should be pointed out what we do not know. There is no standard of proof required for any statement in the report, and therefore we just don't know the degree of certitude of any observation or finding of the Grand Jury.

We don't know what would have been found in a comparable investigation of the School Board, or the press, of the govenment, or of any other religious organization. So we don't know where we stand in comparison.

Finally, the report does not provide information about the rates of offending among clergy, though perhaps it could be extrapolated. It does not provide information about the relative presence of priests attracted to the same sex, to the other sex, or indiscriminately toward prepubecent children, and therefore it is impossible to specify the rates of offending for these groups.

It is a day of anger and sadness that should, eventually move toward a day of resolve to do differently. But I am afraid that we will not rise to the resolute public and private honesty that will be required for things to really improve. The statement of the archdiocese seems aimed at damage control and defense, rather than contrition and a firm purpose of amendment. And so many of the private comments look toward scapegoats. Neither tack will take us in the direction we need to go.

22/9/05 16:07  
Blogger edgleason said...

As I predicted we read above 'the others do it too' excuse.. we have a Catholic jounalist guy out west that wants to blame public school teachers.. when I point out there are more Catholic school teachers than priests so where are the 5000 teacher abusers .. no answer.
Your Philly report is mild compared to what will break in LA.. The archdioceses lawyers at $500 an hour discovered there are lot of these 19th century 'no nothings' still alive..And I new we would hear about the 'indict a ham sandwich' but not from Rocco! let's face this with prayer and courage.. we are having an intsitutional melt down as another poster mentioned. And I don't give a rats ass about some secretive bishop's reputation. He'll eat and live well. When 1000 soldiers die on a hill who gives a damn about the Colonel's reputation or feelings after he ordered the stupid charge.
Please, apologists.. stop worrying about the failed leaders and try to save the people of God...
Frisco Eddie

22/9/05 17:10  
Blogger Jeff said...


I just don't get the part about the same stuff occurring in secular schools. Priests have an obligation to be much better than that. They can't just act like the worst of the people found outside the Church. They don't get a pass for that.

If you freely choose a high moral calling and fall below the average behavior of people with no such obligation, you should be ASHAMED. You shouldn't make excuses for yourself. You should say, I SINNED, mea maxima culpa, and then you should go and do penance. If you don't think you can manage the burden of being an exemplar and a leader, DON'T BE A PRIEST.

All this is so elementary; it makes you wonder if Catholics have utterly forgotten what sin is.

And I have yet to hear this word from anyone in the Catholic Church. What about a day of fasting and reparation? In that context, it would be so much easier to sympathize with failures of responsibility.

22/9/05 17:39  
Blogger patrick said...

"I just don't get the part about the same stuff occurring in secular schools. Priests have an obligation to be much better than that. They can't just act like the worst of the people found outside the Church. They don't get a pass for that."

Of course priests are supposed to be more virtuous that school teachers even though school teachers were supposed to be paragons of virtue in private and in public like priests at one time. That's not the point. The point is that powers-that-be who do not like what the Church stands for will always try to persecute it based upon the sexual misdeeds of her clergy and lay leaders and will ignore the sexual misdeeds within their own house or establishment. That was true for King John of England, Henry VIII, and Adolph Hitler among others. It is likewise true, though less egregiously so, for the Philadelphia DA and others like her. It is perfectly appropriate to point out the fact that her studied lack of interest in the sexual misconduct of those who work with young people on the PA government payroll is in peculiar contrast to her over-the-top salacious pursuit of sex abuse involving the Catholic clergy that she hates and deplores.

22/9/05 17:47  
Blogger Jeff said...


"It is perfectly appropriate to point out the fact that her studied lack of interest in the sexual misconduct of those who work with young people on the PA government payroll is in peculiar contrast to her over-the-top salacious pursuit of sex abuse involving the Catholic clergy that she hates and deplores."

No, it's not perfectly appropriate to point out that "other do it too" when you've done something egregiously wrong. It's disgusting to point that out. Murderers don't get to point out that there are other murderers that went unpunished or that the people prosecuting them may not like them for other reasons. They hang their heads in shame and take their punishment.

And if they are the Church and stand for something that's supposed to transcend all that they spend their time beating their breast and repenting in sackcloth and ashes, not whining and pointing their fingers and saying, "I'm no worse than the other perverts!"

22/9/05 22:36  
Blogger patrick said...

We're not talking about the perps themselves, Jeff. We are talking about adminstrators of organizations who had to deal with perps and making judgment calls about whether the administrators acted appropriately in dealing with perps. The subjective determination of the level of competence or lack thereof of the Philly Archdiocese IS debatable and debated. And, when it is the Government that is making these subjective and highly disputable findings against the Church when it at the same time refuses to make similar findings regarding the Government's own institutions that work with young people gives rise to the reasonable conclusion that this report is a piece of grandstanding salacious garbage.

23/9/05 09:05  
Blogger Jeff said...


We're not talking about the perps, we're talking about those RESPONSIBLE for the perps. What should be THEIR response?

Sackcloth and ashes, not excuses and not focussing on things like the motivations of the accusers. Are the accusers right? Not in every respect, but are they right? If so, there's little room for pointing the finger back.

I don't think Philadelphia Catholics, or anyone else, reading the horrors of that report are going to be at all satisfied with a response that centers on "We're not the only ones" or "We're being persecuted." No, you're not being persecuted; you did something terrible. Act like you RECOGNIZE that, for God's sake, instead of like your all worried about the moral state of the accusers.

So, let's take your estimation of what the Philadelphia prosecutors are up to and multiply it by a ten. I'll grant you everything you say about their motivation and their anti-Catholicism. But it doesn't matter a damn.

23/9/05 10:56  

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