Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Not So Many Moons Ago

It's been a long and emotionally wrenching day, so this will be brief.

There are many cases which the report didn't cover, but among the most extraordinary things not covered today by my colleagues in print and broadcast is this.

St. Charles Borromeo Seminary enacted a policy of not admitting celibate gay men -- and expelling those found to be gay -- in 1988. It is the very same policy many are advocating for the universal church.

However, of the names revealed by the archdiocese today in its first full disclosure of priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors, four men ordained for Philadelphia since that policy was in force -- one in 1989 (removed after two years in ministry), one in 1993 (removed after four months in ministry), and two in 1996 -- have been removed from ministry.

Of these four, two were involved in homosexual misconduct, two in heterosexual misconduct. Two of the men have already been laicized, one died in 2004 (while still in restricted ministry) and the final case -- a 1996 ordinand removed from ministry in 1999 -- is pending before the Holy See.

In sum, it's all heartbreaking, regardless of what or when or how it happened. I have known many of these men in my time, both those who have been accused of abuse and those on the administrative side. And this will confirm for many who haven't known them the worst and lowest possible expectations of what the church is and the church does.

Of all the things that has to change, it's renewing the concept of true priestly identity and mission that must be Job One. And bringing an entrenched clerical culture back to basics may not be the easiest thing, but from here on out, it must be the most important thing -- for the simple reason that it's the truly good priests who inspire holiness. The nicely-dressed ones only inspire "Oooh"s and "Aaaah"s.

"All human believing is a believing-with," Ratzinger writes about the role of the priest, "and for that reason, the one who believes before us is so important."

In this town, the role of the priest as sacrificer, as believer, as servant of the Body has long been lost under the morass of a glorified, cultic crust, which concealed much and often neglected that call to genuine service even more.

If there's good to be found in all this, it's that the opportunity for a renewal presents itself, urges itself, as never before. Whether the challenge is taken up or not is anyone's guess -- but it'd be a blessed gift for the bicentennial of the establishment of this local church in April, 2008.

Yet nobody said it'd be easy: My enthusiasm was just dampened in talking to two people in the pews who both basically said, even now, "Our priests would never do this and the kids were asking for it."

Exaudi et libera nos, Domine, ex hoc exilio nostro.



Blogger michigancatholic said...

Kids do not "ask" to be molested. Healthy adults do not perceive or say such things.

The screening procedures for getting in the seminary and staying in (esp. staying in) need to become much more comprehensive. Seminarians should have to exhibit proper behavior throughout their seminary years to continue. No exceptions.

21/9/05 23:25  
Blogger theobservationalist said...


Why do you always join the chorus, speaking of homosexual "misconduct" and heterosexual "misconduct" as if they are equal? According to the Church, they are not. This is part of the reason for the policy -if the church really beleives its own teaching, then we have to get out of the mindset which treats all acts of preistly unchastity as equally a "violation of the vows." They are, but there is more to it, another moral calsulus is involved. Sodomoy, in the catechetical tradition, was a "sin that cries to heaven." Sexual sins are not confined to violations of vows and abuse. Some sexual acts are pre se disordered. Do you believe this and understand its implications for Cahtolic thinking? Something makes me dout it . . .

22/9/05 03:58  
Blogger Darwin said...

This is a second try, so sorry if it double posts...

This is a little off topic, Rocco, but I'm wondering if you know what bishops/diocese have been particularly good about dealing with abuse in a timely fashion and going back well before 2002. The more extreme commentators around St. Blogs all seem to imagine that every bishop in the country was blithely transfering obvious abusers from one parish to another. It seems like there must have been a spectrum of sorts, though, from those who barely cared, to those who cared but were inept, to those who did a very good job of stopping abuse and protecting children.

Instead of all the "I'll never trust the Church again" stuff that some people go in for, it seems like one of the things an informed lay person should do is try to understand what these events looked like at the time from the diocesan point of view, and who had a pastoral approach that successfully dealt with problems rather than hiding them.

22/9/05 13:53  

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