“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:22-26)
For faithful Catholics, our esteem for priests as in persona Christi pains us to hear of anyone betraying their sacred vows. But for the detractors, there is glee and cynicism over scandals that are then used as ammunition against the entire Church.
What gets forgotten or willfully ignored is that a priest involved in scandal was in a position to represent the Church but did not represent her teachings. He betrayed Christ in favor of sin and that sin is not the Church.
The scandal most wounding the Church today are sex scandals. To put it in perspective and still love and defend our Church, consider that there are multiple victims and the Church is one of them.
1. The physical victim. For the victims of the sin, their wound is deep. They were betrayed by someone that should have been trusted; someone who should have led them to God. Healing does not come easy. To forgive is divine, but for these victims, access to the divine was blocked and confused. They need our prayers for healing.
2. The Church. The Church teaches love and suffering for others, not causing others to suffer. The perpetrator who vowed to represent Jesus and the Church, abandoned them both.
3. Loyal Lay Catholics. For those that understand that for over 2,000 years, the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church has the fullness of faith and is “the pillar and foundation of the truth,” (1Timothy 3:15) scandal saddens but it does not cause us to reject Catholic truths.
4. Those who Built Their House on Sand. Some Catholics without a firm base, leave due to scandal. They don’t understand the teachings or appreciate that the Eucharist is the True Presence of Jesus which we have only through the priesthood.
They leave the Church perhaps for another denomination without considering that sex abuse of children is epidemic throughout society. For instance, it has been reported that sexual abuse by teachers in public schools is "more than 100 times" that by Catholic priests.
Pedophilia among priests is extremely rare, only 0.3 percent of the entire clergy (Yes, still too much but it's not the impression the public has.) This figure was cited in the book Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis by non-Catholic scholar, Philip Jenkins.
The findings in the John Jay report released on May 18, 2011, examined the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the U.S. Catholic Church in-depth. It is the most comprehensive study on child sexual abuse ever conducted and covered the time period 1950-2010. During that time, 5 percent of the total number of priests were accused of sexually inappropriate behavior and less than 4 percent of those accused could be considered pedophiles.
Findings included the observation that the Church has addressed this aggressively and “the decrease in incidence of sexual abuse cases by clergy was more rapid than the overall societal patterns.”
5. Those Influenced by the second-hand smoke. These are the people that never were Catholics to begin with who have a false impression of the Church by taking priest bashing at face value.
6. News Media that Sensationalizes. Calling them a victim, I suppose, is like calling criminals caught in sting operations victims. News reporters love to report on scandals, yet, they are selective. They report as if sex scandals are dominated by priests.
In the Boston scandal, the media reported that 80 priests were pedophiles, but ultimately, only four were actually guilty of molesting children. The Media Report.com has reported that Catholic priests abuse at a rate far lower than that of other males in the general population. Most of the cases were an historical anomaly, occurring during a period from the Sixties to the early Eighties that reflected the era. Experts at the time, believed offenders could be successfully rehabilitated. Offenders were sent for treatment, rather than reported to police, which resulted in a spike in recidivism.
7. Innocent Priests. When priests wear Roman collars in public places, they risk verbal attacks from strangers despite being dedicated and innocent themselves.
In a previous interview with NYTimes-bestselling priest and Fox News analyst, Father Jonathan Morris, he said that sometimes, people come up to him and say something about the priest scandals. “I don’t get defensive. I find that is counterproductive, so I start with the truth,” he said. “I acknowledge that the acts and the cover-up were despicable. People often express surprise that I said that. Then their questions become very rational, like, ‘What has the Church done about it?’ At that point, I will tell them about the Dallas Charter and that very hard policy decisions have been made that affect the life of every priest.”
8. Jesus. We are the body of Christ. He is the victim of all sins. “And the King will say, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,’” (Matthew 25:40).
Prayer for Priests
by St. Thérèse of Lisieux
O Jesus, eternal Priest,
keep your priests within the shelter of Your Sacred Heart,
where none may touch them.
Keep unstained their anointed hands,
which daily touch Your Sacred Body.
Keep unsullied their lips,
daily purpled with your Precious Blood.
Keep pure and unearthly their hearts,
sealed with the sublime mark of the priesthood.
Let Your holy love surround them and
shield them from the world's contagion.
Bless their labors with abundant fruit
and may the souls to whom they minister be their joy and
consolation here and in heaven
their beautiful and everlasting crown. Amen.