Regarding your editorial “Europe’s Long Lent” on March 28: One would have to wonder, Who is calling the kettle black? The Register is an arm of the Legionaries of Christ, which has had its own sexual-abuse scandal among other scandals.
Joseph P. Nolan
The editor responds: We have not shied away from running stories that report the facts on the misdeeds of the founder of the Legion as they have been made available. However, the bishops mishandling sexual-abuse allegations is a scandal for the whole Church and must be seen as such. It pertains to the mission of the Register to provide readers with the facts and analysis they need to cut through media misrepresenting on the issue.
Judged by Sins of Few
Relevant to your coverage of the current sexual-abuse crisis in the Church:
In the past year, evidence was discovered that a doctor was molesting young boys in his examination room. Hundreds of photos were discovered in his home after he died. No one — and rightly so — blames doctors as a group for what one physician did.
Yet, there are newspapers that malign priests because of the sins of just a few clergy. Legionaries of Christ are a fine group of priests. That their founder was a sinner who disgraced himself doesn’t mean that the members of that order are to be condemned. Even Jesus had his betrayer in his group. Peter, James, Mark, et al were not guilty for what Judas did.
The religious writer Kierkegaard expressed it well when he wrote that God judges the individual, not the group.
One lesson learned from being molested is that you will be ever alert that such dastardly acts will never happen on your watch.
Love Those ‘Mugs’
“Baby Mugs” is one of the first things we look at when the Register arrives. We just love your newspaper: sound, grounded in the Catholic faith, and a font of worthy news reporting. We thank you for your dedication to the Truth.
Keith and Sarah Holowecky
I receive the print edition of the Register. Occasionally, there is an article that I would like to make copies of and distribute to the parish. I hope this will give you more publicity. It is a great Catholic paper. I have had a subscription for about five years. Keep up the good work.
Father Marcus Mallick
Sacred Heart of Mary Parish
The editor responds: Thanks, Father Mallick. Our reproduction policy is simple: All you have to do is credit the Register on the reproduced item(s).
Shifting the Blame?
As Catholics in a once Christian, now rapidly secularizing, culture, we often complain of media spin. But your front-page article “Making the Church Pay” (May 9) takes the prize for distortion when it claims that an attorney, Jeff Anderson, “is responsible for” the Church having to pay millions in the abuse-and-cover-up scandal. Perhaps your writer might check the dictionary, which relates responsibility to causation.
This verbal twist is analogous to asserting that lawyers are responsible for acts of medical malpractice because they initiate litigation on behalf of injured patients.
The facts, established by the National Review Board and spelled out by The Dallas Morning News, inter alia, are, of course, that the criminal and negligent actions of a small percentage of priests and a large percentage of bishops have been responsible for the financial cost of the abuse-and-cover-up scandal. And the dollar cost has been only a part of the damage done to the Church and her evangelizing mission.
It is disappointing indeed when the response of much of the Church in the U.S. has been to dodge and to hide and to blame, irrelevantly, anti-Catholicism (always with us) and/or greedy lawyers (always with us) for the scandal actually generated by predatory priests and obfuscating bishops.
If the Register’s mission is to inform and inspire Catholics so that they might better engage the culture, its journalistic focus ought to be on promulgating the whole truth, and not on belaboring us with embarrassing spin.
Side With Victims
On the front page of the May 9 edition is the article “Making the Church Pay,” while on page two is the article “Side With Abuse Victims, Seminarian Urges Priests.”
I think the whole Church in general, and the victims of abuse in particular, would have been better served if these two articles had been switched.
While it is clear there is money to be made from suing the Church, that is hardly the lawyer’s fault. A fair question would be, “If the Church were not so aggressively sued, would their policies regarding allegations of abuse have changed?”
I don’t know the answer to that question, but the whole system of tort law in this country contains a punitive monetary aspect precisely because it gets the attention of the wrongdoer. An alternative question would be: “Two and a half billion dollars later, are our children safer than they were from abuse by clergy?” It would be difficult to argue in the negative.
The superior article is on page two. This article, a commentary from the Catholic News Service on Davide Russo’s article that appeared in L’Osservatore Romano, actually contains constructive advice which can help further healing: “Russo said a defensive attitude against critics does not help the Church.” Nor, I would add in an aside to the Register, does a defensive attitude against the lawyers.
It is easy to lose sight of the goal here. Defending the Church does not mean defending demonstrably failed administrative procedures. The Church is not its administration. It also does not mean declaring the job finished before it is finished. Let’s be clear on this one thing: This job will never be finished. As long as we are dealing with humans in the world, which includes priests and bishops, there will be failures. But they should and can be limited to individual failures — not institutionalized failures on the scale we have seen with this scandal. Russo, the seminarian, is exactly correct in his advice to priests: Side with the abuse victims.
Report Credible Claims
Regarding your coverage of priestly sexual abuse, I agree that we must pray for our Pope. Our prayers will be more powerful if we pray for a specific intention. My intention is that our Pope request that bishops report every credible claim of sexual abuse by the clergy to the authorities.
In my opinion, reporting every credible claim of sexual abuse by the clergy to the authorities will do more than saying that the secular press is attacking the Catholic Church. Those who lash out against the secular press instead of dealing with the issues are attacking the messenger because they do not like the message.
Sierra Vista, Arizona
The editor responds: Pope Benedict XVI has done just that in his “Letter to the Church in Ireland.” And the U.S. bishops are doing their part. Their annual audit revealed that in 2009 there were six credible allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
‘Defrocking’ Is Misleading
Recent reports in the media have criticized the Vatican for delaying or failing to “defrock” certain pedophile priests. The prime example is the Murphy case in Wisconsin. While decrying this delay or failure, the media has generally failed to explain what “defrocking” means in the Catholic context and what the practical consequences of “defrocking” are. Most importantly, the media has ignored the most crucial question: whether “defrocking” a Catholic priest helps to protect children.
“Defrocking” is not a term used in canon law and is in fact a misleading term with respect to Catholics. Contrary to popular belief, a Catholic priest cannot be un-ordained any more than a person can be un-baptized. As stated in Nos. 1582 and 1583 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “ordination is forever” and confers “an indelible spiritual character” on the soul. In the Catholic faith, a priest is a priest forever, and there is nothing the pope or anyone else can do to change this.
Canon law does recognize “dismissal from the clerical state.” This generally means that the priest is dispensed from his priestly vows and the bishop is relieved from that point forward of his responsibility for and obligations to the priest.
With respect to a pedophile priest, such dismissal is advantageous to the Church in the sense that the bishop will no longer be responsible for supervising and monitoring the activities of the priest and will generally not be liable for future misconduct by the pedophile. However, dismissal may well be disadvantageous to the public as one control for keeping the pedophile away from minors will no longer exist.
The pedophile will now be a “free agent,” released from the bishop’s supervision, and subject only to one restraint — the civil law. Prior to dismissal, there were two restraints — the bishop’s supervision and the civil law.
When the priest remains under the supervision of the bishop, the bishop does have, and always has had, the power to protect children by restricting the activities of the priest. While maintaining the bishop’s supervision, there are other measures that can be imposed. These include commitment to a life of prayer and penance, prohibiting any exercise of public ministry, and prohibiting the wearing of clerical clothing and the use of the term “father.”
Does “defrocking” or “dismissal from the clerical state” help to protect children? In my opinion, it clearly does not.
Peter M. Anderson
Mercer Island, Washington