Going on Offense

We originally published the editorial “Going on Offense” more than a year ago. Here is an updated version.

Whatever happened to the new springtime of the faith? It wasn't so long ago — the feast of Christ the King in the Jubilee Year — when Pope John Paul II said, “As for the future, there are many reasons for entering the new millennium with well-founded hope.” He spoke of “the Christian springtime, many signs of which we can already glimpse.”

Those were heady times. Catholics looked at the millennium to come as a missionary field to be conquered by Christ. It was “the Catholic moment” to some, the “triumph of the Immaculate Heart” to others, “the New Evangelization” to us all.

In 2002, that spirit seems to have deflated. When speaking about the faith means having to speak about horrible sins committed and abetted by members of the clergy, we tend to find other things to talk about. If we felt exhilarated by the Jubilee then, many of us now feel betrayed by bishops, disgusted by the behavior of some priests and fed up with scandal after scandal.

That's no good. We propose a different response. Let's go on offense.

After all, look at the facts.

First, remember that pedophilia is extremely rare in the priesthood — 1 in 3,000 priests are guilty, according to studies.

When the priest crisis was at its height the Associated Press recently deployed its reporters across the United States to survey Catholic dioceses about the number of priests accused of sexual abuse with underage victims, mostly teens.

The news service estimated that the percentage of guilty or accused priests nationwide was … less than half of 1%. “And many of the complaints come from decades ago,” the report added.

A year later, maxing out the numbers and painting the worst picture possible, The New York Times concluded that the number of priests accused of sexual abuse (mostly homosexual seduction of teens) was … 1.8%

With that in mind, consider the media's barrage of news reports that have made a crime look pervasive in the priesthood, though it is rarer there than elsewhere. In addition to the evil of the abuse that has occurred, it is obvious that we are witnessing another great evil — an attack on the priesthood.

We must address both. We should encourage reform in the Church, yes, but it is just as important to defend the Church in public, because the Church is necessary to humanity's salvation.

What can we do? Here are some suggestions:

Celebrate Priest Day. Well, for starters, if we missed the celebration of Priest Day Sept. 21, we can plan now to do something public to honor our priests on Oct. 26, the other date being touted as “priest day.” At a minimum, we can praise our priests in conversations with friends and family, and mention the true statistics about priests. Or how about gathering a surprise spiritual bouquet, from the whole parish, to offer our priests on Father's Day? Better still, how about hounding our local media outlets to start balancing coverage of the scandals by doing positive stories of priests' good works?

Second, pray the rosary for priests. It's the year of the rosary, still, for a few weeks more — and the Pope has called for daily rosaries. If you are praying the rosary daily, add priests to your intentions. If you aren't, start praying it with this intention.

Third, give priests more “customers.” The Holy Father has asked Catholics to promote Sunday Mass, confession, prayer and community service. We can do so by printing and passing out copies of all the Register's How to Be Catholic guides, which are updated with a much cleaner look at www.ncregister.com.