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"Thou art a priest for ever"

I have seriously mixed feelings about this story.

An organization has been set up to assist former and unassigned Catholic priests in financial need. Initially the intention was to help just those who had been defrocked as part of the pedophile priest scandal, but it later expanded to include the sick and retired. The group, the Organization of Concerned Priests, send out letters to active priests, telling them about the project and requesting donations -- with a minimum of $1,000 suggested.

I have absolutely no idea what to think of this. So many notions come to mind, I don't know where I stand, let alone where to begin.

1) I thought Catholic priests took oaths of poverty. How the dickens can they be expected to cough up a grand at the drop of a hat?

2) While assisting sick and retired priests is certainly noble, why were they an "afterthought" to helping out those who were stripped of their ordinations for sexually misusing children?

3) While I don't like the idea of these pedophiles being supported by their former brethren, there is a sort of logic here. They probably feel a sense of responsibility for the fallen priests' misdeeds, and better they be supported by those who -- collectively -- enabled and covered up for them rather than society as a whole.

4) I understand the Christian call for forgiveness, and there certainly is no enabling going on here (a refreshing change), but I think I'd prefer that the Church (or, in this case, this independent group of priests) focus first on the victims, then, later, help the victimizers.

5) It is, finally, a good sign that the priests are starting to "own" the outrageous scandal. by asking not for Church help but their fellow priests, they are subtly reinforcing the idea that they not only need to care for each other, but police themselves. Perhaps some will see this donation as a self-imposed "fine" for failing to act.

Like I said, I don't know if I like this or not. Normally, I don't bother much with the inner workings of churches -- I'm no Catholic, and in this case it isn't even officially sanctioned by the Church. But the systemic abuse of children and the systemic actions by Church officials to conceal and cover up the abuses stretched far beyond the boundaries of what could be legitimately considered an "internal" Church matter, and became a crime against society -- and the fallout from that is still "fair game" for all of us.

And as such, it's certainly appropriate for all of us -- Catholics and non-Catholics alike -- to examine how the Church is dealing with its prior failures.

Comments (11)

FWIW, priests don't take a ... (Below threshold)

FWIW, priests don't take a vow of poverty. It's the members of particular orders, some of whom are also ordained as priests (for example, the Franciscans).

Still, it's not like the Church can just dump these guys. It's our responsibility to take care of them. I'm pretty sure these guys aren't going to be living in the lap of luxury, as it were.

As long as the same compass... (Below threshold)
Sreve Crickmore:

As long as the same compasssionate cocncern is exhibited for the victims as the offenders this seems appropriate policy...I would be interested in seeing what figures exist for victims sexual abuse of Protestant minister as opposed from Catholic priests who cannot marry..The Catholic Church along with another establishment party will continue to have problems if does not modernise its policies on sexuality by being more open or straightforward. This is the risk of staying in the closet.

Protestant minister can and... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Protestant minister can and often do marry and also have children of their own. I don't know about all Protestant churches, but many have policies that prevent any adult (other than a parent) from being alone with a child except for counseling. Even then, offices and classrooms typically have windows in the doors. Furthermore, everyone who works with children has background checks. These policies are being driven by nervous insurance companies as much as by people within the churches.

As for defrocked priests getting financial help, I think you have to look at this case by case. What was the reason they were defrocked and what evidence was there against them. Perhaps, some were falsely accused and sacrificed to avoid yet another law suite.

I saw a story on the news about someone posting fake sexual offender notices around a neighborhood. Other than libel, there's no law against posting such notices, but the police were very concerned for the safety of the person identified in the notices. Funny how they're not concerned for the safety of anyone who must register as a sexual offender when such notices are posted. Now I know lots of people think such folks should die, but as with any such law, not all people on the sexual offender list deserve to be there. I figure we'll see more of these false notices be it for revenge or as a prank.

For people who think this h... (Below threshold)

For people who think this has to do with being in the closet, or priestly celibacy, consider all the stories of teachers having sex with their students; most of these situations were of the hetero variety, and some of those teachers were married. And it ends with the teacher getting canned, but generally little controversy beyond that. So what's the diff?

It's not because the media or various groups are anti-Catholic that caused the priest molestation scandals big play and the school sex stuff just comes and then goes. It was because the bishops, the guys in charge, many times knew about this stuff, and kept shuffling these guys around without warning the parishes. Without restricting their access to the kids or warning the parents. (It's like House leadership finding out about Foley's creepiness and not doing anything about his access to the pages.) With the school sex stuff, generally the principals don't know, and when they find out, they take immediate action, and not reassigning the teacher to a different school with no warning.

What's dumb is that the Church has dealt with priestly problems before, such as alcoholism and stealing from the collection (that's just not been taken care of recently, though). Yes, the bishops send them to treatment, but they also restrict their activities afterward, by not letting them handing alcohol or money.

In any case, the institution itself has much to answer for, not just these individual men. I think the dioceses should take responsibility for the problems they created because they sought to ignore the behavior. But the priests starting their own funds is a start.

"What's dumb is that the... (Below threshold)

"What's dumb is that the Church has dealt with priestly problems before, such as alcoholism and stealing from the collection (that's just not been taken care of recently, though). Yes, the bishops send them to treatment, but they also restrict their activities afterward, by not letting them handing alcohol or money."

"In any case, the institution itself has much to answer for, not just these individual men. I think the dioceses should take responsibility for the problems they created because they sought to ignore the behavior."

Glad to hear conservatives feel that way -- that the people and institutions that ignored the wrong doing bear a responsibiilty along with the offender. I, and a lot of my fellow liberals, feel exactly the same way.

Thanks for the thoughtful post, Jay.

Yeah, Catholic priests as a... (Below threshold)

Yeah, Catholic priests as a whole aren't required to live in poverty. Look at Mbutu in South Africa (I'm pretty sure he's catholic). The Jesuits definitely take an oath of poverty, though. I don't know about the other orders.

In related news, Lee, Ray N... (Below threshold)

In related news, Lee, Ray Nagin (D-Mayor of New Orleans) just endorsed the re-election of Congressman William Jefferson Clinton (DAMN, I gotta stop doing that).

What was that about responsibility and self-policing? And who's endorsed Foley for re-election, anyway?


Bless us or Lord, for these... (Below threshold)

Bless us or Lord, for these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive from the bounty of Trysts, AMEN.

Not all Catholic priests ta... (Below threshold)

Not all Catholic priests take a vow of poverty.

"And who's endorsed Fole... (Below threshold)

"And who's endorsed Foley for re-election, anyway?"

First, let's get this straight -- the Republicans didn't kick Foley out - he resigned.

The Republican leadership has, so far, rallied in support of Hastert. That will, I predict, end up being a big mistake - as big as Nagin's support of Jefferson (which is just plain stoopid in my book).

Diocesan priests do not tak... (Below threshold)

Diocesan priests do not take a vow of poverty. It is religious orders (Jesuits, Dominicans Franciscans etc.) that have that requirement. However, they do have a fairly small salary. That doesn't mean that by living simply (thier lodging is provided byt he Parish they work in usually) and frugally they can't have a decent nest egg.

I question the 'retired and sick' situation. I mean, retired priests are still under the care/control of their diocese or order. If they choose to leave the priesthood voluntarily... well than they knew going in that they were losing the retirement benefits.

As to those who were defrocked as part of the pedophile scandal... let 'em burn. I am sorry, but they have already cost the Church so very much in terms of good will and money. I hate to say it but I deeply resent the fact that people are collecting money for them while my donations in the weekly collection are going to pay for the lawsuits against the church caused by their actions. Instead of going to support the many good services of the Church.

I am a faithful Catholic and still love the Church. However, I am pretty fed up with some it's priests and Bishops. Note I didn't say all... one of the things that makes me most angry is the fact that the despicable actions of a few priests (and it was a small percentage) has led to many people tarring all priests with the same brush (unfairly).






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