Monday, December 20, 2010

With the sentencing of serial pedophile Tony Walsh, Dublin faces another chapter in the Irish abuse crisis.

 Pope Benedict gave a Christmas message about clerical abuse just as Archbishop Martin of Dublin faced yet another chapter in Ireland's abuse crisis.  The story of Tony Walsh was left out of the original Murphy report because a criminal case was still in court.  The details of the Walsh case can be found here, while the following is an excerpt from a NY Times article about Benedict's recent remarks.

 Pope Urges Church to Reflect on Abuse

By RACHEL DONADIO - NY Times - 12/20/2010

ROME — Pope Benedict XVI said on Monday that the Catholic Church must reflect on the failures in its message that allowed for the sexual abuse scandal and that the church must find a way to help victims and not ordain potential pedophiles.

“We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that transpired. We must ask ourselves what went wrong in our message, in our entire way of being Christians, so that such a thing could have occurred,” the pope told the Vatican hierarchy in a pointed Christmas message. (I wish I knew who Benedict was referring to in his use of 'we'. If this references the hierarchy that's one message, but if he means the whole church, that's another message entirely. Or maybe he's using the formal papal 'we' which is a third message.)

Benedict said that that in 2010, abuse cases had reached an “unimaginable dimension.” In recent months, investigations in Ireland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have found that clerics had sexually abused children in the past and the church hierarchy was often found to have covered up the abuse.....

 .....The Vatican has said it is working on a series of guidelines for bishops around the world advising them how to handle abuse cases, including reporting abuse to civil authorities in countries where it is required.
In his remarks on Monday, the pope also thanked “the many good clerics,” but focused on ways the church needed to change.

“We are aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and our corresponding responsibility,” the pope said. But he added that the scandal should be seen “in the context of our times.”
(Isn't this a form of moral relativism?)

He said that as recently as the 1970s, pedophilia wasn’t considered as grave as it is today, and that today there is also a market in child pornography and sex tourism that some consider “normal” and yet that should also be condemned. (Puhlease. Stop this. A priest is either held to a higher standard or not.)


Pope Benedict just can't seem to bring himself to admit how devastating the clerical abuse scandal has been for Catholicism in the West.  Nor can he bring himself to face the fact it was far more a product of his own clerical culture than it was society.   I find this article especially frustrating today, given the recent release of more Irish abuse documents concerning one serial pedophile in the Archdiocese of Dublin.  In this particular case, the Vatican actually used the fact he was a diagnosed pedophile as a mitigating circumstance in refusing the Archdiocese's request to laicize him.  Apparently the thinking was he couldn't help himself.  The Vatican determined that the priest be 'sentenced' to ten years in a monastery rather than be defrocked.  Unfortunately for this plan, the Archdiocese couldn't find a monastery willing to take the offender. In the meantime the priest reoffended, was finally incarcerated and then the Vatican agreed to his defrocking.  Although the first reports of abuse were brought to the Archdiocese's attention in the late seventies, it took until the mid nineties before the priest was laicized, allowing him access to hundreds of victims.  Needless to say this is yet another blow to the Irish Church.

There's a part of me that can easily understand why Benedict is having trouble facing up to this scandal. It really does betray the priesthood on a very fundamental level and he has given virtually his entire life to a very idealistic version of the priesthood.  This betrayal of  Benedict's idea of the priesthood has to be something like a dagger to his own heart, but the fact is, his own history has it's moments when he was the one holding that dagger. And that is the problem with the clerical culture.  It seems to be able to compel otherwise good men to do very bad things in order to protect the magical/fantastical notions of the priesthood. 

Sometimes this situation really does come way too close to mirroring the machinations of the Wizard of Oz.  Devious use of smoke and mirrors are designed to hide the laity from the truth of the men behind the curtain. They aren't clerical wizards. They are merely humans providing other humans a little courage, a little heart and compassion, some insight into life, and maybe some directions about how to get home.

When Benedict muses about what went wrong with the message, I hope he can entertain the thought that it might be the definition of the messengers which is what is wrong with the message.  Jesus didn't recruit a bunch of saints and celibates as His messengers.  He didn't demand they have any other special attributes beyond faith and a willingness to hear His teachings. They were every day guys who did their best to promote teachings they probably didn't understand all that well.  In my life, those kind of honest every day guys, guys who were capable of admitting there were things they didn't quite get, have had by far the most effect on my spiritual life. 

Unfortunately I don't think Benedict is the Pope under which humanizing the 'sacred priesthood' is going to happen. Until that happens Catholics will continue to be exposed to priest abusers in order to protect the sacredness of the priesthood, and that is purely crazy.


  1. We are supposed to believe that the priests and bishops did not know that child abuse was wrong!?!? We are supposed to believe that it is the laity's fault because now we have sex trafficking, child porn and we didn't have such things before?!?! And that is why priest abuse children?? Is the Pope delusional, stupid or so invested in saving the infallibility of the clergy that he will say anything?
    I guess they all believe what the pastor kept printing in our Sunday bulletin: "Without the priest, the redemption of Christ would be in vain"!

  2. Perhaps pedophiles were once considered to be treatable. If so then removal from responsibility, mandatory treatment, evidence of cure under strict supervision would be understandable. That's not what happened in most cases.

    This evil behavior of some has been a dagger to the heart of all good clerics and laity alike.

    But the putrid stench coming from the church's closets has had a more insidious effect on the organization. There is no goodwill left to draw upon. There is no authority left in the staff that he would like to lean upon. All is degeneration, disintegration, withering and wasting away. Lance the boil, drain the pus, open the wound to sunlight and soap. It will take a generation to rebuild.

    May I suggest that Jesus did not just choose ordinary "guys" in the strictly masculine sense. Mary Magdalene was there too. She was... well I guess that's a discussion for another day, ... apostle, disciple... Chosen to be first witness among all of the risen Christ. And she wasn't the only woman either.


  3. I think the pope is simply not serious in his comments. He brings out that old tired refrain AGAIN about how the sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's ruined society. I'm rather surprised he did not blame the women's rights movement since the 2 or usually linked together pretty close. Although maybe he did and I just haven't noticed it yet. I had a tough time paying his remarks proper attention.

    Did rape never happen prior to that time period? Child abuse sexual or otherwise? Violence of any kind? Was there no homosexuality such that something happened in 1960 to just turn that aspect of human sexuality loose? Women were always accorded proper respect and protection, children were always fed, clothed and educated, and men were totally servants of society, right?

    Oh, wait.

    So either he is simply trying to misdirect and blame the victims or he is living is some sort of fantasy universe.

  4. p2p I thought about that, but we are supposed to believe that Jesus only 'ordained' men.

    MM was just along for the ride in this scheme of things, to pick up after the boys, wash their laundry, clean their clothes and probably pay for their sustenance. In other words, she was 'ordained' by Jesus as laity.

    Coolmom I think the answer to Benedict is in your last sentence. How presumptive and arrogant is that last sentence? Wow.

  5. One of the real changes in the sixties and seventies that Benedict and like minded men really hate is that all the family abuse started coming out of the closet and women started taking themselves and their children out of their abusive homes.

    Once women found their voice about violence in family life and marriage things really began to change. On one level the fact it's taken so long for this same voice to be heard inside the Church itself says a whole lot about how powerful the myth of the sacred priest has been.

  6. "We are aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and our corresponding responsibility,” the pope said. But he added that the scandal should be seen “in the context of our times.” He said that as recently as the 1970s, pedophilia wasn’t considered as grave as it is today...

    I've heard this refrain before, coming from my parents during the 80's explaining why I wasn't allowed to screw anything that moved and score coke all the time, but they could.

    "Sure we had free love and drugs, but that was when we were young and didn't know any better. Now that we're older, you can't do the things we did....cause, we've learned our lesson and those things are bad/evil/wrong/sin (but those were good times)."

    Look....either physically and sexually abusing little kids is wrong or it's not. Just that simple.

    I don't care that your good friend Marcel Marciel did it.

    I don't care that your brother did it.

    I really don't care, your Holiness, if YOU did it or not.

    Wrong is wrong.

    That the Church, as a corporate entity, knew that these things were going on and did nothing to prevent them (and, in several cases, was a willing conspirator) makes the Church, as a corporate entity, guilty as sin.....and the wages of sin is death.

    In this instance, the method of execution comes from the pen of a lawyer, suing the Vatican for every florin.

    As we've been taught, the rite of confession/reconciliation is the approved method of absolution of sin and can only be accomplished through true contrition, which the Church refuses to do.

    "Repent, oh Church, for the kingdom of God is at hand!"

    < /rant>

  7. Wow the community is out in full force! Coolmom! Veronica! Tim!

    Rant on.


    As a baby-boomer I can assure you that back in the day it was a small minority whose unusual behavior received the headlines, just as they do today. We're on the same side, Tim.

    Personally I relate more to "Apocalpyse Now" or even "2001: A Space Odyssey"as a film that defines my generation, much more than "The Graduate" or, God forbid the MM/OD types, "Austin Powers".

    But speaking of Austin Powers, as the pope is so fond of doing. I wish at least he'd cite the source:

    Vanessa Kensington: Mr. Powers, my job is to acclimatize you to the nineties. You know, a lot's changed since 1967.
    Austin Powers: No doubt, love, but as long as people are still having promiscuous sex with many anonymous partners without protection while at the same time experimenting with mind-expanding drugs in a consequence-free environment, I'll be sound as a pound!


    Dr. Evil is Austin's long lost brother and alter-ego.

    (... although "My childhood was typical: summers in Rangoon ... luge lessons ... " ) ... and sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads.


  8. Since when was pedophelia not a grave matter before 1970? I grew up in the '50s, with strong warnings of not speaking to strangers or, heaven forbid, accepting candy from them. If a strange man was found near the playground, those housewives were all over him like flies on garbage. The matter was not discussed, in that they never told us WHY we were not to accept the candy, but the message was clear: you don't!
    I cannot imagine thinking that this suddenly came to be after 1970. What a fantasy!

  9. As a catholic, I believe it is quite clear that the Church will always have trouble as long as it continues to hold to the philosophy that sexual activity is inferior to celibacy. I am aware that the Church tries to cover its teaching that celibacy brings one closer to God. But sex as an impediment to Godliness is a clear teaching of the Church.

  10. Trans what you say is true, but the sad fact is if that candy was in the hands of a priest, a kid could take it. Tell me a guy like Tony Walsh didn't figure that out and that's why he became a priest. The guy started molesting as soon as he could put on a collar.

    Mark, I have trouble understanding why this Pope is so hell bent on hanging onto celibacy. It has to be a very personal issue for him because maintaining this discipline and the theology justifying it will surely keep the church on the road to hell. It's one thing to choose to be celibate it's another thing entirely to have that choice forced on one.

  11. Dear all, Part One

    If we examine history closely we will see that the sexual scandal in the Church has been going on for more than a millennium. It has been addressed in many ways, but since Vatican I, it has more and more been taken inside the Vatican. The secrecy of these problems were ever increase in the twentieth century. These scandals included columbines and that produced “nephews” of Popes, Bishops and some more wealthy priests. They include many affairs of priests with married women and of course a long history of pedophilia.

    Father Fitzgerald did his best to point out the evils of pedophilia in the 1950’s, but was eventually not listened to, but his work was manipulated by bishops and the Vatican. p2p, I graduated from a Catholic medical school in 1971. It was certainly taught me in the 1960’s in my psychiatric medical curriculum that pedophiliacs were sick and not treatable. There were also many good psychiatric nurses and social workers trained with this knowledge. It is interesting that not one Bishop referred these problems to Catholic Social Services in their diocese. Perhaps it was because these agencies were mostly staffed by female nurses and social workers. Had they made what should have been a proper referral to these catholic professionals with similar training as mine, they certainly would have gotten much better information. I do not believe that these professionals would have stood still for releasing pedophiles to once again rape their family members and friends. Instead the Bishops found “special” clinics to refer these offending priests. Of course their was a lot of money involved and the Bishops got the advice that they sought, and many of these men were allowed back into society to offend again and again.

    I think that the 60’s were a time of great creativity and education. FDR had promised the blue collar class that their children could be doctors and attorneys, scientists etc. We went to school on low interest Student Loans, and for Medical School there were the government sponsored Heath Professions loans. Our generation was indeed blessed and allowed to grow and develop as no previous generation. All of us that wanted were educated as far as we wished to go. The very wealthy and perhaps the Episcopate grew to not want excellence in education for the multitudes, and our generation were called many names and not seen for all the scientific, and technologic research that has allowed society to grow and develop. cont. on nest post

  12. Part 2

    I don’t deny that there were some excesses, but places like Kent State were not excesses but were young Students seeking to stop an unjust war. There was much to our peace movement and not everything was peaceful and or good, but at least we, as a group, stood up to the lies of the political war mangers and made a difference. Perhaps some other generation will be able to match us. Perhaps it was mostly because we were educated as a right or perhaps were we the immature brats as many have said?

    Of course Benedict's recent talk really showed a man trying to project into others (the laity) the problems of his own Episcopacy and Priests. Until he can begin to comprehend the problems with priestly celibacy and openness to the public, he or his successors will not be acting with the integrity that it will take to come back from this crisis. As far as the ordained priesthood goes, when did Christ ordain anyone? The priesthood of Baptism is the Apostolic and most important Priesthood of society. It is possessed by the common men and women that are bringing up their families in an ethical way that shows children that the only God we know is found inside our neighbors. We are to love even our enemies! It is particularly hard to love the Episcopacy today! We can not love their actions and we should seek to show just how weak they are as leaders and perhaps even as people. We should seek to help society to continue to grow and develop even if it leaves the Episcopate behind.

    May we seek peace and understanding through personal integrity that is not fearful to speak our truth to power! dennis

  13. It must be a Freudian slip that I typed the word columbine instead of concubine in part one of my posts!

  14. Dennis,
    I am truly moved by your comments. Thank you.

    Without the training, and perhaps some emotional maturity, I sometimes have no other way to cope with these awful revelations except to attempt some puerile humor.

    I've been looking everywhere for a chilling bit of video. It is an interview with a Catholic priest convicted of pedophilia. The video, if I recall correctly, shows the police interrogation where he explains and re-enacts how he would groom his victims. It seems to me such video must have an American source but I think it was an interview with an Irish priest.

    The reason I mention this is that anyone who witnesses it cannot deny the detailed planning and trap setting that takes place over days and weeks. There's nothing that can excuse the predatory behavior once witnessed. My visceral repulsion was so strong I just wanted to throttle the guy.

    That's a long way from love thy enemy, but I am an imperfect person.


  15. What makes a successful pedophile? The pedophiles we were warned about in the '50s were the type who lurked in alleys. (Therefore, no short cuts through the alley!) They were unsuccessful pedophiles, for the most part, they rarely landed any prey.
    The successful pedophile needs to stalk his prey before he strikes. He's on the lookout for dysfunctional families. If there is heavy drinking or abuse in a family, making it permanently dysfunctional, he will look for the weak points. Even if the family is temporarily dysfunctional due to a passing crisis, the pedophile is on the alert. He will be the child's special friend and provide the "love" the parents are not providing.
    And who better than a priest, to be a successful pedophile? In parish work, it's his business to know the personal problems of all parish members. He knows which child is troubled, whose daddy drinks, whose mommy is as mad as a bat.
    In addition to recruiting immature Mama's Boys, who are nothing more than pedophiles in training, Mother Church then turns them loose on her most vulnerable members.
    And then is surprised, when something goes wrong!

  16. P2P,

    I do not recall the video that you seek. you might ask:

    Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
    Victims' Advocate
    New Castle, Delaware

    Sometimes conditions are so bad that we all use humor to defend our minds against them. This can be a helpful defense mechanism allowing us to think about these conditions rather than pushing us into action. I have thought about the various leadership crisis in the RCC for the past 15 years and nothing shocks me any more. dennis

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  18. p2p I think the video you are referencing was of the Irish predator Brendan Smyth. If it's the one I saw, it's just chilling.
    The man was a true psychopath amongst his other endearing qualities.

    Dennis, I find myself getting more cynical and snarkier all the time. Deep down though, I just can't believe any thinking Catholic can buy the swill being pumped out by so many of our bishops. To be truthful, I get the same visceral reaction watching anything involving Cardinal Angelo Sodano as I do watching the preening of a Brendan Smyth.

  19. Great article and very interesting comments here. A lot of food for thought.