Not Cease from Exploration

Monday, October 19, 2009

Let The Bashing Begin - Another Priest Sex Scandal?

...sadly, another priest within the Diocese of Scranton has been accused of a crime involving sexuality and children. You can read the story here. Of course there are already a half dozen comments to the story, spanning the usual spectrum of "He is innocent" to "All priests are Pedophiles". To the second type of comment, while I'm not minimizing the extremely negative impact that these kinds of actions can cause, a more reasoned...less emotional...review of abuse data indicates that the problem probably isn't as bad as some paint it out to be. A decent article on the topic, complete with references and statistics, can be found here. I've also read articles where it has been shown that the rate of sexual abuse among Catholic Priests is no higher than that of clergy in other denominations. Unfortunately I can't point my finger on a decent citation, other than these quotes from Catholic League President Bill Donahue:

"The best evidence suggests that the rate of priest pedophilia is about the same as found among the clergy of other religions,"

and

"Indeed, the Anglican dioceses in British Columbia are going bankrupt because so many ministers can't keep their hands to themselves. And these men are married."

Both quotes are from a Slate.com article (linked here). While I question Bill Donahue's ability to be unbiased, the fact that the quotes appear in the left-leaning Slate.com does seem to give it come counter-balancing credibility. Furthermore, my own gut feeling on this (not that it matters much) is that being a Priest is no more attractive to a pedophile than, say, being an elementary education teacher would be.

I can add to my own gut feeling on this subject based on some real, practical experience. My three brothers and I were all Altar Servers (back then it was strictly a Boy's Club, so we were called "Altar Boys") for many, many years. For me, that translated to beginning to serve when I was about 8 years old (I think) through the time when I graduated from high school at 18. Throughout all of this I never once experienced or heard of anyone else experiencing anything remotely like any form of sexual misconduct. This is not to say that such things may not have happened, but it is to say that if such things happened with the frequency that the extreme end of the spectrum contents, surely I would have at least heard of someone falling victim to this kind of abuse. No the worst experience I ever had as an Altar Server was having to serve at weekday Mass once a month. At the time, that was as bad as it got.

Again, I don't want anyone to get the impression that I'm oblivious to this kind thing actually happening, as one of my high school classmates (who would later become a Priest) has been convicted of molesting a minor. No, my real purpose is to simply point out that it's not the title of "Priest" that engages in this kind of behavior...it's an individual who does. To the extent that any of us must judge, I suggest that the more rational thing to do is to judge the individual in question, not their title. Failing to do so completely ignores the vast majority of Religious (from all faiths really) who engage if lives that are dedicated to truly good work.

Why even write this? I'm not what I would consider to be a "good" Catholic. The answer is pretty simple actually: Father Miller. Father Yarish. Monsignor Lewis. Father Totaro (sp? on all). All Priests who managed to treat me like a decent human being back when I was, quite frankly, a mess as a teenager. None were child molesters and all made a positive impression on my life. Mind you, none of these guys needs me to defend them, but all deserve to have the honor of their position acknowledged in the face of some who would lump all into a category where few actually belong.

In the end, this Priest in question is innocent until proven guilty. He will stand before the justice system like anyone else would, and he will be be judged according to the evidence collected. I know, that doesn't make for salacious scandal, but it does have the benefit of being the right thing to do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Steve,

Would that all people be as reasonable as you.

Father Dave Bechtel