Regarding your article (“Investigation: 500 clergy accused of abuse across state”), Bishop Paprocki referred to a “virtuous intent to protect the faithful from scandal” that prevented the Catholic church from effectively dealing with sexual abuse. Based on reports from Illinois, Pennsylvania and others, it would seem this “virtuous intent” was of hiding and covering up abuse.
Paprocki’s statements about clerical sex abuse reveal why the Catholic church is struggling to get a grip on this crisis. In recent articles in the Catholic Times, he asserts that the “sexual revolution” is ultimately responsible for the scandals rocking the church. He seems to say that the rape of children by clergy is morally equivalent to the use of birth control by married couples. While minimizing the monstrous crimes of Clergy molesters and rapists, Paprocki all but dismisses the victimization and suffering of hundreds of children (and their families).
For many hundreds of years, the Catholic Church has cultivated a culture of secrecy; avoiding “scandal” has been much more important than exposing and removing priest-offenders. Bishop Daniel Ryan’s tenure in Springfield is an example. A twisted sense of brotherhood encourages these men to cover for one another, and whistle-blowers have suffered serious consequences from fellow priests and bishops. Also, if someone (clergy or layperson) confesses to abusing a child, the priest hearing this confession is not legally required to report it; in fact, the “Seal of Confession” forbids him to do so. Any priest who’s been around awhile is likely keeping some evil secrets.
“O how great is the priest! If he realized what he is he would die….God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from Heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host.” (John Vianney) Too many clerics from the Vatican on down continue to embrace this separate and superior mindset -- and remain accountable to no one other than higher-ups in the church hierarchy. It isn’t difficult to see how abuse and predation, along with its minimization, gradually became woven into the fabric of the Catholic church. Our Attorney General is likely correct in her assessment that the church is unable to police itself. Bishop Paprocki and his fellow bishops/priests need to own this crisis and acknowledge that they and their antiquated leadership structures are the problem rather than the “sexual revolution” or parishioners secretly practicing birth control. Until they do, little is likely to change.
Vicky Tucker, Charleston