Updated, below the original post, I have reprinted three articles I wrote about the sex abuse scandal in the Church, one for the local Augusta, Georgia Newspaper, the Augusta Chronicle, which I wrote in 2004 as an op ed piece and two below that that I wrote for our Southern Cross, our diocesan newspaper back in 2002 as the scandal was unfolding in Boston and reported throughout our country. These are somewhat outdated, but not entirely. I think my Augusta Chronicle one was ahead of it's time.
Of the two images of the celebration of the Mass, which is less clerical, that is, involving the looks and demeanor of the priest and his personality and piety?
Moving forward in our Catholic Church in addressing our worldwide scandal of clericalism in the life of the Church and her liturgy since the Second Vatican Council, we need to hold the clergy and the laity accountable to both civil and canon law which was mocked and ridiculed by the same clergy, religious and laity in the 1960's and in no small part played a role in this scandal. No one is above civil and canon law, no one!
To heal from the scandal that has enveloped our Church, much of it media generated by inadequate and sometimes malicious reporting, we must move forward by:
1. Showing as much concern and outreach for the healing of victims as possible including financial settlements for pain and suffering
2. Fighting in the most Christian and fair way, lawyers who are exploiting this scandal and its victims for financial gain for themselves and financial ruin of dioceses and the Church
3. Rigid Church law to guide bishops in the management of their priests and other personnel with sanctions against bishops who mismanage these situations
4. Education of the laity in terms of sexual abuse and warning signs, such as Virtus programs
5. Overcoming clericalism, meaning a mentality that the clergy are above the law, either civil law or canon law
6. Accountability for the bishop and his clergy on the local level, i.e. evaluation instruments that utilize the laity in this evaluating process
7. As a part of accountability, holding the local clergy's feet to the fire when it comes to the proper celebration of the Mass, that is doing it by the book, following the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and following mandates concerning the implementation of Summorum Pontificum and eventually the new translation of the English Missal. The laity should demand dignified liturgies celebrated by the book and as Canon and Liturgical law permits. No more should priests do their own thing and make themselves the "star of the show!"
8. Make sure all advisory councils of parishes are in place and utilized by pastors and bishops. Make sure the bishop has a diocesan pastoral council to assist him (which is in canon law).
9. Proper screening of applicants for the seminary on the diocesan level and once they get to the seminary, utilizing the laity in this screening process, including their evaluation of these candidates.
10. A mandatory pastoral year after Second Theology with pastors properly trained to mentor and evaluate these seminarians, including a small group of laity to assist the pastor. I say after second theology because it is hope that in two years of pre-theology where well intentioned candidates who have no grounding in what our Church actually teaches or how she prays as well as her devotional life, can be brought up to speed and then two years of theology where they can really have some credibility and skills in the parish as teachers and would-be priests of the faith, but in training to become credible and reliable leaders of the Church.
11. If candidates for the priesthood are still befuddled about their vocation after the pastoral year and prior to their call to be a deacon, then they should be released for no less than two years, to go and find a job, make a living and discern within the context of everyday life as a lay person if God and the Church should call them to Holy Orders. Seminarians who are still on the fence about their vocation in third and fourth theology need a swift kick in the pants and out of formation into the real world.We don't need to coddle these men!
I'm afraid that out in the Church, there are clergy and religious who think they are above evaluation and censure and this includes bishops. How many Catholics in academic circles derided Cardinal Ratzinger in his time as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when he evaluated and reprimanded theologians who were deconstructing the Catholic faith? These theologians thought themselves above critique and censure!
In the past seminaries have been evaluated by the Vatican. How many Catholics in these circles derided the Vatican for this investigation which in effect was an evaluation and a call to accountability? Today, religious orders of women are being investigated. How many of these women religious, especially leaders in these communities have balked, derided and chastised the pope and the Vatican for this investigation and evaluation as though they are above such? This is all part and parcel of this on-going scandal of doing your own thing and to hell with authority and evaluations, a mentality of being above the law and the Church's hierarchy! How many of these women religious act in the most clerical and divisive way by doing their own thing regardless of Church mandates, teaching and canon law?
How many bishops and priests get away with abusing the liturgy and making it up as they go? Examples of this can be found on this blog and in other videos and images on the internet? Are we above the mandates of the Church when it comes to liturgical and canon law and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal? Are we above Summorum Pontificum?
In the past, priests and pastors in particular, acted in an autocratic way with little or no consultation with their parishioners or even the bishop in decision making, either pastoral, financial or administratively. Today, for the most part, structures are in place to overcome this. Bishops need to make sure these structures are in place and being utilized on the local and diocesan level.
However, where clericalism is being overcome in administration, a new and more dangerous clericalism has entered the Liturgy in the last 45 years, one with the priest facing the people, and the people facing each other and the purpose of the Liturgy hijacked or obfuscated by architecture or mentality. The priest is not the star of the show nor is the choir, lector, communion ministers or the congregation! Any thing we can do to downplay the personality of the priest and the laity during the Mass, such as Ad Orientem celebrations should once again be seriously considered, studied and yes implemented! But we have to work in tandem with our pope and bishops in this regard and bishops need to be open to what our pope is saying and modeling for the entire Church in this regard.
Now three blasts from the past: The first an editorial I wrote for the Augusta Chronicle in 2004, then two articles I wrote for or diocesan newspaper:
This is an article that I wrote as an "Op Ed" piece for the Augusta Chronicle. It appeared in their editorial page on March 1, 2004.
Catholic hierarchy facing up to days of reckoning for sex abuse
TWO YEARS AGO, I spent three hours on Austin Rhodes' afternoon radio show discussing the scandal of sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the Catholic Church.
Mr. Rhodes made an accurate observation when he stated that the problem in the Catholic Church stemmed not only from priests who molested minors but, more importantly, from bishops whose decisions concerning those under their charge enabled molestations to occur again and again for decades.
I THANKED MR. Rhodes for his valid insight, and I also acknowledged that if not for the scrutiny of the secular and religious press - especially through the investigative reporting of the Boston Globe and The National Catholic Reporter - the Church would still be dealing with this phenomena in totally inadequate secretive ways.
I also mentioned in that interview that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ was going to use whatever means available to reform and purify His church either internally, externally, sideways or upside-down. And Jesus Christ has not disappointed.
For over two years, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in this country has been having its day of reckoning. This day of reckoning came Friday, when an unprecedented study commissioned by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on the scope and nature of this scandal was released to the public by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
RESULTS OF THIS study showed that 4 percent of Catholic clergy since 1950 have molested scores of young people - the majority of them teen-age boys. This study will also indicate not only the human tragedy of victims abused by trusted church leaders, but also the amounts of money paid to settle lawsuits.
No other institution in America has provided such an in-depth study of the phenomena of sexual abuse of minors. Therefore, there will be no comparisons available in terms of the percentage of people in other religious and secular institutions who have committed similar crimes over the course of 50 years.
The Catholic priesthood will stand alone. It is hoped that the press will demand an accounting of other religious institutions, public schools and other secular and religious agencies that dealt exclusively with young people for the past 50 years.
THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE of Savannah, of which Augusta is a part, has released its statistics going back 50 years. It shows that four priests out of over 600 who have served in this diocese have been accused of molesting a total of 13 minors. Most of the accusations go back to the early '60s and '70s. The number of victims may, in fact, be low, that is, not be the actual number of victims, since many people, especially adult men, are reluctant to come forward to share their histories of sexual victimization with anyone - let alone those in authority and what is perceived by them to be homosexual victimization by a priest.
The Rev. Wayland Brown was convicted last year of child sexual abuse in Maryland. He spent many years in the Augusta area, although he has not had an assignment from the Catholic Diocese of Savannah since 1987. Bishop Kevin Boland requests that anyone who may have experienced abuse by him or any active priest to contact the Catholic Diocese of Savannah.
THROUGH THE prodding of the secular and religious media, and reform groups within the Catholic Church, the bishops of the Catholic Church are finally leading the way in addressing the sad fact of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.
More importantly, they are taking steps to rectify the pain and suffering caused to scores of young people victimized over the course of decades through the abuse of trust of some priests, and the bishops' failure to act in appropriate ways to reach out to victims and dismiss abusers.
The Catholic hierarchy will have a long season of penance to make up for the residue of these sins and crimes. Yet the message of our Church is forgiveness, healing and reconciliation in Jesus Christ.
WE BELIEVE that where sin abounds, God's grace is even greater. We have a Savior who, through His cross and resurrection, has redeemed the world!
(Editor's note: The writer is the pastor of the Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta.)
Crisis in the priesthood?
By Father Allan J. McDonald
(Originally printed in the Diocese of Savannah's newspaper, Southern Cross, February 2002)
When I was growing up, my father, who was born in 1910, was of the school of thought that keeping scandal quiet was beneficial for families and society. You simply did not air your dirty laundry in public. This mentality was a part of Church and society well into the 1970’s. The lay person was to be protected from hearing about scandals that befell doctors, lawyers, teachers and members of the clergy, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. While this secrecy was well intentioned, serious pathology was kept in the dark. Sometimes this exacerbated the problem and perpetuated dysfunctional situations.
Fortunately or unfortunately, we live in the information age. We live in the culture of Oprah and Jerry Springer. The most sordid of details about people’s lives are available to us over the Internet and on television. Court TV gives us an unedited view of the crimes people commit with all the uncensored salacious details. Our society has become couch-potato voyeurs interested in the most lurid details of scandal. Scandal sells!
And now the dirty little secret of child sexual abuse by members of our society and by some in the priesthood is being aired for all to see and hear. The secret and unsuccessful way the church has handled this scandal in the priesthood in the past has fueled a controversy that threatens to undermine the credibility and teaching authority of the Church. What is the person in the pew to make of all the bad news concerning some of their clergy? Did bishops act in bad faith in the manner in which they handled this crisis in their own dioceses?
In retrospect, we can recognize the fact that many bishops have handled these cases extremely poorly. However, we must recognize that many bishops in fact were given bad advice from those in psychiatry concerning the treatment of pedophiles and the possibility of reintegrating them back into church ministry. Loving the sinner, but hating the sin also compounded the problem along with the Church’s emphasis on healing and forgiveness. Concern for the priest and his ministry seemed to take precedence over protecting children and healing the victimized. What was often lost was the great damage that was done to children who were abused. They seemed to be only an after thought. The career of the troubled priest had to be safeguarded.
Another complicating aspect to this whole problem is the Church’s belief that when a man is ordained his commitment to the Church and the Church’s commitment to him are like wedding vows, until death do us part, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. In other words, it is extremely difficult following church law for a bishop to fire a priest for bad behavior. The bishop must do all he can to rehabilitate and reintegrate the wayward priest. Treatment facilities for therapy for sick priests are scattered throughout our country. To a certain extent this has led to a form a “clericalism” that sees the role of the priest and the protection of his privileged place in the Church as the most important thing to be maintained.
Many in the media and even in the Church charge that mandatory celibacy required by Church legislation is the culprit. Some actually believe that celibacy causes pedophilia. Such a belief betrays the evidence of the total numbers of child molesters in our society. The vast majority of them are heterosexual and married. It is a pathology that afflicts a certain percentage of people in our society in general. Its causes are not fully understood. Some say it is genetic, others say it is learned while others say it is the result of the person having been abused himself as a child. There is no real consensus. From a Catholic point of view, all of us inherit original sin and thus our spiritual genetics make us susceptible to sickness of mind, body and spirit.
We can no more say that marriage is the cause of incest as to say that celibacy is the cause of pedophilia. There are a certain percentage of people in the general population of heterosexuals and homosexuals who have sexual feelings for children and teenagers. Most of us would prefer not to think about this issue. However, do not be deluded into thinking that there is no sexual abuse of children by a similar percentage of married clergy of the Protestant churches. Also, be aware that there is an inherent anti-Catholic bias in our society and media.
The dilemma for the Catholic Church is that priests are wedded to dioceses or religious orders. Protestant and Jewish clergy are normally hired and fired by their congregations. Usually no bishop intervenes to make right or wrong decisions concerning the errant minister as in the Catholic Church. Catholic dioceses keep records on offending priests with a trail of evidence that most Protestant denominations do not maintain on their clergy.
Child sexual abuse is an emotional issue and many Catholics are rightly angry at the manner in which cases in the Church have been handled. As well, many Catholics are confused by the whole issue of child sexual abuse by anyone let alone a member of the clergy. How is the Holy Spirit redeeming the horrible situation of clergy sexual abuse of children? First of all, justice for those who have been victimized is taking place. Secondly, a purification of the priesthood is taking place as painful as it is. Thirdly, the clergy and laity are being made aware of the greater problem of child sexual abuse that is present in our society. This awareness may lead all to be more vigilant in protecting our children from those who prey upon them. Pedophiles are to be found in every profession and vocation including marriage. Bringing this dirty little secret to the light while painful is healthy for all of society and especially for our children. However, we want to be careful not to overreact or to become paranoid about those who relate to our children. Common sense must prevail.
Bernard Cardinal Law, the Archbishop of Boston, has stated that the Archdiocese of Boston will have a zero-tolerance for clergy who sexually abuse children. This is a dramatic new policy and many rightfully say that it is about time. His initiative and leadership in this regard will embolden other bishops throughout the country to do the same. The Vatican is also making new and more stringent laws concerning this issue. Our own Diocese of Savannah has had long standing policies concerning child sexual abuse and the reporting of Church workers, including priests, to the proper authorities. God willing, the Catholic Church and the priesthood will come out of this dark night of the soul stronger, more vibrant and accountable to God, civil authority and those we serve especially the most innocent.
While some bishops have made bad choices in dealing with the issue of the shameful activity of a minority of priests who have tainted the reputation of all, there is reason to have hope and be proud of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is on the forefront of dealing with the issue of child sexual abuse head-on and has much to share with society in general. I do not despair for the priesthood or for the Church. The gates of hell, our human weakness and sinfulness will not destroy the Church. She cannot be destroyed. The clergy and laity will come out of this much stronger, wiser and more holy!
From my archives, 2002 AD
Crisis in the Priesthood? Part II
By Father Allan J. McDonald
(Originally appeared in the Diocese of Savannah's newspaper "Southern Cross" in April of 2002)
Prior to the late 1970’s, most public institutions including the Catholic Church tried to keep serious scandal quiet for the good of the institution, the accused and the victims. You simply did not air your dirty laundry in public. Even the media helped to protect the lay person and institutions themselves from pubic reports of scandals that befell doctors, lawyers, teachers, scoutmasters, and member of the clergy, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. While this secrecy was well intentioned, serious pathology was kept in the dark. This often exacerbated the problem and perpetuated dysfunctional and sometimes criminal situations.
With the advent of talk shows on Television in the late 1970’s and the subsequent development of the information age, including the Internet, a dramatic cultural shift has taken place in our society. Things that people would have only mentioned in secret in days gone by, they are now willing to broadcast to the world. This is not entirely a negative thing. It has emboldened people who had been victimized to come forward with their stories. It has brought light to dark, secret areas. If properly expressed, openness can lead to healing, understanding and reconciliation.
The reports from the media concerning the sexual abuse of minors by priests should not be viewed entirely as an “anti-Catholic” conspiracy by the media. While there is certainly a “slant” in much of the reporting, overall it has done a service to the Church. Those who were victimized are experiencing some long awaited justice. The priesthood is being purged. Bishops are taking a more common sense approach in developing stricter diocesan policies. Seminaries will be more effective in screening candidates for the priesthood and more aware of the necessity for healthy sexual maturity if one is to embrace the celibate commitment.
To understand what is happening in the reporting of clergy sexual abuse of minors, we need to be very clear on terminology.
An adult male (women are very rarely afflicted with this disease) who has sexual attractions for pre-pubescent children is usually diagnosed as a Pedophile. This is a serious mental illness that has no cure short of castration. True pedophiles can have hundreds of victims before they are stopped.
Most true pedophiles are heterosexual in their adult sexual relationships. The sexual abuse of children has little to do with the gender of the child. It has more to do with the smallness, smoothness and vulnerability of the child. It has to do with power and control over a child for self-gratification.
True pedophilia in the priesthood is extremely rare. Celibacy is not its cause. There have been notorious criminal cases involving priests pedophiles but these are the exception rather than the rule.
The greater problem in the priesthood is sexual abuse of teenagers, those between the ages of 13 to 17. This is not true pedophilia, but rather a condition known as “Ephebophilia.” This is more a case of arrested development. The perpetrator prefers to socialize with teenagers and in fact is emotionally a teenager himself or herself (women can be perpetrators also). This can sometimes lead to inappropriate sexual contact. Oftentimes the perpetrator deludes himself into thinking this contact is consensual. He is emotionally and morally immature. Psychological treatment can help this person to grow out of his or her immaturity or arrested development.
Those who are attracted to teenagers are so out of a heterosexual or homosexual orientation. All of us know of instances of adult heterosexual men who take advantage of teenage girls. There is less of a stigma concerning this type of abuse as when a homosexual man takes advantage of a teenage boy. But make no mistake, in either case, the adult bears the responsibility for the action even if the teenager is experienced beyond their age in sexual matters.
Unfortunately, the majority of cases concerning priests are of a homosexual nature involving teenage boys. In most cases, bishops have sent offending priests to in-patient facilities for therapy. Many have responded well to treatment and were returned to active ministry without ever having another incident. With new “zero-tolerance” policies in most dioceses, we are seeing that even these rehabilitated priests are being removed from active ministry. The laity can now rest assured that no known sex offender will be returned to active ministry. However, it must be emphasized that out of the nearly 47,000 priests in this country, the vast majority of priests do not participate in this type of deviant behavior.
One thing must be made clear. Not all homosexuals are attracted to teenage boys, just as not all heterosexual men are attracted to teenage girls. Those who are attracted and act upon their attraction usually exhibit traits of arrested development and immaturity in the area of human relationships and sexuality whether they are homosexual or heterosexual.
The challenge for all of us, clergy and laity is to better understand human sexuality and the church’s moral teachings in this area. We must be educated and we must at an age appropriate time educate our children.
How do you talk with your children about the sexual abuse of minors by people in positions of authority whether that person be a relative, teacher, scout master, coach, clergy or stranger? Parents themselves must be educated and wise about the interest that any adult pays to their child. Children need to be wise as well and know the difference between good touch and bad touch. They need to feel free and comfortable to talk to a responsible adult when inappropriate advances are made toward them. This type of education must begin in the home. Parents should never be naïve or silent with their children about this subject.