Friday, June 1, 2018


There is a very interesting Crux interview which you can read by pressing HERE  by a top Jesuit expert on the Church's sex abuse crisis. While he says it isn't one or the other in terms of liberal or conservative/traditional Catholicism, he does seem to single out conservative/rigid institutions where the cult of the personality of Catholic clerics exists. Think of The Legionaries of Christ and its leader and the Chilean Fr. Karadima and his cult of the personality.

An excerpt:
Among other points, Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, stressed that at bottom, sexual abuse is not a “liberal v. conservative” issue, while adding that the clericalist attitudes which can underlie abuse sometimes, as in the Chilean case, flourish best in a traditional, strongly conservative milieu.
“What we’ve seen in the Karadima case especially is a very moralistic approach, which bizarrely, is then combined with an absolutely immoral approach to people,” he said. “Some of those who purport to defend the Church and her doctrine behave in a blatantly contradictory way, thereby destroying the credibility of the Church.”
My Comments:  We still tend to focus on abusers and their pathologies which is important. We need to be able to discern in various personalities that tend towards abuse and how these people in the priesthood were ordained and then basically placed in private practice with no supervision or accountability to anyone.

But also, we have to figure out why religious superiors, bishops and the pope have wanted to silence abuse victims and transfer priests from place to place rather than to laicize them or report them to the civil authorities. 

It is ultimately an abuse of power but also trust. Catholic parents had such trust in the "priesthood as an institution" and the presumed holiness  and moral superiority of priests, that they entrusted their boys to them for overnight trips, vacations and high school seminaries. Of course these same parents would never have entrusted their girls to these same priests. They presumed the priests were heterosexual and not homosexual, a disastrous mistake.

I think more studies need to be done on the homosexual component of the abuse, bishops, priests and laity not intervening in a serious way even when there was concern and more focus on liberality in the Church with an enabling mercy that leads to a desire to cure or place errant priests into a recovery mode all the while remaining in active ministry time and time again.

Finally I think of the Collegeville Benedictines in Minnesota who seem to have had an inordinate number of accused monks to include an Abbott or two. What are the dynamics in a progressive community?


Rood Screen said...

You make a very good point in saying that no sensible parents would allow their teenage daughter to stay overnight with a priest, although a few priests were manipulative enough to abuse girls.

A question I have is, with the bishops living miles away and having no direct knowledge of the abuse as it occurred, why is it that the parents, rather than the bishops, are not blamed for failing to protect their children? Dioceses are paying millions and millions of dollars for crimes that the parents alone could have prevented.

rcg said...

Beware of post hoc, ergo propter hoc. The two questions that present themselve, IMO, is do progressive or traditional organizations have greater attractions, respectively, for deviants?, and which form of institution is best equipped to deal with them? While admitting that there is a wide range of expression of homosexual behavior, there is a salient group that is fascinated with the Church and want to participate as a or immitate it as a feature of their homosexual expression. Once discovered what sort of approach is best for both the institution and the individual? I believe the traditional institutions are more focused on their mission and supporting God’s revealed Law as an important part of their operations. Where the progressive institutions fall prey to faux compassion the traditional institutions fall prey to misguided loyalty. Both, then, require the wrong course of action by senior leadership based on one or the other bad motives.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I have the same question as many abusers abused children in the child's/teenager's home with their parents there. Were there no red flags about the inordinate interest priest-friends were taking in their children.

But at the same time (and we have a nortorious case in Savannah from the 70's and 80's costing us millions) the bishop and others were concerned about a particular priest but he was not placed into a non-assigned status until too many were abused. And even then he wasn't defrocked until after 2002 and the Charter. Laicization should be more frequent or public suspension and the authorities need to investigate crimes, not the Church.

I think parents did alert bishops as well as other priests alerting bishops and no action taken.

Tom Makin said...

A young priest took an inordinate interest in me and my brother. My parents picked up on it and invited him to our house for a visit. They sat in the family room and chatted. My brother and I were not present. That priest was NEVER around us again. This was the 1970's. My parents knew then that something was rotten in Denmark and intervened, in their way, to get in front of it.

TJM said...

Too bad the parents didn't storm bishops residences and make a very public scene of the bishops' dereliction of duty. I would have demanded the local prosecutor call the bishop in for questioning. In retrospect, parents should have been far more proactive than they were when these incidents occured. Respect for the Church doesn't translate into allowing a miscreant cleric getting a pass.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Tom when I was in the first grade in Atlanta, we had a first grade teacher who was a sister who should never have been in the classroom with that age group because she was so impatient and downright mean and verbally abusive to kids. My older brother and sister warned me about her and to stay out of her way. All the kids were afraid of her and thankfully she was sick often and out of the classroom and we had a wonderful lay substitute teacher whom we all loved. We loved the sisters too that we nice but we could discern between the two kinds.

At any rate, Sister would call us first graders to her desk to answer questions in front of everyone from what she was teaching. I was terrified of her and I was shy and did not want to get up in front of everyone to answer her demanding questions and she would get angry if we couldn't answer. She would bring us close to her and I was so flustered I couldn't answer any questions. She had her had around my small arm and actually pinched me on the arm and it was painful and I cried quietly as I went back to my seat humiliated.

My mom saw the pinch mark on my arm (I did not tell her what happened) and she asked me about it and I then told her. My mom told my dad (who was in the army at the time) and he went to the superior of the sisters mad as hell about it.

The next thing I know, Sister invites me into the convent kitchen to privately apologize to me and she gave me a small gift of an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in a small plastic frame which I kept for years and years until somehow it got lost.

I remember sister not only for her meanness now, but for her apology which touched me as a first grader. I am thankful too that my father and mother were pro-active about seeking justice.

TJM said...

Father McDonald,

You were fortunate you had great parents. I was blessed in that way too. Only once did they intervene when I was in 6th grade when the nun was really of control (out of 21 teachings nuns in the school, that's not a bad record). Dad went to the pastor and she was removed from teaching and was assigned a job in her religious order's print shop. Good resolution. I suspect she was never fit for teaching and my Dad probably did her a favor. Story was that she was much happier and calmer once out of the classroom setting.

Anonymous said...

TJM, in my time, any parent who went to the pastor or Mother Superior to complain about a nun would have been informed that they were on the Highway to Hell express lane. Same for the parents who grilled the young priest in the family room. Their generation -- the immigrants or children of immigrants -- were thoroughly intimidated. Nowadays, people feel empowered to stand up to the clergy & in many ways, that's a good thing.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

My dad was born in 1910 and a Canadian immigrant and my mother was born in 1919 and was an Italian immigrant. That didn't stop them.

TJM said...


Was your time before 1910?

My Dad, a Korean War vet, born in 1928, was an extremely faithful Catholic who was not afraid to stand up to members of the clergy when they were wrong. As a matter of fact, he called out the pastor as "unpastoral" for refusing to allow a Mass in Latin at the parish when over 300 people petitioned for one, following the disaster of Liturgical "renewal." The pastor was a liberal fascist. His way or the highway.

John Nolan said...

My great-grandfather once said to his bishop (in Ireland): 'You're a liar, my Lord!' As a young teacher in a Catholic school in England, my mother ordered the curate (a young Irish priest) out of her classroom when he had the temerity to criticize the way she taught the catechism.

Although the homosexual scoutmaster has long been a butt for English humour, parents had no qualms about sending their boys to scout camp, for the simple reason that there is safety in numbers. Thirty years ago I accompanied a (mixed-sex) party of schoolchildren on a residential course at the diocesan youth centre situated in the Derbyshire countryside. The priest in charge was young, charismatic and liberal.

One of my female colleagues said afterwards that some of the girls (aged 11-13) found him over-familiar and 'a bit pervy'. Not that he did anything, but children often have a sixth sense about these things.

When I was eight or nine the parish priest, when he visited our home, would take me on his knee and be rather over-familiar. I didn't like it, but he only did it when my parents were present. Looking back, I don't think there was a sexual element; he probably regretted the fact that he could never have children of his own.

I did know a woman who was, as a very small girl, 'touched up' by a priest. This put her off the Catholic Church for life.

These of course are anecdotes, but all allegations of 'historical' sexual abuse are by nature anecdotal, which does not mean (pace Fr MJK) that they are worthless as evidence. What is noticeable is that on the basis of this evidence the incidence of clerical sexual abuse peaked in the mid-1970s. This was a time when traditional Church disciplines had more or less collapsed, when liturgical abuse was rampant, and when seminaries taught heresy with impunity. Make of that what you will.

I would be wary of using the term 'clericalism' since it seems to mean different things to different people. Liberals use it to castigate those priests who emphasize their sacerdotal office in terms of dress and adherence to liturgical rubrics and Church teaching. Conservatives use it to castigate modernist priests who play ducks and drakes with the liturgy and make themselves centre stage.

Anyway, that's my two penn'orth. No doubt Anonymous will pop up, take exception to a minor point and worry it like a dog with a bone. However, I address my remarks to those readers possessed of a modicum of intelligence and discernment (which I don't mean in the Jesuit sense of the word).

Gene said...

In the protestant churches, especially congregational ones, it was usually the choir director going after little boys and the preacher being seduced by some high school girl or one of the deacon's wives. This made for great drama...solemn church conferences behind closed doors, outraged confrontations of the preacher by upright (read jealous) housewives, and tearful and shameless confessions before packed sanctuaries. I remember, as a boy, several of these incidents. All of us kids would sit on the back pews and snigger. One particularly handsome and sociopathic Baptist preacher from my home town was kicked out of the church when it was found he'd had affairs with four different married women in the church. Four years later, they hired him back because, "He is such a dynamic preacher and has brought so many people to Jesus." I'm not kidding. They must have really liked that "laying on of hands" part...Anyway, the prots do it better than the Catholics...much more entertaining.

TJM said...

John Nolan, in the Kavanaugh World of Alertnate Reality only YOU have to provide hard evidence. He is free to engage in conjecture!