Religious Feathers Ruffled

Ledger-Enquirer [Columbus GA]
September 6, 2003

When we were growing up my mother was fond of telling us, "Humble confession is good for the soul."

I was reminded of her proverb on a recent trip to Kentucky. The Covington (Ky.) Diocese released a report on the conduct of Catholic priests that even drew praise from a lawyer representing clients allegedly abused by priests.

According to the diocese report, there was "reasonable cause to believe" 8 percent of its priests sexually abused one or more minors during the past 50 years, the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper reported.

"The figure represents 30 of the 372 diocesan priests during those years. The diocese disclosed the numbers in the 16-page report mailed to the 27,000 households in the diocese," the Herald-Leader reported.

While all the dioceses in the United States are supposed to be audited by the church's Office for Child and Youth Protection, Covington may be the only one to release its report.

Since 1989, the diocese has paid nearly $780,000 in uninsured settlements with victims, $722,000 for counseling and $218,000 in legal fees.

"All the money came from the diocese's insurer's or from interest on investments. No money from parishes, the sale of real estate or from the diocese's annual fund-raiser was used," the report read.

The figures were eye-openers, but the most heartfelt part of the report had to be the apology from Bishop Robert Foys to the 89,000 Catholics in the 14-county diocese:

"Too often, the response of the Diocese to victims of child sexual abuse was inadequate. In the name of the Diocese of Covington, I apologize to you, ask your forgiveness and pray for reconciliation and healing."

Meanwhile, some Kentucky Episcopalians and Presbyterians are in need of reconciliation and healing.

The Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken was renounced by the Presbytery of Cincinnati in June for performing same-sex marriages. In response to his dismissal, some members of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church broke away from the congregation and began meeting in each other's homes. Van Kuiken often joins them.

Of the 280 members of Mount Auburn, about 40 -- some of whom live in Kentucky -- formed the breakaway group. "We could not be a part of a church that would not sanction the marriage of people who obviously love each other," a woman said. "It was a matter of conscience."

In another matter of conscience, a group of Kentucky Episcopalians are engaged in a limited financial boycott of the church for approving Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, as bishop.

The state's largest Episcopal church, St. Francis in the Fields has 1,500 members, and contributes 11 percent of the diocese's total revenue, according to the Associated Press. The church's governing body voted to allow members to specify that no portion of their offerings go to the Diocese of Kentucky and the national church.

It seems religious feathers are being ruffled at every turn.


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