It's Time to Take a Stand

By Roger Phelps
The Porterville Recorder [California]
Downloaded March 1, 2004

A group of parishioners from Porterville's St. Anne's Church met Friday to talk over where the church stands in the wake of a disturbing report on molestation of children by priests.

The report, released Friday, was made by the National Review Board, a lay watchdog group formed by American Catholic bishops. It reports that since 1950, more than 10,000 people have accused priests of molestation. The report comes as the Catholic Church has moved in recent months to gauge the extent and to cure the molestation problem.

A main theme emerging from the discussion by St. Anne's parishioners was worry over what is the best way for the Catholic Church to treat a convicted priest. Outright dismissal and cutting of ties with convicted priests seems uncaring and careless, some said.

"Eighty priests have committed suicide since this began," said Father Scott Daugherty of St. Anne's. "What is the Church's obligation for a 70-year-old priest? Is this a death sentence?"

Said parishioner Pam Avila, "It seems most logical for the Church to know where they are, with prayer and help. It's not just saying, 'They're outta here.' That's not what the Church is about. Our youth doesn't get the message of praying for souls."

Daugherty said the case of a priest convicted of molestation taxed a religious person's sense of responsibility to practice charity.

"I have trouble feeling charity for these people," he said.

Some wondered whether the Catholic Church was unfairly singled out.

"If I hear a father down the street was molesting his child, would it be fair to say to my kids, 'You can't hug your father?'" said parishioner Maureen Cruess.

Daugherty said research showed a full two percent of U.S. children are molestation victims.

"That's millions of children," he said, adding that it seemed the percentage of convicted molesters among priests is less than in the general population.

The group held a cautious optimism that the Catholic Church's self-policing will help expose the extent of child sexual abuse in society at large.

Said St. Anne's Deacon Jim Dieterle, "The good news of this is to raise awareness for everybody."

Said Daugherty, "It's going to take the people of this parish holding each other accountable."


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