Greeley: Abuse Crisis Unsolved
New Book Shows Church's Problems Persist, He Says

By Stephanie Innes
KMSB [Tucson AZ]
March 6, 2004

In his new novel, "The Priestly Sins," the Rev. Andrew Greeley tells the story of Father Herman Hoffman, who witnesses another priest brutally raping a child and is sent to a mental institution when he reports it to his diocese.

The book is fiction, but Greeley says he based Hoffman's story on a true account from the late 1980s told to him by an American priest. The truth behind Hoffman's story underscores what is still awry in the Roman Catholic Church, Greeley said in an interview at his Tucson home Friday morning.

Greeley, 76, is a prolific author, journalist and outspoken priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago who will give a public talk about the priesthood at the East Side Our Mother of Sorrows Church on Sunday afternoon.

Greeley, who lives part-time in Tucson, remains skeptical that serious management problems within the American Catholic Church have been rectified, despite efforts by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to eradicate sexual abuse by clergy.

He's also concerned about the priesthood itself, which is suffering declining numbers and is attracting what Greeley finds to be a disturbing breed of younger, conservative priests looking for their own imagined pre-Vatican II version of the world.

The Second Vatican Council was a general gathering of clergy in the early 1960s that liberalized church procedures.

No stranger to controversy, Greeley is blunt. He likes priests as people, but he does not like the "clerical culture" of the Roman Catholic Church that surrounds them. He also does not think the scandal was a result of the church's celibacy requirement, nor was it the result of homosexual priests.

The bishops are the true problems, stressed Greeley, speaking one week after the national bishops' conference released two long-anticipated studies on the scope of clergy abuse against children. The bishops have created new policies and standards on abuse but have failed to address the issue of policing themselves, he said.

"If the church had been responsive 20 years ago, none of this would have happened," Greeley said, speaking of the abuse crisis that came to light in 2002 - a year he calls, "The Year of the Pedophile."

"The bishops who did this need to be replaced. There is zero tolerance for abusive priests, but nothing for bishops."

While the statistical study on Catholic clergy abuse released last week - based on data gathered by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York - garnered the most attention, Greeley said it was the second study, released by the National Review Board, that was more illuminating and revealing.

Among other things, the 145-page National Review Board study criticized American Catholic leaders for putting their concerns for the institution's reputation above anything else and in many cases putting concerns for accused priests above those of the victims.

"As a result, priests who had engaged in sexual abuse of minors were, with distressing frequency, allowed to remain where they (were), reassigned to other parishes within the same dioceses or allowed to live in other dioceses where they posed a further threat to children that predictably materialized in additional incidents of abuse," the report states.

Such incidents occurred in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, where 26 priests over 54 years have been "credibly accused" of sexual abuse with 96 young victims. Many of those priests were allowed to move from parish to parish and, in some cases, from other dioceses, with accusations of sexual abuse following them.

But Greeley and others have praised the local diocese, particularly current Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, for trying to prevent future institutional cover-up and secrecy. Kicanas became bishop last spring when Bishop Manuel D. Moreno, who had led the diocese since 1982, took early retirement.

"I think Tucson has improved greatly, particularly compared to the rest of the dioceses," said Tucson attorney Lynne M. Cadigan, who represents victims of clergy abuse. "The problem is in Rome and its refusal to discipline bishops. The only reason they've had a scandal of this magnitude is because of the institutional cover-up."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.