Local Catholics Unaffected by Reports, Priests Say

By Victoria Parker-Stevens
Current-Argus [Carlsbad NM]
March 6, 2004

CARLSBAD The religious life of most Catholics has not been affected by reports of sexual abuse in the church, local priests say.

The National Review Board a lay panel formed by Catholic bishops recently issued a study showing about 4 percent of all clerics who served in the United States during the

last 50 years were accused of abuse.

"I think people are concerned about it, but most realize this was a small number of people," said Father Conrad Sutter of St. Edward Catholic Church.

Sutter said he understood victims were hurt and frustrated.

"I'm sympathetic to that," he said, adding he was pleased with the progress the church has made in recent years.

"You just don't know how some things affect people," said Father Valentine Jankowski of San Jose Catholic Church. "Some people take a specific situation and generalize."

He recalled a professor who said, "Give us a bad pope. It will help us understand our faith is in the Lord and not in people."

Jankowski said he didn't think many people would fall away from the church, and those who did probably had a weak faith.

"I feel badly about that," he said.

Other effects - such as fewer people entering the priesthood - would be hard to gauge, Jankowski said.

But those numbers have been decreasing for a number of years, likely due to factors such as more materialism, he said.

"Maybe it's just the confusion in our society," he said. "People don't want to make long-term commitments (in relationships) today."

Neither local priest addressed the topic last Sunday, after the National Review Board's findings were released, and they said they hadn't heard congregants talking about it.

When the abuse problem first started making headlines, the concern was greater, Jankowski said, noting he addressed the topic from the pulpit at that time.

Jankowksi said what the Catholic church is facing appears to have helped society in general.

"It's made the whole nation aware of the evil of molestation, not just in one area, but among other personnel, such as those who work with young people," he said.

Jankowski said he wished for long-term healing for those who are feeling pain.

"Hopefully, (the church) will work through a healing process and learn and grow from it," Sutter said.

Sutter, from Ohio, has only been the administrator at St. Edward for about a month, since Father Noel Kramer took medical leave.

More than 200 cases of sex abuse were reported in the state's three dioceses, according to The Associated Press.

The Diocese of Las Cruces - which includes Carlsbad - paid one settlement for a priest who served in the area from 1985 to 1986. The name of the priest was sealed at the request of the victim.

Another priest who served in Las Cruces was removed from the diocese, but the alleged conduct occurred in El Paso.

A former Alamogordo priest is currently serving time in prison for abuse in the 1970s, and a Deming priest was recalled to a New York diocese because of allegations there.


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