Priest's Disclosure Helps
Seattle Post-Intelligencer [Bothell WA]
September 23, 2004
A Bothell pastor has spoken publicly about a serious problem -- the clergy abuse of young people who later become priests themselves. His openness is an act of courage that gives the rest of the Puget Sound region a glimpse into why he's so popular with his congregation.
The Rev. Lawrence Minder told parishioners at St. Brendan Catholic Church last month about abuse he had suffered 30 years by a priest. In doing so, as the Post-Intelligencer's Michelle Nicolosi reported yesterday, Minder became one of just a handful of priests to speak openly about their childhood experiences of abuse by older clergy.
Sexual abuse is difficult enough to discuss in any circumstances. Within the clergy, there may be further barriers because of a reluctance to make one's own institution look bad or damage the careers of those who may have committed abuse. At least one priest spoke in yesterday's story of "a code of silence."
But Minder's willingness to open up to his own congregation is a powerful stand for openness. The Catholic Church, and other churches, may want to do more to reach out to those who have had similar experience with offers of help and encouragement for reporting abuse. To their credit, U.S. bishops have made a start toward encouraging awareness by commissioning a recent study of clergy sexual abuse, which included a review of personnel records to see how many priests accused of abuse had themselves been abused by clergy. Only 47 instances turned up but researchers warned that number might be low.
Like other crimes, abuse can cause lasting damage, whether in a predisposition of a few victims to commit similar acts or simply in the mental, psychological or spiritual stress all victims suffer. That's why experts worry so much, for instance, about children raised amid political violence. Although the underlying causes haven't been discussed, the Seattle Archdiocese has said Minder, who is on leave, is undergoing care for painkiller and alcohol-use issues.
Of course, the major religions have always taught that acts of evil can do far more lasting damage than people ever envision. Public honesty about difficult problems within a church can help teach that timeless and necessary lesson to the wider community.
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