Bishop Accountability

Unholy Mess
A response to a response

By Rod Dreher
National Review
February 28, 2002

As a longtime admirer of Fr. Groeschel, I appreciate his remarks, though we ultimately cannot agree on certain points. I will keep my response a brief as I can.

1. How many cases of shuffling pederast priests from parish to parish will have to come out before Fr. Groeschel and others acknowledge that bishops have been grossly negligent? He says that bishops "have spent immense amounts of time and agonized over this issue," and that's no doubt true. But as the saying goes, "A long face is not a moral disinfectant." It's better to look at what the bishops have actually done, not what they've said. Each day's newspaper brings further evidence of the failure of the bishops' policies. I also do not accept the dodge that the bishops were only following the best medical opinion available at the time. The secret 1985 report issued to the bishops by the Rev. Thomas Doyle and others told them in no uncertain terms that pedophilia was untreatable. The report was ignored. In Boston, Fr. John Geoghan was shuffled around throughout his entire career, even into the 1990s. In any case, does it take a psychiatrist to tell a bishop that a serial child molester like Geoghan had no business in the priesthood? The first 500 people in the Boston phonebook could tell you that without having to consult a psychiatrist.

2. I do not accept that bishops "often had little choice" but to have their strategies for dealing with accusations of child abuse dictated to them by lawyers. I have personally spoken with sex-abuse victims and their families, who have told me that they only filed suit in court when it became obvious to them that their local bishop wasn't going to do anything to remedy the problem. It pays for a bishop to be wary when dealing with plaintiffs' attorneys, but over and over one hears stories about Catholic children and their families being treated as enemies from the very beginning. It makes legal sense, perhaps, but it has proven to be a spiritual disaster.

3. Regarding Richard Sipe's research, one does not have to agree with the conclusions he draws about the Church's teachings on sexuality and celibacy to recognize the validity of his research. I checked with orthodox Catholics I know, including at least two priests, who are hostile to Sipe's views on priestly celibacy, but who vouched for his credibility as a researcher.

4. I have no doubt that false charges are made against priests. That said, seeing the unholy mess many bishops have made of handling these allegations, and the risk to which children have been put by the episcopal cult of secrecy, I maintain that the best solution is to involve the secular authorities from the beginning. The alternative — secrecy, denial, cover-up — has proven far, far worse.

5. Ah, yes, blame the media. If Fr. Groeschel is implying that I am trying to undermine the Church's position on abortion and sexuality by reporting and commenting critically on the bishops' response to the pederasty crisis, he is not familiar with my work. I am an orthodox Catholic who has defended the Church's teachings in print and in private on many occasions, and will continue to do so. What's more, to imply that "many in the media" wish to attack the clergy on this matter to discredit the Church is a clumsy way of detracting from the truth of what has been reported. I have no doubt that the Boston Globe, for one, does not wish the Church well on any number of moral issues, but that in no way takes away from the fact that much of what the Globe has reported about the evil in the Archdiocese of Boston is true, and important. Indeed, the actions of Cardinal Law and others in the Catholic hierarchy have done more than anything to obviate the Church's moral authority to speak out against the society-wide corruption through the media that Fr. Groeschel so rightly decries.






Original material copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.