Bishop Addresses Morals out on

By Philip Elliott
Courier & Press [Evansville IN]
January 4, 2006,1626,ECP_734_4361681,00.html

Evansville Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger cautioned against "lapses in morals," whether they come in the form of child abuse, lax discipline against abusive clergy or children's access to pornography.

Addressing Rotarians on Tuesday, the Roman Catholic bishop also lauded the gradual decay of the "code of silence" that allowed a public airing of decades of sexual abuse at the hands of members of the clergy.

"I can tell you, dear friends, we have learned a lot as bishops," said Gettelfinger.

He said new instances of abuse "virtually dropped to zero" last year, but said he does not expect a total end.

"I don't think we'll ever be able to virtually guarantee one of our brothers will not fail," said Gettelfinger, whose diocese has been honored for a proactive program that screens employees and volunteers.

He told his audience the diocese's instances of abuse all occurred before he became bishop in 1989, despite high-profile admissions and accusations.

The Rev. Wilfred Englert of the St. Joseph parish in Jasper, Ind., is accused of having a sexual relationship with a 19-year-old male who, according to prosecutors, has the mental capacity of a 9-year-old.

And in 2004, the Rev. William Traylor admitted to viewing an "inappropriate adult Web site" with a minor in the room. He was placed on leave, given counseling and allowed to return to his post at St. Theresa and St. Joseph parishes.

Those instances, in the eyes of the U.S. bishops' rules, are not considered abuse.

Gettelfinger couched his comments Tuesday in a discussion of addictions, including pedophilia to pornography.

"There's more to alcoholism than a lapse of morals," he said. "Addictions are diseases."

Gettelfinger said he is still a nicotine addict, even though he quit smoking 34 years ago. "I've got to manage my addiction," he said.

But unlike cigarettes, pedophilia "has very little likelihood of rehabilitation," he said. When later questioned, Gettelfinger responded, "My conviction is (rehabilitation) does (work), but not in every situation."

Gettelfinger also advised parents against giving children hand-held devices with an Internet connection. Those gadgets could be used to access pornography, and parental filters are not available.

"Technology is so advanced and can do so many things, but it opens avenues for those who would use it wrongly," he said. "(Children) can be addicted to this stuff before they reach puberty. They can be addicted even before they know what addiction is."


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