Celibacy Has Nothing to Do with Sexual-Abuse Scandal

By John Detisch
Boston Globe
June 8, 2010

A few weeks ago, I spent some time with my ordination classmate, the Rev. Bill Laska, who is pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Brookville.

We had spent a great evening together, cooking on the grill, chatting, laughing and reminiscing because it was the 22nd anniversary of our ordination to the priesthood.

I am now 47 years old. Bill is 51. And, our other classmates, the Rev. Mike Kesicki and the Rev. David Wilson, are both 48. All four of us are still ordained. And all four of us are as happy in our lives now as we were on April 22, 1988.

We have all made our share of mistakes, to be sure -- things we should have done better, things we really fouled up. And I am sure I've made more mistakes than the three of them combined. But we all knelt before then-Erie Catholic Bishop Michael Murphy in St. Peter Cathedral, knowing fully what we were doing that night, completely wanting to commit ourselves to celibacy and obedience.

Speaking for them, all four of us have never regretted it for a single instant. We plan to spend the next 30 years trying to become better priests, better ministers of the word of God, trying to do anything we can to help "shepherd" the people entrusted to our care.

We have all gone through difficult times. We have all had our share of weddings, where some of them have ended up in divorce. We have all had to bury children, and teenagers, and young parents. We have all tried to stay focused and prayerful while horrid things were happening to us personally, such as Bill and I having to endure watching both of our parents be destroyed by disease, then having to bury them.

I had to preside over the closing of a parish school, after a 112-year history. But we did it. We did it all because we wanted to. We knew what we were doing, and we were happy to give of our lives in this way. And, if we had to start over, we would do it all over again.

It kills us to see what has happened here in America, and now in Europe; to learn of the revelation of clergy sexual abuse of children and young people, and what these beautiful creations of God have had to painfully endure for so many years.

It kills us to have learned of such an ugly sin, coming from people who should never have been ordained to the priesthood in the first place. It absolutely kills us to learn how so many people -- educated people -- are blaming our commitment to celibacy as the reason for this sin.

Celibacy has nothing to do with it. With all due respect, anyone who honestly believes if a priest were allowed to be sexually active, then we wouldn't "go after" children or teenagers, is revealing a staggering ignorance.

My brother priests and I have committed ourselves to celibacy because we wanted to give the fullness of our lives to our God and his people, in the very same way that Jesus did; who, by the way, was also a single, celibate male.

We all could have been sexually active throughout our lives if we wanted to. It's not that tough to do. It's very popular. We wouldn't have had to look very far for any "action." But we chose not to. We chose to give our lives completely to the will of God.

It kills us, the parish guy, the teacher, the chancery minister. It absolutely kills us to have learned of this horrid sin, to say nothing about the subsequent, stupid mistakes of many members of the church hierarchy when trying to deal with it.

In that sense, the dedicated and loyal priest is also victim: a victim of this anti-Catholic, anti-clergy mentality that just spews publicly from so many critics.

One of my brother priests went shopping one day, only to have a woman spit in his face in the checkout line. Another priest walked into the Millcreek Mall, only to have someone yell, "Child molester!"

I have a priest-friend on the East Coast who was falsely accused by a young girl who was angry at him. How did I learn of it? I read it on the front page of USA Today. His life was destroyed for almost a year until the girl admitted that she lied about it. Yes, the dedicated and loyal priest is also a victim.

Jesus told his disciples, "My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me." Bill, Mike, David and I all heard the voice of the Shepherd and followed him knowingly, willingly, happily because we wanted to help Jesus bring his word to the people entrusted to our care.

I look at Monsignor Jack Hagerty, now 80 years old, still ministering in his retirement, after touching the lives of thousands of students and parishioners. I will never forget Monsignor Jack Slater or the Rev. Dan Dymski, and how they brought comfort and hope to so many forgotten sick and elderly.

I am in awe of the Rev. Scott Jabo, who, at 25 hours a day, eight days a week, is trying to run two Catholic high schools. I am constantly amazed by my own brother, the Rev. Scott Detisch, who managed to earn a doctorate while teaching a full schedule of classes to Gannon University students. I am so inspired by the Rev. Bill Barron, ordained only for three years, and how he influences and empowers more people in our largest parish than he will ever know.

We are all priests because we want to be. We all heard the voice of the Shepherd, and we happily answered his call.

We are not going anywhere. We wouldn't change a thing. And, we would highly recommend this life to anyone.

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