Bishop Accountability

Wages of Relativism
A Catholic priest responds to an NR cover story.

By Reverend Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR
National Review
February 28, 2002

EDITOR'S NOTE: This response was received as a "letter to the editor"; it has been adapted for NRO. The letter writer is author of the upcoming The Cross at Ground Zero.

Several people have asked me to response to Rod Dreher's article ("Sins of the Fathers," Feb. 11, 2002) because I have been working with priests as a spiritual director and psychologist for thirty years. The article is cleverly written but misses several important points. Although he acknowledges that the vast majority of clergy are not involved in pedophilia, he creates the impression, common enough in the media, that bishops and their associates have been grossly negligent in this matter. Although glaring mistakes have been made in the past, nothing could be further from the truth. I can testify that diocesan bishops have spent immense amounts of time and have agonized over this issue. Thirty years ago no one knew much about pedophilia. In my ten years of training as a psychologist I never heard pedophilia mentioned once. When the cases emerged therapists believed without sufficient evidence that pedophilia could be cured. Dedicated and believing clergy worked with them using spiritual remedies from the sacraments to thirty-day retreats. Time has proven that like most addictions this pathology can only be arrested and not cured. Sad experience has proven that while you may take a chance on a recovering alcoholic, one ought not take a chance on a pedophile because of the danger to children.

Dreher also states that the bishops rely too much on lawyers. The bishops often had little choice, when a diocese was being sued for many millions of dollars.

Then there are the enemies of clerical celibacy and of the whole concept of clergy. It is most unfortunate that Dreher cites as an expert Richard Sipe whose earlier writing challenged the Church's teaching on sexuality and celibacy as non-credible, archaic, underdeveloped, incomplete, and outmoded (cf. A Secret World, p 292f). Surely Dreher knows he was citing someone whose position appears to be openly hostile to the teaching of the Church.

Finally, Dreher ignores the principal difficulty that church authorities have in these cases. They do not have investigative procedures like the police or even news reporters. I can attest to the fact that there are often false charges made, especially by those seeking financial gain. Should a superior immediately dial 911 when a charge is made, calling the police and inevitably involving the media? Pedophile cases are almost always tried in the media before the accused is even heard. False accusations are known to have been made even against members of the hierarchy. The charges appear in the headlines-the exoneration on the back page.

I think much of the responsibility here lies on those who taught relativistic moral theology in the past decades and those who deprived Scripture of its credibility as a moral norm. On all sides, bishops have been cajoled by experts with solutions, which were often simplistic and which ultimately did not square with Scripture or with Catholic teaching. To stop the terrible scourge of the corruption of youth which is blatantly seen in the media every day and to protect children from all kinds of seduction should be a goal of every decent person. To single out the clergy and use them as a brick bat to bring Catholics into submission so that we will not oppose abortion and the destruction of the family is obviously the goal of many in the media. Surely, after all that has happened the bishops are sadder and wiser men, who are now more effectively facing the problem of sexual abuse by clergy. I pray that the rest of the country will show a real interest in how its youth are corrupted every day by pornography on television and on the Internet and, in fact, in the whole media, which pours sexual seduction into the home incessantly.

Father Groeschel is a Catholic priest in Larchmont, New York.









Original material copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.