Thursday, April 18
A priest who's the brother of another priest accused of sexual abuse of a minor shows another reason why Catholic seminary education seems to be inadequate:
The Joliet Herald-News quoted him as saying: "I don't have much sympathy for people who somehow couldn't stop whatever happened. I'll take all of these people who were abused and I'll abuse them with a baseball bat. You can quote me on that."
Our favorite moment from the last episode, re-enacted by Michael numerous times last night was the limping, zoned-out Ozzy Osbourne walking into his birthday party in a Chicago restaurant, being surprised by the presence of his wife, and asking her, "Whe're the babies?" referring, of course, to his pink-haired daughter and bespectacled, pseudo-goth son. Awww. The joys of parenthood, even if you're Ozzy.
Nevertheless, if the bishop’s public statements were disquieting, the reaction from the priests of Palm Beach was much worse. On March 10, local newspapers reported that 100 priests of the diocese had signed a petition urging Bishop O’Connell to retract his resignation. There are only 141 priests connected with the diocese. The greatest scandal of all—greater than serial pedophilia, greater than the shuffling of pedophiles, greater than the bishop’s transgressions —is the fact that 70 percent of the priests in this diocese did not think that repeated homosexual activity with teenage boys, compounded by the failure to recognize the gravity of those actions, disqualifies a man from being a bishop.
But even this scandal could have a silver lining. When many of the signatories discovered that their names might be published in the local newspapers, they cried out in protest; they didn’t want their parishioners to know. In other words, they were ashamed. Shame isn’t the best motive for conversion, but it’s a start.
Let us, then, propose a simple remedy for this grave scandal. The next Bishop of Palm Beach should round up those 100 priests and suspend them all. They could be allowed to offer Mass and distribute Communion, but for their good and the good of the laity, forbid them to preach, teach, hold pastorates or chancery positions, and hear confessions.
A bit rash, but it makes you think. By the way, in case you hadn't heard, a fourth accuser, third litigant has come forward in relation to O'Connell. Read this story from the Miami Herald. Creepy.
"Instead of trial for laicization, a bishop can formally suspend a pedophile from active priestly ministry. However, canon law requires the bishop to provide a suspended priest with financial sustenance for the necessities of life. Suspension is almost a reward to a pedophile priest. While he certainly no longer performs priestly duties, he continues to receive the benefits from the diocese as a priest."
Bishop Sullivan added, "As a matter of justice, a bishop should never be required to give financial assistance to a pedophile priest. If that practice is to continue, it should be accompanied by public disclosure that the bishop is being required to do so by canon law."
Sullivan is kind of an odd duck - crazy liberal on some stuff, authoritarian in some ways (I used to work in that diocese...I heard stories...), yet one of the first bishops in the nation to permit celebration of the Tridentine liturgy, even allowing establishment of a parish dedicated to it. I'm no canon lawyer, but I think he's right on this one.
[On Bishop O'Connell] The case was as lurid as it was revealing of the Kafkaesque dimension of sexual abuse among the clergy. O'Connell's victim told of how he had gone to the future bishop seeking help after being abused by two other priests—only to have O'Connell become his third abuser. Incredibly, O'Connell himself had been appointed bishop of Palm Beach after the previous prelate had to resign after admitting to the molestation of boys.
I was barely able to drag myself off to Mass after reading about O'Connell. It was the fourth Sunday of Lent, and the Gospel reading told of how Jesus gave sight to the blind man by using his spit to make the mud he applies to the man's eyes (John 9:1–41). It is an enigmatic passage in some ways, with the interrogations of the Pharisees about working on the Sabbath and Jesus' elliptical, even cryptic retorts ("I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind"). The blind, it turns out, are those who can't see what is right in front of them.
I expected the homilist to say something about the pedophile scandal. That morning's further revelations about O'Connell seemed to demand a statement to the beleaguered "faithful."
It was not to be. Not a word was spoken explicitly about what must have been on the minds of every adult in that church. Instead, we were offered a little pep talk. Our pastor was concerned that Catholics could be too hard on themselves, especially during Lent. We should try to remember our virtues as well as our sins, he urged us. We were much better than our failings. If we get too "down" on ourselves, repentance and reconciliation become impossible. We mustn't forget that the good we do far exceeds our moral failures and shortcomings.
Funny. I heard the exact same homily on Ash Wednesday.
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