The sins of the fathers

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  • | 1:54 p.m. April 1, 2010
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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There is this quality of being human that allows us to project the horror. The horror of what another human being might have felt, might have experienced. When I first heard that a Catholic priest had molested deaf boys (200 cases), I thought, how can this be? It’s a transgression so offensive as to be nearly unimaginable. You sometimes hear of children as young as 2 or 3 being raped, and I, for one, consider the death penalty appropriate for such abominable crimes against humanity. I would have no qualms pulling the trigger.

You can display behavior so egregious that you forfeit your membership in the tribe of humanity.

About 10 or so years ago, it started becoming public that the Catholic Church in America had a problem. In diocese after diocese, mostly men were coming forward to state that when they were boys, priests sexually molested them. These were not isolated incidents confined to only Boston or Los Angeles, but all over America, victims of priestly abuse were coming “out of the closet” of shame to seek vindication, validation and justice. The American Catholic Church, of course, stonewalled, but the truth did come out. The truth continues to shame (and severely compromise the moral authority of) the Church today.

What became readily apparent was that the Church would repeatedly deny the incidents or minimize them. We are talking about thousands upon thousands of cases of priests sexually abusing children under their jurisdiction. It gets worse.

How, you might legitimately ask, can it get worse than the sexual molestation of children? Of robbing children of their innocence and childhoods? Of scarring children for the rest of their lives? How does it get worse?

By doing nothing to the perpetrators of these crimes. By transferring offending priests to other parishes where they continued their abuse. For decades. By publicly denying the problem and/or suggesting that it was a small inconsequential “issue” that the Church was looking into and meaningfully dealing with. By not turning over the raping priests of the Catholic Church to civil authorities for investigation and prosecution.

I cannot even begin to imagine the moral hoops and hurdles the Church must jump to square such institutionalized degradation with the “true” believers among the Catholic faithful. How do you confess to your congregation that good ol’ Father Murphy was for years molesting young deaf boys?

Deaf boys?! I picture Edvard Munch’s, “The Scream.” What kind of warped human being molests children and then compounds the crime by ratcheting-up the offense by violating an even more vulnerable human being? Who does such crimes against humanity? An ordained Catholic priest. From an institution that repeatedly denied the charges of institutionalized sexual abuse and covered-up the crimes of molestation and rape for decades.

Whoever handles the pubic relations for the Catholic Church and the Vatican made a horrible mistake. Among many. When all the abuses were surfacing in America they should have convened a meeting at the Vatican that dealt with the PR side of the issue, and they should have decided to come clean worldwide. Ten years ago. Get it all out at once. Scour the attic, look under the couch, clean the basement and reveal all the dirty linen of sexual abuse. Reveal all (to the best of their ability to determine) the crimes against humanity committed by church officials. Come clean. Confess. Pay whatever financial reparations are called for. Say the requisite Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s, the mea culpas and get on with rebuilding the damage the church inflicted upon itself.

But no, that is not what happened, and now you have Europe erupting with Church abuse cases (Ireland, Germany and renewed interest in America offenses) that lead all the way to Pope Benedict XVI.

Evidence is coming forward in the very public German case that when Pope Benedict XVI was the Archbishop of Munich in the 1980s, he failed to remove Father Peter Hullermann, the infamous pedophile priest. This beast of a priest was reassigned and continued to work with children. All this occurred under the Archbishop’s jurisdiction of responsibilities. Vatican officials are quickly scrambling with explanations as to why the Pope is not, indeed, responsible. They say he got up to 1,000 memos a year (that’s 1,000 total in one year) on church business. That’s less than three a day as Maureen Dowd in the New York Times so succinctly pointed out.

Is it believable that he was completely unaware that the Hullermann “case” was then cycling (perhaps that should be recycling) through his office? Is it possible a priestly pedophile (under the Archbishop’s management) was not of sufficient importance? Can that be? That the Archbishop wouldn’t have been advised that Hullermann was being reassigned to another parish. That he didn’t sign-off on such a weighty matter. Is that believable? Is it possible?

Well, it’s certainly laughable. Not the crime of sexual molestation. Just the church again denying responsibility. I’ve read two interesting arguments as to why all these priests were so actively abusing children in the 1970s. This is funny. Catholic liberals argue that it’s because priests can’t marry or that women cannot become priests that caused (is causing) all the problems in the priesthood. Catholic conservatives, on the other hand, argue that it is the moral relativity of the changing Western cultures that is the problem.

Is that a gas or what? Moral relativism is affecting how Catholic priests behave and have since the 1970s? Hmmm? I consider myself a secular humorist, a moral relativist and you know what, not once in the 1970s (or ever for that matter) did I determine that it was ever OK to rape and molest children. I guess I’m not schooled in the intricacies of priestly logic and behavior. Or of the justifications by conservative church apologists who try to explain away church problems by blaming them on a permissive culture.

If there is a dysfunctional culture and if it is morally bankrupt, it is surely within the Church itself, too. And as we see today, it does go all the way to the top.

Just ask any of the 200 deaf Catholic boys who couldn’t hear their own screams but no doubt remember the heaving, priestly breath as they were … “The horror, the horror.”