Home > Life, News, religion > Abusing the Catholic Church

Abusing the Catholic Church

I normally like The New York Times, but it seems to have been on a crusade lately to abuse and discredit the Catholic church.

Here is what everyone (including Pope Benedict) agrees about:

  • Child abuse must be prevented as much as possible and punished when it occurs.
  • A tiny minority of priests have abused children (defined as anyone under 18).
  • All child abuse is wrong but it is not all the same. Sexually assaulting a five-year-old is different from having a consensual sexual relationship with a seventeen-year-old, though both are included under the definition of “child abuse.”
  • The Catholic church has not done enough to prevent child abuse by priests. A few times, it has failed shamefully.

Here is what most news articles, including those in The New York Times, seem to forget or ignore:

  • To be accused of a crime is not the same thing as being convicted of a crime.
  • Just like anyone else, accused priests are entitled to due process and a presumption of innocence. That doesn’t mean that church officials were right when they did almost nothing in response to abuse accusations, which has happened in a few highly-publicized cases. But it does mean that the news media’s apparent demand to “shoot them first and then have a trial” is equally wrong.
  • Most cases of Catholic child abuse involved gay priests having consensual sexual relationships with teenaged boys. That is still wrong and still child abuse, but the idea of “child abuse” starts to stretch a lot when the “child” is a high school senior.

Reporters at The Times have been on a frantic hunt for anything they  could pin on Pope Benedict to show that he was negligent in preventing child abuse. So far, the best they’ve come up with is the case of a priest in Wisconsin who abused deaf boys starting in the 1950s.

While the Times article practically screams its headline “Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys,” it “buries” some important facts down in the middle of the article:

  • The priest abused children from the 1950s until his retirement in 1974.
  • By the time that the Archbishop of Milwaukee alerted the Vatican to the situation, it was 1996. The abusive priest was long retired, had confessed and repented, and was dying. He was no longer a danger to anyone. Yes, you can argue that he still should have been punished. You can also argue that  he should have been allowed to die in peace. The Catholic church is in the compassion business. Its decision was not surprising or shameful in that case.
  • The archbishop’s letter went to church officials working under Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict. But there was no evidence that Cardinal Ratzinger was personally involved in the case, despite the Times’s breathless insinuations to the contrary. If anyone was negligent, it was the Archbishop of Milwaukee.

One of my uncles, who is Jewish but has written a history of the Catholic church, said it very well: The church’s most relentless critics “don’t have anything against gay relationships but they do have something against an organization that claims timeless and unchanging moral authority.”

The current crusade against the Catholic church seems to be only incidentally about preventing child abuse. It seems to be mainly about discrediting the ideas and moral authority that the church represents.

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

  1. April 3, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Your post really made me think. What a horrible time for everyone in the catholic church. It’s sickening.

    • Rinth de Shadley
      April 3, 2010 at 11:45 am

      Hi, Mary —

      I agree with you. It’s something of which we Catholics must be ashamed even if we know that some of the attacks on the church are unfair.

      • David
        April 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm

        Absolutely! Ashamed of those priests. But we can be confident that the Catholic Church is holy in spite of humanity. She’s holy because of Jesus.

  2. David
    April 5, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I will be blogging about this very issue today. But short and concise, the Catholic church stands against several of the flags that the NYT waves-gay marriage as normal, homosexuality as normal, abortion as normal. It’s also not abnormal for all anti-religion/anti-Christianity forces to come together at the holiest time of the year and attack Christianity. Shows like “Was Jesus real?” James Cameron revealing that he found the tomb of Jesus, etc. I have an Old Testament professor trying to explain the manna in the dessert (aphid secretions), the quail in the dessert (quail migration) and the water from the rock in scientific terms. She also stated that the invasion of Canaan by Joshua was like the Rawandan genocide.

    Gotta be careful what you listen to. I already blogged the truth about the Father Murphy case.

    • Rinth de Shadley
      April 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm

      Hi David —

      Thank you for such a thoughtful and informative comment! I’ve heard about some of the things you mentioned, but they never worried me too much. Some people say irresponsible and hurtful things, even about the church. That’s just how life is.

      As for the manna, the quail, and the water from the rock, I don’t know any reason why God wouldn’t work through natural processes if He could. It seems as if He prefers that. Albert Einstein said that coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. If someone finds a natural explanation for those things, I’d say, fine, maybe it did happen that way. It doesn’t disprove God’s involvement. Sometimes, a coincidence can be very, very fortunate — almost as if it was arranged by someone who knew everything in advance. 🙂

      I’m going to write a blog about some of the other issues you mentioned, if you don’t mind. And I haven’t forgotten about where rights come from, but that’s a very difficult issue to get right and I want to make sure that what I write about it makes sense.

    • Rinth de Shadley
      April 5, 2010 at 6:33 pm

      One more question: is this still your blog site? http://unapologeticallycatholic.stblogs.com/

      I looked there and did not see anything recent. If you have a new site, please let me know! I want to read it.

      • David
        April 6, 2010 at 12:16 pm

        It is, but I haven’t updated it lately (I still have the other one more active http://www.rootofjesse2.wordpress.com). Thanks for the reminder, I need to get busy.

  3. October 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    It’s not a pretty thing I’ve started and no, you’re not going to like it.

    I was incensed at the lack of responsibility that the Catholic church has taken in these latest scandals, not because our beloved priests were sexually molesting the innocent, but because, proportionately, it’s not even the tip of the iceberg!

    In rage, yes, I took it out on the Church, the Pope, the Priests, but most of all the clear and obvious indicator that child abuse is a widespread and Institutionally protected activity by the church; the Nuns.

    10 Nuns for every priest? What an underrexagerration! Let’s try 20. How many children per Nun? How many children per abusive Nun during her time of exposure? Do the math; compared to the priest’s firecracker, the sheer volume of abuse is Fat Man and Little Boy combined. (The reference to the nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki is apt because, from what I can read, there are perhaps millions of walking wounded, PTSD maimed ADULTS who were children right around that time; of whom I was one.).

    The priest thing is just an indicator. If you can stomach it, read some of the posts on a firetender’s blog and listen to adults from all over the world speaking to the damage they have carried for decades, and in some cases as recently as NOW.


    In no way am I attempting to disparage your beliefs or faith. It is the Institution that has failed its children in a most despicable way.

    • October 31, 2010 at 12:37 pm

      Hi, Mr. Reina —

      I’m very sorry about the bad experiences you had with nuns. Everyone agrees there’s a problem and that the church has sometimes failed to protect children.

      I don’t know what things were like in the 1950s, but my own experiences growing up in the 1990s-2000s were much more positive than yours. I never had any reason to fear or distrust a priest or nun. I realize that a few bad ones exist, but I’ve never met any of them.

      The church seems to be adopting much stricter rules to prevent abuse and misconduct. We can hope that will prevent such problems in the future.

      • November 3, 2010 at 5:07 pm

        I started my blog as a rant, just to ventillate and relieve myself of some pressure. WOW!

        To my surprise, and continuing fascination, I’ve been getting responses from all over the world from adults who once were children abused by the Church back then, AND even people who TODAY are struggling to get heard about patterns of abuse going on now.
        My call for tearing down the institution is based on a CONTINUING COORDINATED PROGRAM by the Church to deny the allegations, hide behind concepts of separation of Church and State (Did you know that in NY for example, Parochial Schools are exempt from the ban on Corporal Punishment?) and protect their money!

        My thanks to the Almighty that you and probably most of your generation didn’t have to go through what me and so many others did, but here’s the thing, Rinth; once the Church looks at this problem as a SYSTEMIC FLAW, admits it and destroys whatever mechanism INSIDE the Church that caused it — that would be a neutral investigative committee REALLY looking, not just glossing over to shut people like me out — then MAYBE I’d help support its re-connection with Jesus. Right now, the Body of Christ — as exemplified by the archaic, misogynistic hierarchy that directs it — is riddled with Cancer.

        I will not do anything more on your blog to dis the Church, and please understand at no time am I saying that you and supporters have misplaced faith. You all can tell the difference between Jesus and His very human (and, really, Rinth, I am so very sad for the pain and sickness of those nuns) representatives on earth.

        Blessings to you and yours.

      • November 3, 2010 at 9:37 pm

        Hi, Mr. Reina —

        I agree with you that there has been a problem. Everyone agrees about that.

        However, I’m afraid that I can’t go along with your idea that “the Church” has abused children, that there is a “coordinated program” or a “systemic flaw.” Individual people have done bad things and other individual people have sometimes failed to stop it. That has to be corrected, but I haven’t seen anything to make me believe the problem goes beyond that.

        As an abuse survivor myself (though my abuser was not a church official), I know something about the suffering you had to endure. But neither of us has to face it alone.

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