Jesus Our Shepherd
Jesuit Magazine Raps U.S. Abuse Coverage
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

An influential Jesuit magazine close to the Vatican has criticized the “morbid and scandalous” treatment of the church sex abuse scandal by American media, saying it reflects growing anti-Catholic attitudes in the United States. The article, appearing today in Civilta Cattolica, said it was not seeking to minimize the problem, which it called a “tragedy” for the church in the U.S. But it asked why the American Catholic Church is subject to a “cross-fire of suspicions, violent accusations, recriminations, and demands for million-dollar settlements, as if the phenomenon of pedophilia was restricted to the Catholic clergy?”

It was this magazine’s second article on the scandal before the meeting of American bishops in Dallas on how to deal with it. These articles receive Vatican approval before publication. Two weeks ago, it suggested that the Roman Catholic bishops should avoid telling congregations their parish priests sexually abused someone if the bishops believe the priests will not abuse again.

The article took aim at the large number of reporters who came to Rome for an April summit of the cardinals with Pope John Paul II, noting that television networks set up positions near St. Peter’s Square. Such a deployment, it said, gave the impression “that this affair was also accompanied by a morbid and scandalous curiosity.” The article claimed that an “anti-Catholic” and “anti-papal” spirit had been spreading in the United States since the pope came out against the Gulf War in 1991 and called for “justice and not vendetta” following the September 11 attacks in the United States and in the recent wave of Middle East violence.

“For many newspapers and television stations perhaps it seemed too good to be true to be able to slap the ‘monster’ of the day on the front page, this time identified in the Catholic clergy,” the publication stated.

Commentary
Rev. Francis F. Baiocchi

If Catholic people in the United States are looking for help from the Vatican to solve the growing crisis of clergy abuse of children, forget it! The magazine Civilta Cattolica adequately states the Vatican position: the U.S. priests and bishops are being unduly harassed by an unruly, anti-Catholic media that is intent on bringing the church down.

Forget the fact that in neither article is there any compassion whatsoever expressed to the victims of these crimes and their families. Forget the fact that church officials, bolstered by their legal and insurance consultants, ignored the complaints for at least 15 to 20 years, paid little or no pastoral attention to the victims, extended no apologies, engaged in hush-money cover-ups, even threatened families with ecclesiastical penalties if they went “public” with their information. Forget the fact that some bishops gave high recommendations to priests who were repeat offenders when they secretly sent them to other parishes or dioceses. Forget the fact that bishops buried the records deep within their chancery vaults, keeping them far away from the people the church is supposed to guide and protect from harm. Forget all this, or remain ignorant of it. These articles in Civilta Cattolica are simply another example of the church circling its wagons in time of attack. The ol’ boys club still doesn’t get it!

Do these Jesuit editors really believe that U.S. bishops would have ever begun to admit their mistakes had they not been forced to by the print and television media? Do these Vatican-backed editors think that the clergy abusive cycles would come to an end by themselves, without public pressure? Are Vatican officials at all appreciative of the heroic and difficult work the U.S. journalists and investigative reporters faced in trying to pursue the story, get the facts and save the children?

Indeed if the U.S. media had not put this pressure on the bishops, the abuse would remain secretive and many thousands more of our children would be victimized. The bishops themselves would not have been forced to discuss this issue in Dallas. They may rather have spent that time talking about whether or not women could touch and clean church chalices and ciboria, or whether we should respond “And also with you” or “and with your Spirit” when the presiding priest at the liturgy says “The Lord be with you.” Meanwhile the sexual molestations would be continuing.

It is interesting to note that the bishops in Dallas claimed no responsibility, no accountability for their role in hiding these scandals. It is also interesting to note their compromise on the zero-tolerance policy. A priest who sexually molests a child can no longer function publicly as a Catholic priest, but he may continue to be a priest and receive pension and financial support from his bishop! That’s hardly a deterrent!

It is interesting to note that a priest who leaves celibacy to get married in the past lost all pension benefits and economic assistance from the bishop, while a pedophile continues to receive such benefits even after conviction for the crime. It is also interesting to note the church’s ready charge of “scandal” and “misleading the faithful” in the case of priests who marry. Contrast this to the bishops’ reluctant charge of “scandal” when the issue is a priest molesting a minor. Did you know how little compassion the hierarchy has for married priests and their wives? Both are afterwards customarily cut off from the church and refused employment in any church-related organization. Their wives who may have been working for the church or church-related organizations (as nurses, teachers, social workers, etc.) are immediately fired from their jobs. Their careers of dedicated and effective years of service to the church are terminated. Neither priest nor wife are given any financial compensation.

Married priests have come to know first-hand what the church’s “zero tolerance” means in their lives. Apparently, clergy who are sexually abusive towards children rank somewhat higher in the bishops’ thinking: they ought to continue to receive monetary compensation and to be immediately forgiven by the victims and the people of the church, say the cardinals and bishops, out of a sense of Christian compassion. But there can be no forgiveness, no compassion towards clergy sexual abusers and their bishops who hid them until justice is served!