by David Fortwengler
Dear Guys, As the “Year for Priests” comes to a close I want to share my opinion about you and your chosen profession. Every industry knows the value of recognizing the efforts of its employees. I hope you feel appreciated by those you serve. However, survivors of clergy sex crimes and non-Catholics realize the timing and meaning of this honorary year was simply an attempt to resurrect the reputation of the church while making you scapegoats at the same time.
Let me be clear, the heinous actions of thousands of your brother priests is despicable and criminal, and always has been. The effect on a person who is exposed to that kind of evil as a child is real and long-lasting, regardless of whether that evil was a coach, scout leader, rabbi, family member, babysitter, teacher, Catholic priest, or other clergy member. All society is outraged at your church because the abuses were committed by more than a few bad apples. Since 2002 the facts have revealed a crime spree that is unheard of in scope and nature.
The real outrage and disgust secular society feels is because of the gross negligence of your employers. Because of Watergate, Americans really believe that the cover-up is worse than the crime. When the crime being covered up is the rape of children, why wouldn’t we be disgusted? That is not anti-Catholicism, it is the truth. Piling more disgust on disgust, the bishops and Vatican’s response to the overwhelming facts have not only been un-Christian, they haven’t met the level of common human decency.
When Pope Benedict visited the United States he repeatedly and exclusively blamed you for the crisis.
“... it is difficult for me to understand how it was possible for priests to fail in this way in the mission to give healing, to give God's love to these children.”
“Many of you have spoken to me of the enormous pain that your communities have suffered when clerics have betrayed their priestly obligations and duties by such gravely immoral behavior.”
The Pope didn’t see the need to acknowledge his own culpability and he bemoaned how difficult it was for the bishops to respond to the scandal. In fact, he complimented them on what a great job they are doing.
“...in this regard, your efforts to heal and protect are bearing great fruit not only for those directly under your pastoral care, but for all of society.”
I have no respect or sympathy for criminal priests or for those of you who were aware of wrongdoing and failed to call the police. I do feel bad for those of you who care about your vocation and found out that some of your brothers used their roman collars like a bank robber uses a gun. However, when you’re in public and feel like non-Catholics are not showing you deference and reverence, it is not because we think that all priests are child molesters. We simply don’t like the men you work for.
I know many of you are also victims of sexual crimes. You should know the sorrow and compassion for anyone who has endured that violation extends to you also. I am sorry for what happened to you. Many of your fellow priests have courageously reported their painful stories of abuse, much to the dismay of their supervisors. Knowing the damage caused they have never even thought of committing that crime, instead they have become passionate about protecting children and supporting other survivors. Those men have my gratitude and appreciation. However, most frequently the effect of the crime is that the victim suffers in silence and never reveals what happened. For those in that category, I encourage you to report what happened and to seek healing.