"Thou art a priest for ever"

I have seriously mixed feelings about this story.

An organization has been set up to assist former and unassigned Catholic priests in financial need. Initially the intention was to help just those who had been defrocked as part of the pedophile priest scandal, but it later expanded to include the sick and retired. The group, the Organization of Concerned Priests, send out letters to active priests, telling them about the project and requesting donations — with a minimum of $1,000 suggested.

I have absolutely no idea what to think of this. So many notions come to mind, I don’t know where I stand, let alone where to begin.

1) I thought Catholic priests took oaths of poverty. How the dickens can they be expected to cough up a grand at the drop of a hat?

2) While assisting sick and retired priests is certainly noble, why were they an “afterthought” to helping out those who were stripped of their ordinations for sexually misusing children?

3) While I don’t like the idea of these pedophiles being supported by their former brethren, there is a sort of logic here. They probably feel a sense of responsibility for the fallen priests’ misdeeds, and better they be supported by those who — collectively — enabled and covered up for them rather than society as a whole.

4) I understand the Christian call for forgiveness, and there certainly is no enabling going on here (a refreshing change), but I think I’d prefer that the Church (or, in this case, this independent group of priests) focus first on the victims, then, later, help the victimizers.

5) It is, finally, a good sign that the priests are starting to “own” the outrageous scandal. by asking not for Church help but their fellow priests, they are subtly reinforcing the idea that they not only need to care for each other, but police themselves. Perhaps some will see this donation as a self-imposed “fine” for failing to act.

Like I said, I don’t know if I like this or not. Normally, I don’t bother much with the inner workings of churches — I’m no Catholic, and in this case it isn’t even officially sanctioned by the Church. But the systemic abuse of children and the systemic actions by Church officials to conceal and cover up the abuses stretched far beyond the boundaries of what could be legitimately considered an “internal” Church matter, and became a crime against society — and the fallout from that is still “fair game” for all of us.

And as such, it’s certainly appropriate for all of us — Catholics and non-Catholics alike — to examine how the Church is dealing with its prior failures.

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  1. meep October 8, 2006
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  11. liberty October 9, 2006