The Sides Stay the Same on Abuse

The headline splash: “Catholic bishops warned in ’50s on abusive priests.” The story describes some correspondence from Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, who founded the Servants of the Paraclete to assist clergy facing various personal difficulties with their vows, such as alcoholism, emotional issues, and (on the extreme end) abuse of children. In religious terms (“charity to the Mystical Body should take precedence over charity to the individual”), Fr. Fitzgerald suggested that abusers would not often change.
Why didn’t the Church listen to this man, who was especially well positioned to speak from authority? Well:

By the 1960s, Fitzgerald was losing control over the direction of the religious order, and medical and psychological professionals began working at the center — a change he had resisted. Those experts said some abusers could return to ministry.

If the take-away from the story is that the Church should be wary of relying on secular professionals who aren’t first and foremost concerned with the organization or its divine mission, then perhaps I’d agree. Unfortunately, too many people won’t get much past the headline in their comprehension — even if they read up to the end.

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12 years ago

You are exactly correct. The purpose of the article and headline is simple – that the Catholic Bishops knew about the potential for abuse (and for 50 years) but didn’t do anything about it. Sort of like the claim that Bush knew about 9/11 and did nothing to prevent it. And that he knew about what would happen with economy and did nothing. And the parents of children who kill like Columbine or VT knew they might but … It’s very simple. Find a reason to discredit an entire organization – be it family, a church, a political party, an entire demographic (i.e.: gays, African-Americans, poor) – based on a tragic event foreseeable using hindsight. Welcome to the current state of Journalism 101.

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