In the news lately, there's this: as this editorial in the Daily Gazette (Schenectady, NY) indicates, this past Wednesday, Father James Taylor, a Catholic priest in Niskayuna, pled guilty to having sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl. Taylor was arrested in April. His bishop, Edward Scharfenberger, placed him on administrative leave after the arrest, but has announced that the diocesan sexual misconduct review board will not make a final decision about Taylor's continuing work as a priest until after the civil proceedings against him have finished.
Scharfenberger's approach to the case prompts the Daily Gazette to ask,
[W]hy wait until civil legal proceedings have been completed before holding a hearing, to then determine whether Taylor should remain a priest?
As the editorial notes,
If you own a business and one of your employees is convicted of having sexual contact with a minor, the second that court case is over, that guy is fired. . . . If the bishop really wanted to send a message about zero-tolerance, he would use the outcome of the criminal court case as the final arbiter and kick this guy to the curb now.
And then there's this, also in the news recently: in July, William Nifong, a Latin teacher at Northside College Prep School in Chicago, proposed to Colin Collette, a longtime music director at Holy Family Catholic church in Inverness, Illinois. Collette announced the engagement on Facebook.
And then he was fired. Immediately after his wedding plans appeared on Facebook. Lisa Black tells the story for the Chicago Tribune here and here.
A priest can be arrested after having had sexual contact with a 15-year-old girl. He can plead guilty to the charge in civil court.
But his bishop will still bend over backwards to assure that the priest receives every consideration as his clerical career is assessed.
On the other hand: work for a Catholic institution as a lay employee, announce that you are gay and intend to marry, and reprisal is swift — as one story after another in the news in the past few years indicates.
The disparity is glaring. It's obvious. For clerics, even ones as guilty as sin of sexually abusing minors, every consideration is in order. For lay Catholics who are gay and choose to make public the details of their marital lives, no consideration at all.
Instant punishment. Instant firing. Instant exclusion from the Christian community. Instant destruction of careers, of economic lives, of reputations.
The disparity is glaring and obvious. And, to increasing numbers of Catholics, as well as to the public in general, it's scandalous in the extreme.