Monday, April 8, 2019

Paul Elie on "Seeming Transparency" of Dioceses Releasing Lists of Priests "Credibly Accused" of Sexual Abuse of Minors


Even now, the Church takes shelter in this gray area. In recent months, several Catholic dioceses have responded to outside scrutiny by issuing lists of priests who have been "credibly accused" of sexually abusing minors. It's a gesture of seeming transparency, but the lists are actuarially spare: name of priest, dates of parish assignments, year of accusation, year of alleged incident, action taken. The lists don't say what the priests did or where or when, and they're probably incomplete. The list for Illinois names a hundred and eighty-five priests; the former state attorney general Lisa Madigan counted six hundred and ninety accused priests. Either way, the numbers suggest a dismaying order of magnitude. The list for Texas named two hundred and eighty-six priests, the list for New Jersey a hundred and eighty-eight priests.

And then there's this bit of personal testimony in Elie's essay:

I was married at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, on Mott Street, in 1999. The celebrant, Keith Fennessy, was a friend of a friend; he had served at St. Gabriel's parish in the North Bronx, where my fiancée had grown up. Father Fennessy was smart, funny, distinctly Catholic, but not self-righteous or condescending toward women. It was a surprise when, sixteen years later, the archdiocese removed him from public ministry, saying that he had downloaded pornography onto a parish computer. 
In Rome, in 2005, reporting on the Vatican, I had a caffè granita in Trastevere with Cardinal George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney (recently convicted of sexually abusing two minors at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne); had lunch with a Jesuit priest accused of inappropriate conduct toward a teen-age student before joining the order; and had a long interview with Cardinal McCarrick at the Pontifical North American College, the finishing school for ambitious American clerics in the making. It was a holiday in Italy, and the seminarians had no classes. "Let’s sit here, by the window, so we can watch the boys play baseball while we talk," McCarrick said. 
That's eight clerics accused of sexual misconduct in my personal experience—eight out of the couple of hundred priests that I have known. Eight out of two hundred is four per cent, which matches the percentage of priests who have been accused, according to the John Jay report. That my experience is typical doesn't make it any less disturbing.

No comments: