Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Catching Up on News in Philadelphia: 21 Priests Suspended Today

I'm just now seeing the news from Philadelphia today: that 21 priests were placed on suspension today, following the recent grand jury report and the indictment of the secretary for clergy for the archdiocese of Philadelphia, Msgr. William Lynn.  As Joann Loviglio notes at Huffington Post

The actions of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia stand out because they come more than eight years after the U.S. bishops reformed their national child protection policies and pledged swift action to keep potential abusers away from young people.

The grand jury named 37 priests who remained in active ministry despite credible allegations of sexual abuse. After the release of the report, the second such investigation in the city in six years, Rigali vowed to take its calls for further reforms seriously.

Let me repeat that: what is happening in Philadelphia stands out because this is happening more than eight years after the U.S. bishops reformed their national child protection policies and pledged swift action to keep potential abusers away from young people.  And it took a grand jury report and an indictment of the archdiocese's secretary for clergy to produce this suspension of 21 priests who are still in active ministry despite, one understands, credible allegations of abuse of minors.

And so segue to Barbara Dorris at SNAP who notes that earlier today, two well-connected bloggers, one of whom is Rocco Palmo of the Whispers in the Loggia blog, had been reporting that sources told them these suspensions were imminent.  And Barbara Dorris concludes, re: these suspensions,

When a doctor deceives a patient and delays surgery until death is nearly imminent, and removes just 30% of the life-threatening cancer, he is terribly irresponsible. And we’re irresponsible if we praise him for it.

And Dorris also concludes that temporarily suspending a handful of credibly accused predator priests is not going to fix the deep, seemingly intractable endemic problems in the American Catholic system to which each new epidemic outbreak of the abuse crisis points all over again.  Dorris's bottom-line final conclusion:

So if some credibly accused predator priests are suspended, it will be a small step forward made terribly late and only due to massive pressure. It’s a very belated and begrudging beginning – nothing more. And we do an enormous disservice to many innocent kids and still-suffering adults if we even begin to feel complacent because of this one small step.

And as SNAP's Peter Isely notes in Joann Loviglio's HuffPo article,

We have no reason to believe that Philadelphia is unusual – in other U.S. dioceses, credibly accused priests are no doubt still in ministry, and review boards are protecting priests instead of protecting children.

As all this happens--all over again--the same old, same old set of excuses and the same old, same old dishonest defensive mechanisms are in evidence all over again among many American Catholics: a point on which I intend to comment in a subsequent posting linking to Richard Gaillardetz's analysis of the state of contemporary American Catholicism, and what might be done to address that state.  In my view, many Catholics are mind-bogglingly obtuse, when it comes to understanding the most elemental moral issues involved in the abuse crisis.  And whatever's wrong with the Catholic church isn't going to get resolved until that moral obtuseness is addressed far more honestly and proactively than has been the case up to now.

I hope to say more about this down the road.

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