THE DEATH OF TRUST
29 March 2002
This morning I started writing an entry about the current uproar in the Catholic
church, because I, like so many others, am so furious about it. It seems the right day to
do this. Two magazines that I saw at the supermarket had cover stories on the crisis in
the church and when I turned on Oprah this afternoon, her program dealt with the abuse of
young people in the Catholic church and the monumental coverup that the hierarchy of the
church has engaged in for decades.
I've been watching with both horror and smug satisfaction as the Catholic church begins
to unravel before our eyes. The church's dirty little secret of pedophilia among priests
has been known for years and the coverup has appalled me.
(I've been told that the bulk of these offenses aren't pedophilia anyway, but actually
ephebophilia, which is sexual attraction to adolescents. In researching a better
definition for this word, I discovered research papers written in 1995
such as "The Impact of Child Sexual Abuse on Attitudes toward God and the Catholic
Church" and "Development and Preliminary Validation of the MMPI-2 Scale For
Same-Sex Priest Child Molesters" 1995. This is 2002. The problem has been present in
the church forever. Where was the outcry? Where was the help for the victims, until the
media forced it into the spotlight?)
The response of the church to the growing scandal has infuriated me even further.
Everywhere I look there are excuses, explanations, lawyers, lawsuits. But rarely do I hear
any real concern for the victims of these priests. (Granted there are some exceptions. The
Bishop of Sacramento recently gave a sermon which expressed real anguish over the pain of
the victims--it was one of the rare such statements that I've heard of read since this all
Oprah's show fueled my anger. I think of the thousands of people all over the world who
have been traumatized by violation at the hands (literally) of a trusted priest, yet there
has been no guidance from the Pope, the Vatican has told the US to deal with themselves,
the US Bishops who were offered--more than 10 years ago--the opportunity to have a
scientific study done of known priest molesters so they could determine what causes the
problem and how to deal with it, declined, saying they weren't interested. (Of course they
weren't--it would leave a paper trail for investigators to follow.)
Following the revelation in Omaha of a priest's misconduct, an elderly woman wrote to
the Bishop, appalled at what she had learned. She was bawled out by the bishop, who said
the church had enough to handle with those outside the church who were attacking it,
"without having to deal with dissidents like you." The woman was given a penance
to say for expressing her concern about the safety of children in the area.
"So much pain could have been avoided if the bishops had just paid
attention," said a man who was abused more than 20 years ago (his parish priest told
him dirty jokes, used a vibrator on him, performed oral sex, masturbated him, and
sodomized him). His organization, SNAP (Survivors' Network of those Abused by
Priests) has more than 3500 members, both men and women. He feels it's the tip of the
iceburg. When he first went public with his story, he received much hate mail that he
would dare to bring this sort of thing to light.
Another man who had been paid $350,000 "hush money" by the church, broke his
silence. He feels the only way the abuse is going to stop is for the church to give full
disclosure. He feels that for those for whom the statute of limitations has passed, they
can't seek justice, but they can seek healing.
Nationwide, the church has paid out "billions of dollars" over the years in
legal feels and hush money. The Bishop in Boston recently assured his parishioners that "No moneys from parish collections, the Cardinal's appeal or any other
donated funds, unless specifically designated, have been or will be used to resolve such
Is he telling the truth? Boston has already spent over $50 million in legal and other
fees around the recent scandal. Where is that much money coming from?
The thing that bothers me the most is the coverup. Pedophiles have flocked to the
church because they know within its structure, they will have protection. And they have
certainly been getting it. The priest with the vibrator was still supervising children
twenty years later. That's definitely not an isolated incident. The church has for years
made a point of just quietly moving accused priests from parish to parish, leaving a trail
of children whose childhood has been robbed, and who will be mentally scarred for the rest
of their lives by this molestation.
Why isn't the Catholic hierarchy concentrating on that instead of trying to smooth
things over. Where is the anguish for the victims. "The Bishops turned to their
lawyers first, instead of taking action," one of the attorneys who has been dealing
with abuse by clergy for years stated on Oprah this afternoon.
(No wonder the Catholic church has always been a good ol' boys' network, no girls
Many of the cases, as I said before, are no longer legally actionable because they have
gone beyond the statute of limitations. Why isn't the church reaching out to help in
healing of these people? Are they so busy trying to round up money to pay legal defense
for those men who are still abusing children today.
No cosolation for Jay Lemberger, who shot himself at age 21 after years of abuse by
Father Rudy Kos (now serving 3 life sentences). No consolation for Eric Patterson, who
also killed himself after years of abuse by Father Robert Larson. No consolation for
Donald Leighton, now in a mental institution after years of abuse by Father Daniel
Where were the bishops when children were being abused and the bishops knew about it?
Busy covering their holy asses. (no pun intended)
A Time magazine article asks if the abuse is continuing today.
"Even if it has grown easier for adults to reveal shameful incidents in their
past, it's still hard to get young males to come forward while the abuse is going
on," the report states. One of the victims says, "The last thing I want to
do as a teenager is run around telling everybody some priest gave me a b---j--....I don't
know if priests are still out there molesting kids, because they won't tell anyone about
it. We'll find out in about 2015."
Let's hope that the church has finally gotten its act together long before that time.
Let's hope that catholics all across the country stop giving money to pay for the
legal defense fund of pedophile priests.