Jewish World Review April 22, 2002 / 11 Iyar, 5762
So it is interesting to watch my mother following the priest scandal. Her group in the "Catholic Golden Age" club is generally appalled and confused. Their faith has not been shaken, but their confidence in the men running the church has been.
My mother is also in a difficult position because her only son has been leading the media charge in demanding that cardinals who allowed pedophile priests to roam be forced to resign.
The pastor of my mother's church stopped her after Mass and suggested that I should give equal time to "good" priests. My mother didn't quite know how to answer that, so she smiled and relayed the message to me. I then asked her, "Mom, does that mean when Republicans or Democrats do bad things, I have to have good ones on to balance?" She said she didn't know, and would I like another tuna sandwich?
According to a poll taken by Quinnipiac University, 70 percent of American Catholics want any high-ranking cleric that enabled child abuse to occur to resign. And get this: Only 46 percent of those polled have a favorable opinion of their parish priest, although 90 percent would trust him around children.
What this poll says is that American Catholic priests are failing in their jobs. And I know the reason why.
First, my credentials. Altar boy for 10 years. Sixteen years of Catholic education. Many, many sins and encounters with frowning priests in the confessional. I still go to Mass every Sunday.
My experience has taught me that many priests are extremely interested in themselves and their power -- a lot like most other human beings. The reason Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston will not resign in the face of overwhelming evidence that he aided and abetted gross crimes against children is that the man wants to keep his red hat. He likes the power and justifies his refusal to do penance by saying the best way to serve his church is to keep his power.
Of course, that's absurd. There's no way on this earth that Law can ever regain his moral authority. Perhaps in heaven.
I once taught at a Catholic high school in Florida, and the principal was a priest that ran around with teen-age boys all the time. Everybody knew something was strange, but the guy let it be known that he was shepherding troubled youths. Maybe he was. But this priest was so power mad and arrogant that he turned my stomach, and I left the teaching profession. He waved goodbye to me from the front seat of his brand new Lincoln Continental.
The thing is that many Catholics, including me, have had bad experiences with priests, but there is no higher court. The priest can pretty much do what he wants. As we now know, even criminal priests are sometimes protected because the bishops do not want public scandal in their dioceses.
My analysis of the priest situation has brought fear and loathing from some Catholics who don't like my tone. Some guy from Nevada sent me an email, saying, "Bill, you've gone berserk in your criticism of the Church." A man from Florida wrote: "Do you really think Cardinal Law knew what those priests were doing? You are just trying to get ratings, O'Reilly."
But most American Catholics understand what has happened and cannot defend it. My mother and her friends are watching closely to see if the pope, whom they love, will do anything. I told my mother not to get her hopes up.
There is a siege mentality in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. The elderly men who run things see an immoral world bent on destroying their institution. They see the forces of liberalism trying to tear down tradition. They see barbarians at the gate.
But the truth is that the true enemies of the church are already inside the fortress. They have damaged the walls of faith, hope and charity, and they are still operating.
If ever there were a time for an
04/15/02: Pray for peace, polish the weapons