Abuse in the church

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Allow me to add a few more thoughts to the discussion that has been generated with my post on the Pope’s visit to the United States.

[You should read the comments in the preceding post before continuing…]

Obviously the issue of sex outside of marriage is a whole different topic than the abuse of minors. It is true that struggling with intimacy and one’s sexuality is a normal part of life. People make mistakes or act in a way that is sometimes not the most spiritually mature. This is very different, on a moral level, to an act of abuse.

But I think that one of our commentator’s points regarding these two issues is more to the notion that some in the church seem so insistent on beating down the average catholic struggling to remain chaste while allowing within the church such horrible abuses.

Physical or sexual abuse in the church is be no-means widespread. In fact, the experience at treatment centres seems to point that it is perhaps below the average of the general population. [One, would hope so!] That being said, there are enough numbers to cause scandal and to ruin many, many lives. Some of what happened was the result of immaturity or addiction on the part of the clergy or religious. For others is was a very twisted sense of reality that led to the abuse of children.

However, I think that was has hurt most catholics deeply is the apparent lack of action by authorities or the efforts to cover-up or protect these people. Again, some of this was due to ignorance or lack of understanding of sexuality or abuse. Some of it was a legitimate effort to protect the church. [Read John Allen’s All the Pope’s Men for a good explanation of this.] and in some cases… well it still confounds me as to why some bishops acted the way they did. I think some of them should be in jail.

This abuse is not just limited to minors. There is also the tremendous pain of women religious who have been subjected to emotional, financial, physical and sexual abuse by priests and bishops. The most notorious cases of sexual abuse were told about in certain African countries. But it is by no means an African phenomenon. It exists in all parts of the world. My own community witnessed the abuse and bullying of women religious in an U.S. east-coast diocese when the local bishop threw the women out of their convent without consulting them. There’s more to the story… but I wont’ go there because it will reveal too much of people’s identities. Trust me to say that the diocese’s actions were immoral and unchristian and that my community did little to stop it. Why? It’s part of the abuse system. We are usually so shocked, that we become paralyzed.

Neither is physical or sexual abuse an issue of “liberal” vs. “conservative” catholics. I think that the mention of so-called “liberal” bishops in association with sexual abuse was just plain shameful! I can name plenty of very, very conservative bishops and several very conservative religious communities where there has been systematic sexual abuse of members or clear signs of inappropriate behaviour with young people.

The future does not have to be grim. In fact I am very hopeful about the future. I think our church has made great strides in understanding human sexuality and it brings to that “knowledge”, 2000 years of spirituality and morality. Faith and Reason must go hand-in-hand. I teach pastoral counselling at the local school of theology and primarily to the local diocesan seminarians. The course is part of our efforts to form healthy and well-balanced ministers for the church. We challenge them to come to terms with and accept their sexuality and integrate it into their lives. They have to know themselves in order to be able to help others. They need to be able to integrate their sexuality, intellectual life, emotional life and certainly their prayer life and spirituality into the whole person that they seek to become.

My limited experience over the last few years is that for the most part, we have some wonderful, healthy men and women preparing for ministry in the church. Are there a few that worry me. Yes. I can only do my part to challenge them. It’s up to the rest of the professors to do their part. It’s up to the lay people who supervise seminarians to do their part. It’s up to bishops to remain selective and not give in to the desire for “numbers” of priests and pastoral ministers.

We also need to look at healthy lifestyles for those who minister to us. Priests often live very lonely lives. Yes, the parish or ministry can provide some comfort. But, the priest needs to have a healthy amount of emotional intimacy. Yes, a good prayer life helps. Intimacy with God is essential. Intimacy with people is also essential. There are many experts to say what priests and religious should NOT do, how to keep appropriate boundaries. There are very few people telling priests how to maintain healthy friendships and relationships. It’s also necessary to examine the satisfaction of priests. Most are happy. But it would be good to work on the lifestyles of priests so that they can truly thrive as the serve the Lord and his church.


  1. Friar Rick, I believed that you are gifted with the kind of mind frame that is needed by the Church during this time, to be able to keep up the “sub culture” of our young people who are affected by our secularized society as we all know, although you are very lucky of your assessment that you have young men with very healthy personality.

    You have an open mind and heart which at the same time keeping the teachings of the Catholic Church. The difference lies in the approach on how you handle these young people.

    I believed that if you become very blunt, and happens to have young students who are in the stage of making up their minds (as we all know) these young people would not be able to spend more time in discernment while in their formation years, instead will run away from the Church who don’t understand their struggle.

    I believed that you have a significant contribution for the formation of priestly ministry in the Catholic Church through your teaching ministry on “Pastoral Counselling which I consider as one of the “hopes” for the future of our Church.

    May the Risen Christ will empower you more with His wisdom and loving presence in your life.

  2. Abuse by anyone at any time and in this case by Catholic priests against young boys and girls was in one word, “evil! Homosexual and lesbian sexual activity is always morally wrong and intrinsically evil and is gravely sinful. Further, heterosexual sexual relations between unmarried men and women is always wrong and sinful. Artificial contraception and abortion as articulated in Humanae Vitae are always wrong, are intrinsically evil and are sinful; and, all of us are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God.

    If one is going to “accept their sexuality” as described in the above column, iit can only be done in light of an “informed conscience” and the above. If not, then they are not fit in any way for the Roman Catholic Priesthood…end of story! There is only one truth, there is no room in the truth for ambiguity.

    The “abuse” in the Church can never be considered without understanding the cause.

    Roman Catholic Theologian George Weigel in his book, “The Courage to be Catholic” called this a “Three-Headed Monster.” The first was paedophlia–that is sex with prepubescent children, the second were illicit sexual relations with women and the third–the majority was “homosexual priests abusing children and young men.” This is a fact as the actual paedophila cases were a tiny percentage of the total.

    But what was the cause?

    The first century apostolic document, the Didache, warned against pederasty–sex between adult males and post pubescent boys. So this problem has always been with us.

    Let me say that this proves that celibacy is not the problem. The problem is that the priesthood, for a variety of reasons, attracted deviant men because it would put them in a place to find their victims. Tragically, many of these men became Vocations Directors and Bishops and even Cardinals and continued to recruit their own. The dissent in the Church in the 1960’s to 1980’s under the so-called “spirit” of Vatican II contributed to the spread of this vile and sordid affair.

    This deception began in the 1930’s (and for this one needs to clearly read the testimony of former American Communist Party organizer Bella Dodd). It was and continues to be a diabolical attack on the Church Militant by Satan. Nothing more, nothing less.

    The bottom line is that each of us need to be better informed and follow the teachings of the Magisterium and the Cathechism of the Catholic Church.

  3. Wow… now our vocation directors, bishops and Cardinals are deviant? The restored liturgy of Vatican II is barely valid? Vox Cantor? Sounds more like Vox Anger! That’s really going to spread the Gospel.

  4. These are all welcome and balanced thoughts on the issue, Friar Rick. Thank you for sharing your experiences especially that of the need to present a positive model of social integration for the psychological well-being of new priests. We have centuries of tradition on the spirtitual well-being of priests but precious little information to address the human needs of priests. I’m glad you have given your time and efforts to it.

    Sometimes we must expose our wounds in order for healing to take place and Vox Cantor and others do point out some interesting things I agree with.

    Have you read that book “Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption Into the Catholic Church” by Michael S. Rose? OK, I’ll grant that the title is totally inflammatory, but believe me, this is the one book the CCCB and USCCB does not want her faithful priests to read.

    It presents a compelling case, with all the relevant statistics and primary sources, on how psychological terrorism, militant homosexual intimidation, and brazen heretical teaching had, for 40 years, been used to force out orthodox seminarians in many of our US seminaries. The liberal hierarchy (and this applies to the far too many vocations directors) deliberately drove away a generation of capable, devoted young men from the priesthood in the name of heterodoxy, sexual deviance, and a secularized Catholicism.

    It’s an extremely difficult read for a faithful Catholic but it’s available in the Toronto Library and I think that any priest would find in it a tragic but valuable cautionary tale.

  5. I was in initial religious formation and priestly formation in Ontario, NY, MA, MD and DC, from 1981 until 1990 and I never experienced “…psychological terrorism, militant homosexual intimidation, and brazen heretical teaching…”

    Quite the contrary… my experience was primarily of psychological freedom, healthy integration of sexuality and tremendous love of the Church and a desire to serve it faithfully. I have met all sorts of wonderful young men and women preparing for ministry. Some have struggled to become holier and more integrated. This has led many to leave. Others have stayed and become great pastoral workers. Some were ordained and are great priests. Are there some who are weird? Yes. Are there some who don’t lead wholesome lives. Yes. But you ‘ve got to trust me, it has little do with being liberal or conservative. It’s about being real and dealing in a healthy way with one’s baggage (experiences, limitations, family history etc.).

    Those who are called to ministry in the Church must minister in the person of Christ and with the mind of Christ and his Church. That takes formation. It’s also not just about lecturing people about the Catechism. Christ did not condemn, but rather called people to growth and holiness. He wined and dined with sinners. He was truly himself and allowed others to be truthful… and he gently moved them along. We need religious, priests and deacons and lay pastoral workers who can be that presence of Christ for today.

  6. “Wow… now our vocation directors, bishops and Cardinals are deviant?”


    With all due respect, an ad hominum attack is hardly warranted. Further, I did indicate all or even most Vocations Directors, Bishops and Cardinals were or are deviant and any suggestion that I hold this view is inappropriate.

    Michael Szunyogh suggests the book on this matter. You can also investigate bishopaccountability.org or Richard Sipe for documented cases. Are you familiar with “St. Sebastian’s Angels?” This was a homosexual chat room which included a now deposed Archbishop in South Africa who wished John Paul II dead and wanted to do some nasty things to “Ratz.” Yes, Bishops and Vocations Directors were part of this deception and yes, it was a conspiracy of evil.

    In 1952, Bella Dodd who was re-converted to the faith by the Servant of God, Bishop Fulton Sheen testified before the United States Senate Committee that in the 1930’s she was personally responsible for recruiting over 1,000 men for the Roman Catholic priesthood. At this time, she was Organizer and later President of the American Communist Party!

    Why was the Communist Party filling seminaries with communists, atheists and homosexuals in the 1930’s and 1940’s? Do a timeline from one of these ordained by 1940 and consider where they were in 1960, 1970 and today. Further, if they recruited those like them, where are they now?

    “The restored liturgy of Vatican II is barely valid?”

    Where did I say this?

    What is the “restored” liturgy?

    Restored from when?

    Transubstantiation was not defined theologically until the 12th century but it was believed from the beginning. Theology develops, doctrine develops, so did the liturgy. But that development must be organic and the Missa Normative of 1970 was not organic, it was fabricated by the Concilium–a committee. The Missal of 1965 which included all the desires of the Council Fathers except for the new Lectionary was, organic, though badly implemented.

    If you desire to enter into a debate on the liturgical movement please consider every Papal document including Tra le Sollecitudini by St. Pope Pius X, Mediator Dei by Pope Pius XII, the actual document of the Council Sacrosanctum Concilium, Musicam Sacram from Paul VI, Ecclesia de Eucharistica, Paschales Solemnitatis and Redemptions Sacramentum from Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis and his Motu Proprio Data, Summorum Pontificum.

    Then, we can have the debate.

    I attend the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Novus Ordo or as you would say the “restored” liturgy which is term that confuses the uninitiated faithful) more than once per week. I do so selectively because I don’t tolerate liturgical abuse. No priest has the right to change even one word of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass except where authorised. Doing so makes the Mass illicit, not invalid.

    “Do the Red, Say the Black,” to quote Father Z!

    “That’s really going to spread the Gospel”

    I deserve no such admonishment.

    God bless.

  7. Dear Father,

    I don’t believe that I ever made the statement that “Paul VI was in error.” However, let us remember, the Pope is protected from teaching error by the Holy Spirit only on matters of faith and morals. That is Papal Infallibility. Let us not make the mistake that protestants do and assume that if the Pope says that the moon is made of green cheese that he is infallibly correct.

    The fact is, the Concilium was a committee headed by then Father Annibale Bugnini who consulted with protestants on the development of this new form of the Mass. In fact, upon presentation of the Missa Normative in 1967 was scolded by those Cardinals present in the Sistine Chapel for what he had done, it did not even include the Roman Canon or what is now called the First Eucharistic Prayer. This was a rupture and if one examines the Missal of 1970 with that of 1962 or even 1965, one will see quite clearly that the changes in 1970 were not organic. Organic in that change is introduced slowly, methodically and prayerfully and not by a “committee.”


    Yes, in the sense that it was a rupture with the past and created by a committee.

    But why take my word for it?

    Let’s look at someone else has to say on the matter:

    “The liturgical reform, in its concrete realization, has distanced itself even more from its origin. The result has not been a reanimation, but devastation. In place of the liturgy, fruit of a continual development, they have placed a fabricated liturgy. They have deserted a vital process of growth and becoming in order to substitute a fabrication. They did not want to continue the development, the organic maturing of something living through the centuries, and they replaced it, in the manner of technical production, by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment.”… Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Doctrine of the Faith (Revue Theologisches, Vol. 20, Feb. 1990, pgs. 103-104

    “One cannot manufacture a liturgical movement but one can contribute to its development. . . . J.A. Jungmann, one of the truly great liturgists of our century, defined the liturgy of his time, such as it could be understood in the light of historical research, as ’a liturgy which is the fruit of development.’ . . . What happened after the Council was something else entirely: in the place of liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it-as in a manufacturing process-with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.” From the Preface to, “The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background” by Klaus Gamber…Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Doctrine of the Faith.

    “Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.” Motu Proprio Data, Summorum Pontificum, 7, July 2007. Pope Benedict XVI.

  8. “Obviously the issue of sex outside of marriage is a whole different topic than the abuse of minors”

    Friar Rick,
    You use a fine razor to split hairs. A sexual sin is a sexual sin. I willl grant that I would be more shocked and disgusted at the abuse of children then two college students hooking up in a drunken stupor.

    However is even consentual sex between two adults not abuse? I will present the case of a good friend who is a non Catholic. He has relations with his girlfriend merely for his own pleasures, as he has admited privately to me. He has no intention to marry this girl. His girl friend a “Catholic” makes herself available to my friend as part of her duties within the relationship. She likes him and he wants sex. Therefore if she cares for him she will give him what he wants. She is under the impression that this will make him love her and want to marry her. Now there is clearly an abuse going on here. But its not against the law.

    Within our secular society this is normal and acceptable. It would be anthema to point it out as such to them or my cirlce of friends. The abuse of children is still taboo in our society. Now our society in general is open to homosexuality and its devient acts (ie bug chasing,) Fifty years ago these acts were relagated to seedy parts of town and back alleys. I can only hope that the abuse of children will not make the same advances.

    Lets be honest and admit that there is a great abuse of our sexuality in this society. Blurring the lines and calling certain acts weaknesses and other out right abuse isn’t helping anyone. I will admit we all fall, I don’t condem anyone for that. I would encourage anyone who does to get to a confessional. Work hard and pray for God’s grace and strength to carry on under adversity.

  9. I’ve been away and seem to have missed quite a bit in this ongoing debate.

    I would like to add that in this fallen world of ours we must avoid the near occasions of sin. There isn’t enough talk about the evil that lurks in the world. It has been dressed up in lipstick and mascare. We don’t recognize it in its true degrading form. It is attractive and seductive. When confronted by this we must run the other way. We will always fall to temptations. We must run to God, and seek his strength.

    Two good books that can help us in the battle are Thomas Kempis – The Imitation of Christ and Lorenzo Scupoli’s Spiritual Combat.

    These two books together with prayer can help us to resist the temptations of this world and bring us closer to an intimate relationship with Christ.

  10. Fr. Rick,

    May I ask why my comments were rejected? I didn’t think they were inapproriate. If so please let me know and I will remove the offending parts.

    I thought that I made some valid points in pointing out that the definition of abuse has a wider context than just against children but to women as well.


  11. Yes, Paul VI erred, in that he promulgated a valid (the necessary protection of the Holy Ghost) though inferior missal (the human element of the Church). This is not an immodest opinion, for it is entirely possible for a pope to make prudential and juridical mistakes, and for the clergy and faithful to disagree with the Supreme Pontiff. This is not a case of “Faithful Dissent” as some reactionary church authorities espoused in the wake of Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae.

    Dietrich von Hildebrand is worth quoting here:

    “In the case of practical, as distinguished from theoretical, authority, which refers, of course, to the ordinances of the Pope, the protection of the Holy Spirit is not promised in the same way. Ordinances can be unfortunate, ill-conceived, even disastrous, and there have been many such in the history of the Church. Here Roma <> does not hold. The faithful are not obliged to regard all ordinances as good and desirable. They can regret them and pray that they will be taken back; indeed, they can work, with all due respect for the pope, for their elimination.”

    But alas, this is not the topic of discussion. I tend to pounce on anything having to do with liturgy.

    MAY GOD BE PLEASED to purify our priests, and bring them and their flocks to Heaven by His perfect grace. And may God bless you and your community, Father Rick.

    St. Joseph, pray for us.

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