Watching Germany as Ireland settles some, I was taken by surprise by this case in Wisconsin:

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

That’s the lead as reported in the NYTimes, but it hardly captures the true unfolding horror of the details to come. To begin with, the priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy,* was repeatedly reported:

Father Murphy not only was never tried or disciplined by the church’s own justice system, but also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims, according to the documents and interviews with victims. Three successive archbishops in Wisconsin were told that Father Murphy was sexually abusing children, the documents show, but never reported it to criminal or civil authorities.

Instead of being disciplined, Father Murphy was quietly moved by Archbishop William E. Cousins of Milwaukee to the Diocese of Superior in northern Wisconsin in 1974, where he spent his last 24 years working freely with children in parishes, schools and, as one lawsuit charges, a juvenile detention center. He died in 1998, still a priest.

The lawyerly response by the Vatican demonstrates that one of the story’s assertions about the past — “that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal” — remains true to this very moment!

Some details of the Wisconsin atrocities:

– Students were molested in Murphy’s office, car, country house, on trips and in their dorm room beds; they tried for 30 years to get it stopped, even passing out leaflets outside the Milwaukee cathedral

– Some of the boys were molested when they went to the priest for confession; the archbishop was aware that “solicitation in the confessional might be part of the situation”

– A social worker specializing in treating sexual offenders hired by the archbishop reported that Murphy admitted his acts, admitted molesting hundreds of boys, and felt no remorse

– That archbishop, Rembert G. Weakland, himself had to resign “after it became public that he had an affair with a man and used church money to pay him a settlement”

Now I’m just going to flat out tell you that I believe the man who would be pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger now Pope Benedict XVI, had to know what was going on. Only willful ignorance could miss it. By all accounts, he’s not an ignorant man. But my disgusted gut reaction is fortified and given some credence by the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Walter Robinson.

For seven years, Robinson led The Boston Globe’s investigative unit, which in 2002 and 2003 documented sexual abuse within the Boston Archdiocese. The coverage won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for  Public Service. Robinson, now a professor of journalism at Northeastern University, was interviewed this week by Marian Wang for ProPublica:

I’m sure you’ve been following the Catholic Church abuse scandal that has been flaring up recently in Germany and elsewhere. Tell me a little about how this compares to what you found in Boston.

I’ve been following it with some interest. I’ve always maintained that the problems that were so obvious and widespread in the Boston Archdiocese were no different than any other diocese in the United States, or really anywhere in the developed world. It isn’t that there was something strange in the water in Boston that made priests abuse children. It’s just that because of our good fortune, and our collective good fortune in getting the courts to order the church to release all the personnel files, we got a much better idea in Boston of how common and widespread the problem was. And this part is important, given how focused the church has been everywhere in keeping this covered up.

The situation in Germany is particularly of interest because for years, the pope—then known as Cardinal Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger—oversaw the Munich and Freising Archdiocese. News reports vary on how aware Ratzinger was of a particular priest who had repeatedly molested boys, and one of the pope’s deputies has since taken responsibility for the personnel mistakes that led to further abuse. Your thoughts?

I don’t know of any archdiocese where the archbishop or the cardinal archbishop was not kept fully informed and in most cases was not heavily involved in decision-making involving any priest who was accused of abusing minors. In every diocese in the U.S.,  including those headed by cardinals, there was personal knowledge by the cardinal archbishop when news of abuse surfaced. It was true in Boston, it was true in L.A., it was true in Chicago.

The fact we have one archbishop in Munich that claims not to know anything is enough to make one suspicious. So the question is, if there was complicity by the pope himself, how do you get the evidence? And the evidence is in the recollections of priests who were involved who would know, the evidence is in the personnel files, and I’m not sure under German law whether there is any way whether civil authorities could force the release of those files. … One thing is certain. The church went to such great lengths to protect its bishops and archbishops in the U.S., you can imagine how far they’ll go to protect the reputation of the pope.

I was raised Roman Catholic. My split with the church came with my acceptance of my gay identity; the church didn’t want me as I am. Still, I feel a deep sadness for the good Catholic laity forced to come to terms with this ever-deepening tragic truth. Now even the innocent are tainted, while the fish rots from the head.

* I assume Father Murphy had no relation to Judge Yvonne Murphy, the Circuit Court judge in Ireland who headed up the commission that investigated the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin. The Murphy Report was released in 2009. Michael Sean Winters, writing in Slate, looks at the pastoral letter released last Saturday on the Irish church crisis.

JOE WINDISH, Technology Editor
Leave a replyComments (43)
  1. Ron Beasley March 24, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    It always amazed me that anyone would look to the Catholic Church for moral guidance. And the current revelations are nothing new. The only thing that is new is that skeletons are out of the closet.

  2. archangel March 25, 2010 at 12:45 am

    there is so much grief in the catholic communities ongoing for so so many years Joe. Thanks Joe for this and for all you do.

  3. shannonlee March 25, 2010 at 4:36 am

    It is all still pretty big news here in Germany. A German pope keeping the lid on child molestation in Germany while he was bishop. As you can imagine, they are not shy about shedding light on abuse caused by Germans….catholic, protestant, or atheist. The population has pretty much accepted the fact that the pope knew what was going on and covered it up to the protect the church…many feel he was elected pope because he was so instrumental in protecting the church from these allegations. Eventually the truth is exposed…and now to is the pope.

    What happened in Germany is nothing in comparison to what went on in Ireland…or the USA. Lord only knows what has gone on in lesser developed countries.

  4. Eileen March 25, 2010 at 4:57 am

    Shannonlea , you have no idea what went on in any of these cases . You have probably never met a Catholic priest in your life and yet the blanket comments fly thick and fast . The Pope was not protecting any perpertrator , the Pope and many Bishops and priests , had to ascertain as in a court of law where to head with these cases . They were acting on the knowledge they had the time . The fact that in the last few years this has all emerged , shows that the Church is doing its job , and to have all priests labelled , ridiculed and treated like vermin is unjust . Not only did victims need to be considered , but their families , their friends , the accussed family and friends , the parishioners , to suggest protection was done for the sake of power or keeping an image up is so ridiculous . The Pope did not halt a case there was no cover up. Legally anyone accussed of a crime must be found guilty . There are very compassionate protocols in place , victims have been cared for and continue to be . New priests , who were never even born in these terrible times are renewing our Church , the healing is taking place . All the armchair critics , read the Popes letter to the Irish people , find out what is happening at the local level and remember if you had someone at work accussed of a shocking crime as this what would you do ? if you dont go straight to the police are you responsible ? would you talk to this person ? would you recommend they receive treatment ? would you insist they give up their job? would you tell them you have to believe all that has been said about them ? WHAT WOULD YOU DO ?

  5. shannonlee March 25, 2010 at 5:18 am

    Hard to be found guilty in a court of law when the church does not report the child rape to the police. The reaction of Archbishop Ratzinger basically proves that the child rapist was guilty.,1518,684970,00.html

    If someone under my management was accused of raping a child I would immediately talk to the accused and then call the police…let them decide what to do. The fact that you do not find this to be the obvious and moral response is somewhat frightening.

    Side note…
    yes I have met many priests…one in particular that radiated goodness. The priests felt so pure that I had to look down when I first shook his hand…have you ever met someone like that…as if there was a glow of holiness surrounding them?

    I am not generalizing all priests…I am generalizing the church itself.

  6. Papalinton March 25, 2010 at 5:41 am

    For two thousand years this institution (Catholic Church) has touted itself as the pinnacle of morality onto which lowly humans can only wish to aspire. They’ve had two thousand years to demonstrate that they are a cut above all those other religions and those who do not follow the catholic teachings as well as others who do not believe at all.
    All revelations of abuse of CHILDREN from around the world and the absolutely indefensible way that the church has dealt with these awful situations are a testament to an all-pervading sickness, indeed a disease in the spiritual and ethical psyche of the office holders of the church.
    A sad indictment on religion.

    • shannonlee March 25, 2010 at 5:47 am

      When any religious organization puts itself over the welfare of its followers, that organization has gone from worshiping God to worshiping itself.

      I believe the Catholic Church can and may have already made serious changes to combat this problem inside their ranks. But I don’t think they will be able to stop the next problem, whatever that may be, if they do not change the culture of protecting the church first. I’ve read and seen interviews with former priests that admitted they were taught it was okay to sin in order to protect the church. Until that attitude is gone, the church will continue to find itself in these situations. (i can’t find links to those interviews anymore, full disclosure)

      I just read this, “Weakland resigned as archbishop in 2002 after admitting the archdiocese secretly paid $450,000 to a man who accused him of sexual abuse.”, and thought…how do Catholics that give to the church feel about their money going towards paying off victims? I’d stop giving.

      • ProfElwood March 25, 2010 at 7:32 am

        Nice job defending the middle ground!

      • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 7:50 am

        how do Catholics that give to the church feel about their money going towards paying off victims? I’d stop giving.

        Speaking only for myself, I haven’t and won’t stop giving but I am more circumspect in watching where my money goes. Fortunately we have a wonderful Archbishop (Wilton Gregory) and my parish is very transparent with reporting on finances, so I feel comfortable with it. Does some of my money go toward the payoffs? Probably a tiny percentage, but by far the funding is going to causes that I feel are important and whatever is going toward victims is also a worthy cause even if it is tragically regrettable that the actions of these men has made that necessary.

        I do recall too that in the dioceses where abuse was widespread and where large settlements were made, there was an effort to sell off Church property to raise some of the funds, which I felt was appropriate.

        • shannonlee March 25, 2010 at 8:20 am

          Transparency is always good…not all churches are bad 😉

          Religionspirituality should enhance a persons life. If it oppresses them in any way, they become cults…scientology for example. It sounds like you have found a good one.

  7. Schadenfreude_lives March 25, 2010 at 7:14 am

    The Catholic Church, as an institution, has been deeply corrupt since shortly after its founding. Any reading of its history includes murder, graft, bribery, political wars, Popes/Cardinals/Bishops/Priests with children, etc.

    Their excuse has always been that the Church is an organization of Man, and Man is flawed. Indeed.

    None of that excuses this type of institutional behavior, then or now. And certainly there are well-intended and moral Priests and Bishops, but the further up the hierarchy you go, the more likely you are to find the same type of people who tend to become CEO’s of public corporations and senior political leaders – those who have learned to pretend to be something they are not to get the power they desire, and at their core are very ruthless and self-centered.

    • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 7:43 am

      Their excuse has always been that the Church is an organization of Man, and Man is flawed. Indeed.

      None of that excuses this type of institutional behavior, then or now.

      I agree, although I disagree with your use of the word ‘excuse’ in the first sentence.

      The institutional flaws are indeed inexcusable IMO and as Dr. E mentions, this is what has caused grief, concern, anger, concern, etc, among the laity.

      I don’t feel there is any ‘excuse’ for coverups or protection of the Church’s reputation. I think they absolutely made the wrong decisions in keeping information within the Church rather than allowing civil authorities to investigate (this in my view, actually violates a tenet of the Church- in the confessional we are healed and forgiven by God, but that doesn’t negate the accountability to the law and the necessity, if appropriate, for civil punishment.)

      The only slight ‘softening’ of my angry opinion of all of that though is the way I see the motivations for the coverup. The only thing I can think of as an analogy is a bit different than what Eileen suggested. I don’t think this is analogous to not reporting a coworker- rather it is like not reporting a close family member. Note that the latter isn’t morally right either, but to me it’s more understandable. I’ve heard cases where mothers were in the awful position of facing a decision to turn in their sons for murder or lie and protect them- what would you do? I think turning in is the correct thing to do, but I can’t pretend I know if I’d have the courage of conviction to do it. (And hell- we see this sort of thing also happening among our rich and powerful families too- the Kennedys being the most prominent example that come to mind, with multiple incidents, Ted and Chappaquidick and his nephew in the rape case.)

      All I’m saying is that there’s an ameliorating factor there that doesn’t excuse coverup but makes me look on it as less ‘evil’ because it’s based on a bond, not just self preservation. And in the case of the Church in particular, I think the concept of forgiveness is taken one step too far by the Church leaders (again, rationalizing the protection against civil punishment even though the correct teaching of the Church is that Reconciliation corrects our relationship to God but civil punishment is still necessary to make things right with society.)

      • Schadenfreude_lives March 25, 2010 at 7:53 am

        I don’t think this is analogous to not reporting a coworker- rather it is like not reporting a close family member.

        CS – I am truly shocked at this post of yours.

        We are not talking about one or two incidents. There are 100’s, likely 1,000’s, of priests worldwide involved in pedophilia.

        There is the movement from parish to parish to parish each time new allegations arise for specific priests, showing that their activity is ongoing, and yet the Church just gives them new sets of unsuspecting children, and unsuspecting parents, for them to prey upon, time and time again.

        There is the utter stonewalling by the Church hierarchy for years to prevent the scope, scale and complicity of the problem by the senior management of the Church, allowing and really almost supporting this abuse.

        If YOU had an uncle that you KNEW was molesting children, had been doing so for decades and was still doing so, and had molested hundreds of children, would your reaction be to help him continually relocate each time it appeared the authorities may be catching up to him, and help him cover up his actions?

        • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 8:42 am

          I’m sorry to have shocked you but I think you’re misunderstanding the degree to which I agree with you. The coverups and transfers led to a horrific level of crime which absolutely should not have happened and can’t be condoned.

          But while there was undoubtedly a concern for the Church’s reputation, the fact that they were repeatedly putting priests back in environments where it could happen again indicates that they weren’t understanding the nature of the sexual deviancy involved. If they had considered that a mental illness was the root cause (and one which is resistant to treatment, at that), then you’d have to either believe that the supervising bishops were both evil (intentionally putting more kids in harm’s way) AND really stupid (because they’d be intentionally setting the Church up for more situations that would have to be addressed in the future.) I think that belies belief, and the only alternate understanding of the situation IMO is that they really didn’t get it in terms of pedophiles being unable to stop their behavior. I think they really believed that in the confessional, the absolution and admonition to ‘go forth and sin no more’ would resolve the situation (at least in most cases I think that’s what it was- there also potentially were some bishops who were so corrupted, or involved in this themselves, that they too were caught up in an endless cycle of dealing with their own deviant impulses.)

          One thing I have to also throw in here…as to the deviancy and criminality. To me, no matter what the age or genders involved, sex between adults and minors is unequivocably wrong and wrong at another level altogether when the adult is an authority figure. But I can’t help but note that the majority of these cases were adolescent males being seduced by priests and I do wonder why some people who find the cases to be criminal in these instances might also be the same people who would have a less black and white view of it if it were, say, a public school teacher seducing/molesting/engaging in statutory rape with a teenaged student. Personally I’m consistent in believing that any and all activity like that is wrong but I don’t believe that everyone who condemns the priests is necessarily consistent on that.)

          • Schadenfreude_lives March 25, 2010 at 9:20 am

            CS – I do see where you are trying to go with this, but i still cannot accept that explanation.

            Instead of wondering if they are evil, or if they thought the priests could be rehabilitated, I believe that they simply put concern for the Church as an institution ahead of concern for the children and even the molesting priests. There is plenty of historical examples of the Church doing exactly that.

            It has to be noted that very specific warnings were provided by the very psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists and even internal priests who reviewed these cases at the Church’s request that these priests would not stop, and absolutely had to be kept away from children. Yet the Bishops almost always and in all cases simply ignored those warnings, and continued to allow them close, unsupervised contact with children.

            And frankly, I think your argument the majority of these cases were adolescent males being seduced by priests and I do wonder why some people who find the cases to be criminal in these instances might also be the same people who would have a less black and white view of it if it were, say, a public school teacher seducing/molesting/engaging in statutory rape with a teenaged student. is beneath you.

            You are trying too hard to defend your Church, which I know you love and respect, from actions that are indefensible, IMHO.

          • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 10:10 am

            You are trying too hard to defend your Church, which I know you love and respect, from actions that are indefensible, IMHO.
            With humility I have to accept that you could be correct but I can’t help that I don’t think so. I think you’ve been on my side of this fence many times here at TMV when discussions revolve around what other people feel are indefensible acts of certain politicians, so I think you can see where I’m coming from. Sometimes what comes across as ‘defending the indefensible’ isn’t a defense at all- we all agree that the acts are bad, even really, really bad…but we can disagree about the context and what the bad acts mean with regard to the bigger picture.

            On that paragraph that you quoted, I’m sorry that you feel that way but I disagree there too. To me there’s no doubt that some people are applying a double standard, even though I doubt that they’re intentionally being duplicitous. I truly do think there are people who are outraged by the priests’ actions even though they wouldn’t feel the same if it were an openly gay adult man in another situation who seduced an older teen, which actually is what a lot of these cases involved (though obviously not the ‘openly gay’ part.) If you require stats to see what I’m talking about, I’ll dig them up- and note that I’m not claiming that this was all the cases because some were more clearly those of pedophilia.

          • Schadenfreude_lives March 25, 2010 at 10:31 am

            CS – I have a tremendous amount for respect for you, and overall we do agree on this, but there are clear differences going on here between the Church example and the school example you raise, again and always IMO.

            First, often times the school situations are ‘mutual attraction’ scenarios, although that does not reduce culpability one iota.

            Second, it is exceeding rare to hear of a teacher that is a serial pedophile molesting numerous children over a number of years and decades and at multiple different schools. Why? Mainly because school districts take more interest in protecting the child than protecting the teacher and the reputation of the school itself. They take active roles in helping the police investigation, again as a general rule, instead of impeding and obfuscating as the Church has done.

            Third, no matter how strongly you want to characterize the student/teacher relationship at a secular school, it pales next to the moral interactions of a priest/parishioner relationship, especially with a minor.

            I think you are a very even-minded and thoughtful poster, but we will have to disagree on this subject, which in my mind is the question of ‘how complicit is the Church itself, both as an institution and the individuals in the supervising hierarchy, in allowing this to continue to happen?’

            My position is that it actively protected those priests at the cost of the children and put itself ahead of them and their welfare. That is a complete and utter failing of the Church for which I can see no mitigation or reduction of culpability.

            This is too depressing a thread to keep posting about, so I think I will move on to other things now.

          • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 10:54 am

            I’m not sure why you assume that mutual attraction is present in most teacher/pupil relationships but not so in the case of these priests and the teens they were invovled with…but beyond that, I concur that we have to agree to disagree about the bigger picture while agreeing on parts of it.

        • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 9:29 am

          If YOU had an uncle that you KNEW was molesting children, had been doing so for decades and was still doing so, and had molested hundreds of children, would your reaction be to help him continually relocate each time it appeared the authorities may be catching up to him, and help him cover up his actions?

          Absolutely not, but I can concieve of situations where it would be muddier and I hope I’d still do the right thing but can be less sure of that (or can imagine equivocating before deciding to turn someone in.) Muddier situations would include a much closer relationship and one in which I felt I was supposed to be the protector (as in the case of maternal-child bond) as well as a situation where it was less clear to me what the outcome would be of the choice to protect.

          A final word on this whole thing- it really gets to what Mikkel brought up in the morality thread about outcome vs. intent. Personally I think both are important and I try to hold conflicting views of both in my mind. Outcome is generally more important in considering civil punishments (and protection of other people) while intent figures prominently into my view on forgiveness, potential rehabilitation, etc.

    • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 7:58 am

      One more comment on your main point here about corruption. I agree with you on this but still to me, the Church is the abstract embodiment of Christ that he initiated to persist in our world. The fact that evil also permeates it does not, IMO, change the fact that Christ called this organization into existence in some form. Whether or not we have correctly interpreted that to mean an organization with an institutional hierarchy is certainly debatable, but as far as I can see it’s like that old saw from Churchill about democracy- it’s the worst possible system, except for all of the others.

      People simply don’t organize themselves and work as a collective body, without leadership. The theory of course is that Christ is the Head and the Church is the body, with priests being the representatives of Christ- but again, they are fallible men and thus are very imperfect in that representation with some being completely unworthy while others approach a much more holy and perfect embodiment of the ideal.

      Certainly none of you may be persuaded by any of this, but I hope it gives a different perspective at least.

      • HemmD March 25, 2010 at 8:40 am


        “People simply don’t organize themselves and work as a collective body, without leadership. The theory of course is that Christ is the Head and the Church is the body, with priests being the representatives of Christ- but again, they are fallible men and thus are very imperfect in that representation with some being completely unworthy while others approach a much more holy and perfect embodiment of the ideal.”

        I appreciate your ambivalence concerning this subject, but allow me to play a bit of the devil’s advocate-pun unavoidable.)

        According to the doctrine of the church, Christ is indeed the head of the church, but the Pope is the direct intermediary between God and Man. As such, what the Pope does or doesn’t do is to be followed without question. His earthly judgments are to be taken as God’s judgments. His Papal authority is one main reason for the church’s existence. The Church has its foundations laid in heaven, not mortal men.

        That being said, the church’s cover-up of this recurring problem certainly demonstrates to a non-
        Catholic the problem with this doctrine. Maybe it’s my Lutheran upbringing, but without strict justice applied to ALL guilty of these crimes and their cover-up, the church challenges it’s own infallible authority. The only alternative is that God doesn’t find pedophilia or cover-up wrong. Additionally, the fact that these cover-ups took place in the past does not mean that the church’s mistakes of the past can somehow be erased by actions in the present. Mistakes are deadly forever in a doctrine of infallible authority.

        CS – please understand I mean no disrespect to your faith.

  8. CStanley March 25, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Hemm, I appreciate the sensitivity with which you asked this, and also appreciate the chance to correct a commonly misunderstood part of Catholic doctrine.

    According to the doctrine of the church, Christ is indeed the head of the church, but the Pope is the direct intermediary between God and Man. As such, what the Pope does or doesn’t do is to be followed without question.

    An important distinction and correction to that is that Catholics are not required to follow the Pope without question. The doctrine of Papal infallibility only applies to certain decrees about Church dogma, not to all of his statements and actions.

    Now of course, if something in the Pope’s actions were found to be so incompatible with God’s will that it was impossible to believe that he was correctly elected according to Divine will, then obviously it would pose a problem for also accepting his authority on the specific matters which are officially said to be the pope speaking ‘ex cathedra’. There have been very, very few instances of this concept being invoked.

    Here’s some more on the subject:

    Some ask how popes can be infallible if some of them lived scandalously. This objection of course, illustrates the common confusion between infallibility and impeccability. There is no guarantee that popes won’t sin or give bad example. (The truly remarkable thing is the great degree of sanctity found in the papacy throughout history; the “bad popes” stand out precisely because they are so rare.)

    Other people wonder how infallibility could exist if some popes disagreed with others. This, too, shows an inaccurate understanding of infallibility, which applies only to solemn, official teachings on faith and morals, not to disciplinary decisions or even to unofficial comments on faith and morals. A pope’s private theological opinions are not infallible, only what he solemnly defines is considered to be infallible teaching

    • HemmD March 25, 2010 at 9:25 am


      I would refer you back to the moment that Peter was given authority:

      Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
      And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
      I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

      Binding and loosing is not a matter of doctrine, it also is a matter judgment over matters concerning sin. Look, I am certainly no scholar as to what interpretation is made of this conferment of authority, but maybe that’s the Lutheran thing I mentioned earlier.

      You know, Luther’s break with the church came about because of his belief the any man who could read the Bible also heard the word of God, so reliance on priest’s interpretation was non-essential. This little tidbit of information may well be the major thing I remember from those Confirmation classes. I know you’d find it hard to believe, but my Pastor really didn’t like me much because I’d argue point after point and not accept doctrine. Who knew?

      • shannonlee March 25, 2010 at 9:33 am

        Side note…
        I was married in the castle where Luther translated the bible. To say that castle holds a special place in my heart would be an understatement.

        • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 10:55 am

          Very cool!

      • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 11:09 am

        Look, there’s no doubt that Lutherans and other Protestants interpret that differently, but it’s beyond the scope of this discussion (and probably beyond my own understanding and ability to express) for me to explain the difference between the Catholic interpretation of that and the infallibility of the Pope. What you are referring to forms the basis for the priest’s role in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

        • HemmD March 25, 2010 at 11:26 am


          I didn’t mean that I expected any kind of discourse, I just threw my laymen’s thoughts out to the discussion.

          ” What you are referring to forms the basis for the priest’s role in the sacrament of Reconciliation.”

          This is also the crux of the Schism within the church that brought about all those protest-ants. Appreciate you discussing this subject, again I’ve learned something

  9. shannonlee March 25, 2010 at 9:07 am

    “infallibility, which applies only to solemn, official teachings on faith and morals”

    Even within these constraints, the concept of any man being infallible on any thing doesn’t jive with me. I have a hard enough time wondering what parts of the bible man has changed to his advantage over the years…let alone a church doctrine created by man.

    But to each their own.

    • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 9:21 am

      I can certainly understand that, shannonlee…but when you think about it, if you don’t accept someone else’s version of truth as authoritative, then you are basically saying that you feel that your own understanding of it is infallible (keeping in mind we’re talking here about concepts which by their very nature are ‘unknowable’ and ‘unprovable’.)

      This gets back to my earlier comment about how a group of people can work together. In a religious group, that requires a set of agreed upon principles, and if that’s not left to a centralized authority then you’d have to take a democratic approach. A friend of mine who’s a Southern Baptist likes to joke about the constant disputes over interpretations in his church, and the fact that as he jokes, about once a month someone gets mad and goes down the street to open up a new church.

      That’s obviously hyperbole, and I mean no disrespect to Baptists for bringing it up- but the point is that authority has to derive from somewhere and those are the two main approaches- and in this case I think the opposite to Churchill’s phrase applies, that the authoritative approach is the worst except for all of the others.

      • shannonlee March 25, 2010 at 9:30 am

        I don’t want to get in too deep about my vs your spirituality….but it looks like to me that you are looking towards an organization or a pope to give you the rules regarding your personal relationship with God. I personally believe that everyone has a personal relationship that is between them and god…no one else. That doesn’t mean that my beliefs won’t change or my current pov is correct…god knows I’ve been wrong…but it does mean … imo … that I am more open to gods will because someone on earth is not dictating the rules to our relationship.

        The more man-made rules you put on anything…the tighter the blinders become and the harder the truth is to find…at least spiritually…at least how I see it.

        The good news is that a little prayer and meditation could have me spouting off something else next month :)

        • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 10:23 am

          I will try to keep this short to also not get too deep into the personal spirituality, but just wanted to note that I was a cradle Catholic who, like many, drifted away, but then came back as a result of my spiritual search. I found that the Church’s rich history of theology resonated and the parts that were hard to accept I could ultimately accept as ‘true myths’ (I was influenced heavily by Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and Tolkein in this and particularly love Tolkein’s poem Mythopoeia)

          Added to that is that I found there was something in the idea of submission itself which I believe is valuable to spirituality (this forms the basis of Islam too.) So, finding that I agreed with the basic theology, could accept the idea of truths as myth rather than definitively literally true, and could also find value in acceptance of wisdom of others as authoritative, there I was.

          On that last point about submission, to me the point is that humility demands that we recognize that our own individual beliefs are no less likely to be corrupted than are those of some other individuals who might be in the position of authority and that there’s a function to the acceptance of the authority. The function includes the facilitation of a community of believers, but also functions as a spiritual exercise of the acceptance of the real authority of the will of God.

          • shannonlee March 25, 2010 at 4:04 pm

            Just want to say thanks for your reply…now I am going to slowly back out of this thread :)

  10. mariaycorazon March 25, 2010 at 9:22 am

    The irony of this tragedy is that the Catholic Church has been quick to condemn homosexuality and has on the other hand supported pedophelia which in most cases involved homosexual acts. It is difficult for me to reconcile this type of thinking. I am a Catholic of the Liberation Theology school of thought and I believe it is time to examine the out dated practices and moral imperatives of the church that many in the clergy have not been able to honor. I also think that it is time to examine the role of women in the church which is a partriarchal institution…I think nuns and female priests could bring a new feminine consciousness that is so badly needed.

  11. GreenDreams March 25, 2010 at 11:14 am

    I have refrained from diving into this thread because I have a dear friend who was repeatedly assaulted by her priest as a little girl. I also worked for the law firm that took on the church (pro bono) in one of the highest profile cases. CS, this statement by you is what made me weigh in:

    “I found there was something in the idea of submission itself which I believe is valuable to spirituality ”

    It is tragic but true, that this is exactly the point by which my friend was led to believe that “submitting” was what Jesus wanted of her.

    There is no gray area here. She was manipulated and coerced, then threatened with the flames of Hell if she told anyone. The case finally came to light (she had no idea how many had been victims) when one who had been paid for years to keep silent, no longer could. This was willful and culpable coverup. There is simply no excuse.

    If the church does not take vigorous and permanent action to purge the guilty, including the pope if this report is true, and to implement stringent measures to prevent any recurrence, they deserve to be litigated to extinction.

    • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 11:27 am

      GD, I completely agree with the point you are raising about the dangers of blind submission, even though I respectfully disagree with your ultimate conclusions here.

      There is a difference between submission and blind submission, but it’s certainly a potential problem and particularly for children or anyone who doesn’t have the capacity to discern the difference. Personally I don’t ever think it’s wise for parents to entrust their kids completely to anyone else, precisely because kids are more prone to the inability to determine this.

      Editted to add: In no way should that last statement be construed as ‘blaming the parents’. I realize some may see it that way, but it was instead just a statement that there are steps sometimes toward protecting against predators which does not at all diminish the culpability of the predators.

  12. rspoilsport March 25, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    CS – thank you for so calmly and clearly explaining things. We need more Catholics like you.

    Thanks also to the rest here who

  13. rspoilsport March 25, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks also to the rest here who disagree respectfully.

    (having trouble with comments, sorry)

    • CStanley March 25, 2010 at 2:10 pm

      Thank you for the kind and supportive comment.

  14. ProfElwood March 25, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Organizations, including most churches, are starting to protect themselves by guarding against the opportunities in the first place. An adult, particularly a male, should never be left alone with someone else’s kid. Anyone who has a problem with that should be treated with suspicion.

    Is there any reason that the Catholic church can’t do the same?
    (you weren’t the only having troubles this morning, rspoilsport)

    • CStanley March 26, 2010 at 5:29 am

      This is something that a commenter brought up in another recent thread- the Catholic Church HAS begun putting those safeguards in place, in fact doing more than a lot of other organizations currently do. It’s all too late, should have obviously been done proactively BEFORE all of these incidents came to light, but currently the protections are there. I volunteer with kids at my church, for instance, and had to have a background check (I’d already had one because I’ve adopted a child, so they used that since it was recent- but if I’d never been vetted before I’d have had to have gone through the process and all other volunteers do as well.)

      • ProfElwood March 26, 2010 at 7:19 am

        That’s makes sense then. It would mean this is more about damage control than trying to keep it going.

  15. kritt11 March 25, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    I am not a Catholic or even a religious person, but my gut reaction is that a child who is assaulted by a teacher is probably intimidated by an older authority figure, but a child that is assaulted by a priest is intimidated by an authority figure who also holds the child’s faith in the palm of his hand, and thus is in a much more vulnerable position. If the priest is denied any access to a sexual partner and knows that he won’t be held accountable in any meaningful way, the problem will never be resolved. To condemn the behavior outside the church yet overlook it inside the church is unforgivable hypocrisy.

  16. loan modification March 25, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Church and Politics..impossible for anyone to agree on anything here….