By Sr. Paqui Morales, S.H.M.
I can only thank God for priests, for so many good priests who give their lives for the salvation of souls.
If I were to ask someone, “What is the Church?” I would not be surprised to hear this response: “A group of pedophiles who only abuse innocent children.” A distorted image of the Church and specifically of the priesthood is being presented to the world.
I know many priests, many good priests, who strive for authentic holiness. I do not know of any priest who has abused anyone, and yet it would seem that you could find one on every street corner. The media, the press, internet, social networks, and even “Catholic” news agencies seem to find no other catholic news other than novelties about “pedophile priests.”
When I was studying social work in college, my social psychology professor explained that experiences suffered as a victim in childhood are often repeated in adulthood as aggressors. Those who were abused in childhood often abuse their own children. This helped me to see that the aggressor may also be a victim. Although this certainly does not justify the evil action, it does help understand it better. It seems that this criterion is valid as long as the aggressor is not a priest. Anyone who has committed a grave error or serious sin can be forgiven, unless he is a priest.
Another thing I learned in criminal law is that, supposedly, one is innocent until proven guilty. Once again, there is a clear exception when the alleged culprit is a priest. Newspapers continually publish names of priests and even bishops accused of abuse, presuming guilt before a trial is held. One example is the case of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. He was accused of having abused a young 20-year-old man who accompanied him and another priest on a trip to Latin America in the 70s. The accusations were made by the young man’s cousin (the supposed victim is now deceased). The fact that a young man accompanied Bishop Kevin on a trip seems to be reason enough to suspect abuse. After a judicial process, the bishop’s innocence was declared. The young man’s mother has declared that her son went on the trip with Bishop Kevin, a friend of the family, to visit some relatives. Unfortunately, when his innocence was confirmed, the mass media had already defamed this bishop as a pedophile priest
I absolutely agree with “zero tolerance” towards child abuse in every level, whether the perpetrator is a family member, an educator, a sports coach, or a priest. Incidentally, this last case is the least common of all, yet the most often published in the mass media. What is behind all this?
Some members of the Church have acknowledged their guilt, and the Church has shown support for the victims. However, I do not think this is just an act of humility. Some people may truly have that intention, but you do not have to be too smart to see further intentions.
With this supposed transparency campaign, many public accusations of bishops and priests have taken place. Sometimes the “culprit” is later proven guilty, but they are usually proven innocent. What does this cause? Distrust, rejection and even hatred towards priests. This causes people to distance themselves from the Sacraments, since we receive grace through priests. The holy Cure d’Ars used to say, “Remove the priest from a village and soon you will see it groan under the legs of the devil.” Perhaps the intention behind all this is to separate people from their pastors, from the Sacraments, from the life of grace, from Jesus Himself.
I spent years rejecting the Church, especially priests. I spent years without confession and without receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. Only when I learned to love them was I once again able to receive grace through the Sacraments.
I can only thank God for priests, for so many good priests who give their lives for the salvation of souls. I thank God for so many priests who are truly examples for me. I ask God to forgive me for not praying enough for them. I ask for mercy for those who have fallen into infidelity and await their forgiveness.
© HM Magazine; nº205 November-December 2018