Holy Thursday: In Support of Priests

On Holy Thursday every year, priests celebrate two events in the life of Christ: The institution of the Eucharist, and the establishment of Holy Orders (the priesthood).

Today Kate Wicker passed along this outstanding article by (non-Catholic) Penn State religious studies professor Philip Jenkins regarding his new book, “Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis.”  Jenkins says, in part:

No one can deny that Boston church authorities committed dreadful errors, but at the same time, the story is not quite the simple tale of good and evil that it sometime appears. Hard though it may be to believe right now, the “pedophile priest” scandal is nothing like as sinister as it has been painted — or at least, it should not be used to launch blanket accusations against the Catholic Church as a whole.

As Jenkins point out, the vast majority of priests are godly men — and Catholic priests, statistically speaking, are far less likely to offend than other kinds of religious leaders and public servants. (That celibacy has nothing to do with the likelihood of predatory behavior, despite public assumptions to the contrary, is affirmed by the fact that the vast majority of sexual abuse in children occurs at home.) However, the Church is an easy (and much hated, in many circles, for reasons that have nothing to do with the scandal) target.

Jenkin’s book sounds like an excellent resource for those who remain faithful Catholics, and wish to respond constructively to those who speak disrespectfully of Catholicism in general — and the Holy Father in particular.

Years ago my good friend, Monsignor Clement Connelly, observed, “Purification is painful, but it s necessary.” The fact that 98% of all priests are godly men who have never abused a child, does not negate the fact that the remaining 2% (if that is the right number) must not be shielded from the consequences of their criminal actions, any more than Judas was exhonorated.

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ our Lord.”  The men who betray their calling — including and perhaps especially those who died before charges were brought — will not escape judgment. At the same time, justice is not served by unilaterally condemning an entire group of people because of the actions of a few.  In our society, “tolerance” is a cardinal virtue. It is time that this principle be applied, informly and fairly, to the Catholic Church as well.

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2 Comments

    1. No, but my (non-Catholic) father is a retired vet, and I have two nephews in the service. One just returned from Iraq. I am very proud of them all!

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