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By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 26, 2003

Imagine two Catholic priests, perpetually vowed to chastity. Each breaks his vows repeatedly by sodomizing young boys. Each cynically exploits his priesthood for malicious purposes: first as a passport to gain access to his victims, then as a moral tranquilizer to overcome the victims' resistance, then as a weapon to frighten them into silence, finally as a charm to win compassion from parents, parishioners and juries. At last each priest reaches the end of the road, and the Voice of Moral Authority has its say:

A. "[You belong to] that quite small minority of offenders who are just wantonly evil. ... You have indeed shown yourself to be an evil and callous human being, capable of the most cunning and premeditated planning."

B. "Yours has been an effective life of ministry, sadly impaired by illness. On behalf of those you have served well, and in my own name, I would like to thank you."

Which judgment presumes a higher regard for human freedom in its relation to moral responsibility? Which judgment implies a nobler view of the priestly calling? Which judgment reflects a more profound understanding of the gravity of the harm visited upon the victims?

Now, which was pronounced by the Catholic archbishop and which by the secular magistrate?

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