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all too human

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 02, 2006

For obvious reasons, there's been a lot of media coverage of the trial of Fr. Gerald Robinson, the Toledo priest accused of murdering Sr. Margaret Ann Pahl in 1980 in grotesque circumstances. Pahl's body was found in a hospital chapel sacristy, stabbed between 27 and 32 times.

That's weird enough. Yet the head-shakingly bizarre detail in this case has nothing to do with the killing itself but with a comment made two years ago by the Episcopal Vicar of the Toledo Diocese, Fr. Michael Billian. In April 2004, when Robinson was arrested and charged with Pahl's murder, Billian told the Toledo Blade that the diocese was "very saddened by the whole experience." The word "saddened" conveys something less than the horror and shock at Pahl's death one might have expected, especially given the attendant circumstances. But real kicker came when Billian went on to remark: "The human condition is sinful and priests are human."

Unpack that, boys & girls.

In the course of the sex abuse crisis, many observers remarked on the tendency of ecclesiastics to under-sympathize with the victims and over-sympathize with the clergy-perps. Ecclesiastics, I suppose, are "human" too, but if this is what they mean by the mercy that is to temper justice, could we please have less of the former and more of the latter?

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Show 8 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Italiana - May. 05, 2006 7:40 AM ET USA

    Has anyone noticed that the crimes of our sodomite priests and bishops are becoming increasingly more vicious? More overt? More above ground? Showing us what anyone would see if they went into the homosexual underground of big cities. The sex orgies. Golden showers. Drugs. Murders, rapes, defiling the innocent. If this is what the "People of God" have accepted from their priests and BISHOPS, let's not be so shocked. Sit in the pews. Yawn. Do nothing. But please don't fein shock.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - May. 04, 2006 7:42 PM ET USA

    In defense of Uncle Di (Fr Neuhaus is reading so careful what you say folks) I believe that he was looking for something along the lines of: "Whoever committed these crimes has committed a heinous, repulsive act -may God have mercy on their soul. The shocking details of this lurid crime almost defy belief and shake one's faith in human nature at a time when we have so much in the Church to be sorry for."

  • Posted by: hUMPTY dUMPTY - May. 04, 2006 10:20 AM ET USA

    Sounds like Billiam took his words from "Cassablaca" where the Inspector is shocked to discover gambling at Rick's American Cafe, before receiving his "winnings." Et tu Bogart

  • Posted by: frjimc - May. 03, 2006 10:04 AM ET USA

    News story: "CharlesH was today arrested in the bludgeoning death of a co-worker over 24 years ago. His employer stated, 'I am shocked, devastated, and in horror of this abhorant [sic] situation.' He went on to say, 'He was clearly working for the [E]nemy of the human race, whose occult forces brought about this baleful situation, this woeful unfolding of events.' Was his employer prescient or ignorant of the presumption of innocence? Should he preemptively trumpet guilt or wait to see?

  • Posted by: - May. 02, 2006 8:00 PM ET USA

    Here are some suggested words/phrases that seem appropriate: "shocked," "devastated," "in horror of," "this abhorant situation." The following more biblical-sounding words and phrases might also be inserted somewhere: "woeful unfolding of events," "baleful situation," "occult forces," "enemy of the human race." Any other suggestions?

  • Posted by: rpp - May. 02, 2006 11:56 AM ET USA

    Considering that he had not been convicted, I think the bishop's statements could be described as "cautious". What would you want him to say, "Yep, I always knew he had it in him."? Or perhaps, "He was a ticking time-bomb."? Or maybe even, "I know for a fact he is innocent."? Unfamiliar as I am with this bishop, I think he *correctly* avoided making any direct comments about an unconvinced defendant. D., I think you may have uncharacteristically missed it here.

  • Posted by: frjimc - May. 02, 2006 10:56 AM ET USA

    While the single quote attributed to Fr. Billian appears understated - perhaps infelicitous - the gist of your post seems to be unsubstantiated by the Toledo Blade story. First, the "quotation" you have from Fr. Billian is not a quotation at all; if you compare Diogenes' story to that of the Blade, the newspaper does not place quotes around the line that draws so much ire from Uncle Di. Additiionally, the story clearly points out that the diocese was completely cooperative in the investigation

  • Posted by: Andy K - May. 02, 2006 7:51 AM ET USA

    True justice implies mercy. Too much mercy and too little mercy are both unjust.

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