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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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