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Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

bad habits

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jan 12, 2004

All of us are somewhat chagrinned at telling the priest the same old sins time after time, right? Australian priest (and thinking Catholic) Father Mike McArdle says he confessed the mistake of inappropriate boundary crossing, with minors, on at least 1,500 occasions.

The Catholic Church today backed the absolute silence of the Confessional despite criticism the practice encouraged paedophile priests. A leading child protection group has called for the mandatory reporting of child abuse by clergy after a priest revealed he went to confession more than 1,500 times to admit sexually abusing children.

Former Catholic priest Michael Joseph McArdle claims he confessed his sins of paedophilia, sometimes weekly, to 30 fellow priests for more than 20 years. In an affidavit, McArdle said after each confession he felt "like a magic wand had been waved over me".

He was sentenced to six years' jail last year after pleading guilty to molesting 14 boys and two girls, over a 22-year period in several Queensland country towns.

In a word, I'm skeptical.

The political sub-text here is pretty obvious: priests make cynical use of the confessional to erase the tape of their burdened conscience, therefore the State must dispossess the Church of her privilege and monitor the sacrament. McArdle does his bit -- with a post-conviction affidavit, one notes -- to help put the boot in the ribs of the Church he served with unique, I hope, distinction.

All the more remarkable that McArdle should be the beneficiary of two miracles: first, that of finding the possibility in Australia to make 75 confessions a year (itself beyond the capacity of unaided human ingenuity); second, that of never having encountered a confessor who had anything but a magic wand in his pastoral pocket. Even put at its minimum, 7,500 Hail Marys should have cut into McArdle's recreational opportunities.

Methinks, in fact, that like his fellow Aussie (and thinking Catholic) Fr. John Gwillim, who blames mandatory celibacy for his miscues, McArdle understands he can buy himself a lot of sympathy by assailing the spiritual integrity of the sacramental system under whose he colors he sailed and which he worked so hard to betray.

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