Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Did sexual abuse prompt a murder?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 03, 2015

As I read this story from yesterday’s CWN headline coverage, a scenario arose full-blown in my mind. I know nothing about what happened to Father Joseph Kerrigan. I don’t even know whether he was guilty of sexual abuse, as charged. But I can easily imagine what might have happened, in this or other cases.

The angry father, frustrated that the man who violated his child has escaped punishment. An angry confrontation. An attempt to buy his silence. (Why else the wallet with $1,000 in cash?) A burst of violent rage. Then a blood-stained vehicle and silence.

Maybe, within a day or two, a man with a tortured conscience crept into a confessional somewhere in Montana and unburdened his soul. And what would you have said, if you were the priest hearing that confession? Killing is wrong, certainly. But was he wrong to be enraged?

My imagination may have run away with me in this case. But there are already several murders connected with the sex-abuse scandal in one way or another. Also many suicides, many lives ruined by addiction and depression. Worst of all, many souls lost.

We are all weary of the headlines, the lawsuits, the smears and the witch-hunts. It’s good to remind ourselves, now and then, about the sheer enormity of this scandal: the lives that have been lost, the blood that has been shed, the innocence that has been violated. Murder is wrong. False accusations are wrong. But injustice breeds more injustice, and violence breeds violence. We’re all still paying the wages of terrible sins.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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