By Diogenes (articles) | Aug 03, 2004
The Diocese of Evansville temporarily has relieved a priest of his duties and sent him to counseling after he allegedly was caught viewing pornographic material. The Rev. William A. Traylor left a letter to be read to parishioners at St. Joseph and St. Theresa last weekend explaining he was seeking treatment. It said he had been viewing "inappropriate" Web sites and that the diocese had urged him to undergo an evaluation -- after which he could return to service.
Suppose you're shifting some books on the dresser of your 13-year-old boy when out from between the pages of the Columbia Encyclopedia drops a raunchy photo from Penthouse. Do you send him away for counseling? Of course you don't. If it's the first occasion the topic has arisen, you sit him down and give him a stern talking-to about the relation of sexual curiosity to Christian morality. If he's already heard that speech a year earlier, you smack him.
Why don't you send him to therapy? Because he's not broken. He sinned.
On the other hand, we can equally well imagine circumstances in which we'd want therapy for the boy -- if, e.g., the photos were of a kind that ordinary people using ordinary language call "really sick." By using the word, we intuitively acknowledge that there is something seriously disordered that needs to be healed, something that goes beyond penance, beyond a kick in the pants.
By a vexing irony, the majority of church officials, together with the majority of health care professionals that they rely on, have made therapy the nearly universal response to sexual misconduct, even as they heatedly deny that there is a pathology in the appetites that entice one toward the "really sick" pix. Small wonder the laity are not reassured by the counseling directed at the likes of Fr. Traylor:
"Of course, we're not getting any answers from the bishop (Gerald Gettelfinger) which doesn't surprise us," said Sherri Musgrave, a parishioner at St. Theresa, who heard Traylor's letter Sunday. "Our biggest concern is: Is this a cover-up?"
She said parishioners tried to ask questions but answers were short. Parishioners were told if Traylor's evaluation and treatment were effective, he could return as an active priest. ... "We want to know what kind of treatment there is for (viewing pornography)," she said.
Sherri has a point. Traylor is no teenager but a 54-year-old man -- meaning he's had 40+ years in which his libidinal promptings and habitual vices have settled into their streambeds and deepened them. It's grotesque to think that a couple dozen 50-minute counseling sessions are going to remake the man. If Traylor's indulgence in porn was a mere sin, what's the point of six weeks' therapy? If it's more than a mere sin, what's the point of six weeks' therapy?
Predictably, the diocese has refused to discuss the nature of the pornographic material, the circumstances of Traylor's removal, the name and location of his treatment center, and the reason the incident was referred to Child Protective Services. Trust restored yet, gang? Should any hesitations remain, Traylor himself assures us the websites were simply "inappropriate" -- and as an ordained Catholic priest he must be telling the truth.
[Footnote to the Goodbye Good Men debate: "In 1992, Traylor served as a pastor of Our Lady of Mercy in Brussels, and as a staff member of The American College of Louvain, Leuven, Belgium."]
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