The Shape of Things to Come

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 12, 2003

Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D'Arcy released a statement on his diocese's sex abuse audit. An excerpt:

The diocese has not received a credible complaint involving an act of physical sexual abuse of a minor that was alleged to have occurred after 1987. The events complained of regarding conduct that occurred in the 1990s did not involve physical touching.

D'Arcy is far from the worst U.S. bishop regarding sex abuse. In 1984, as an auxiliary bishop of Boston, he wrote a letter to then-Archbishop Law informing him that John Geoghan had "a history of homosexual involvement with young boys" and arguing against his appointment as pastor of St. Julia's Parish. Had he not gone on to recommend that Geoghan be given "weekend work" in the same parish he would have earned our admiration.

His current statement has some good aspects. He gives the boy/girl ratio of the victims (12:4), and quotes from a 1978 letter he drafted for the New England bishops: "a man who seems unable to come to heterosexual maturity should not be admitted [to the priesthood]."

On the other hand, the clear message sent by the statement is that The Crisis is a thing of the past. It may be technically true that no complaint of full-contact abuse was received by D'Arcy's diocese in the last 16 years, but the underlying problems are still with us: witness the numerous priests that continue to get nailed in Internet kiddie-porn stings.

Remember that it's the case in all dioceses, even the worst, that the overwhelming majority of abuse incidents will have occurred before the incumbent bishop took office. My fear is that, once the compiled results of the national audit are made public in February, the bishops will juggle the stats to show that 98% of confirmed abuse occurred before the Dallas meeting in June 2002, whereupon (after offering suitably abject apologies for the sins of their predecessors) they can congratulate themselves on doing a spectacular job, and the do-I-wish-I-didn't-feel-his-biceps approach to episcopal governance will remain triumphant.

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  • Posted by: - Dec. 13, 2003 11:36 AM ET USA

    Editorial in Fall issue of Latin Mass quotes prominent priest, "Gentlemen, there is no cavalry coming to the rescue", in context of bishops and liturgical/doctrinal/ disciplinary problems faced by faithful priests. Let's face it: humanly speaking, the next 25/50 years are to be bleak indeed for the Roman Catholic Church. I see nothing but continued overall decline for now interspersed with growing pockets of longterm influence toward eventual revival. But who knows? The Holy Spirit . . . .

  • Posted by: - Dec. 12, 2003 12:19 PM ET USA

    Your fear is foregone conclusion. Frankly, we've expected too much of our bishops all along. Not that we shouldn't have high expectations for our clergy, but because our clergy don't have high expectations for themselves. These men don't have it in them to rise above this nor any clue that basic decency requires a large segment of them to resign. Even those blameless in this scandal are so timid and lukewarm as to be worthless. I fear for them. The day they go before God and quote statistics...