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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  • Posted by: - Jan. 15, 2004 7:27 PM ET USA

    I'm having a really hard time believing that he even once Confessed to his predatory ways to any priest. I'm sure if he had, his penace would have involved more than three Hail Mary's. As far as I know, one must be genuinely sincere in one's determination not to do the same sin over again in order to receive absolution and must have a firm purpose of amendment. Bragging about how many times you blew this off is pretty sick and only serves to further affect our trust in our clergy. For shame.

  • Posted by: shrink - Jan. 13, 2004 10:09 AM ET USA

    Does anyone not imagine that as a group--even INCLUDING the pederasts--that the totality of moral character of our priestly class is still superior to the lawyer class? So, if the lawyer/lawmakers in AussieLand see fit to remove the privilege of confessional communication from the priests because their moral status suggests that they are not to be trusted, me thinks they will have to start with themselves and withdraw the lawyer-client privilege for consistency's sake.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 12, 2004 9:34 PM ET USA

    This Fr Mike sounds so far out there how much you wanna bet he places a mirror in the confessional and confesses to some other personality he has conjured up for himself? I think that would count for at least a full third of the alleged confessions he's made. Unfortunately no one can ever prove he's a liar and perjured himself either And I guess the two girls means he's not really a homosexual?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 12, 2004 7:23 PM ET USA

    He certainly never confessed to any of MY confessors! Thank God for priests who forgive, yet call us to accountability, in Christ's name.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 12, 2004 4:34 PM ET USA

    A magic wand that spreads fairy dust would certainly explain why he continued to abuse children. He seemed to have missed the point that a confession is only valid if the intent NOT to repeat the sin is present. I suppose that he could have intended 1,500 times not to continue to abuse. However, the "magic wand" comment suggests that all he wanted was emotional release from guilt. A magic wand may dissipate emotional turmoil but it is very different from absolution.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 12, 2004 1:09 PM ET USA

    Anything to shift the blame. I am incredulous that never once did a confessor tell him that he must seek counseling or turn himself in to the authorities as part of his penance. They probably did, and he ignored it, which means he completely misunderstood the whole concept of reconciliation. And if that's true, he never really was a priest. Magic wand? C'mon!