what they didn't know and when they didn't know it

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 16, 2010

The argument is now as familiar, as depressing—and, yes, as unhealthy-- as a bout with the flu. Cardinal Mahony said that back in the 1980s he put a predatory priest back to work (and withheld evidence of the priest’s crimes) because he didn’t know then what he knows now about the problem of sexual abuse. Honestly, your Uncle Di is tired of pointing out the absurdity of that argument. So let me turn to Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today, who makes the obvious point:

Evidently a cardinal -- a title given to so-called princes of the church, the men who can elect a pope and serve as his closest advisers in governance of the worldwide church -- in 1986 couldn't reach the moral conclusion that people who molest children can't be priests.

Meanwhile across the pond, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor introduced himself to a group of Irish priests with the highly original observation that he is a “wounded healer,” who made his own mistake, failing to rein in a molester.  For that failure, he recalls, “I was attacked and vilified for nearly two years.” Do those sound like the words of a man who knows that he did something seriously wrong? The cardinal answered that question just a few sentences later, discussing the results of his meetings with abuse victims:

But I also began to understand in a new way, by talking with victims, the pain and grave damage done to them.

Yup! There’s that same argument lurking behind the cardinal’s language. He didn’t understand, back then, that sexual assault causes “pain and grave damage” to young people.

It’s disheartening to think that at this late date, Catholic prelates are still telling pathetic little fibs to excuse their negligence. But it’s even worse, in a way, to think that they’re telling the absolute truth. Because if they really didn’t know that sexual abuse of children is a very serious matter, it’s frightening to think that men incapable of such rudimentary moral judgments cast votes in a papal election.  

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  • Posted by: MB - Jun. 19, 2010 10:04 AM ET USA

    I agree with Di in some ways. The problem, however, remains with all the medical professionals who said one COULD return to work. Why are some of those still practicing? Where is the outrage? Can there be no excuses for sin. St. Paul organized murders, a terrorist. Why was he allowed to continue? Why do we not strike him from the Bible? God's healing power of course works miracles. Have we decided that now even God cannot heal? Are SOME offenses beyond redemption? Just thought I'd ask.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 18, 2010 9:12 PM ET USA

    Thank God, our Holy Father has already sent Archbishop Jose Gomez to Los Angles to "help" Cardinal Mahoney during his last year and prepare the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for a their return to traditional Catholic faith, values and doctrine. We, in San Antonio, are terrible sad to see our beloved leader go but as a native Angelino, I KNOW who most needs Archbishop Gomez

  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Jun. 17, 2010 10:41 AM ET USA

    I am reminded of the line in Gilbert & Sullivan's "Ruddigore" where Sir Despard, acting as though he had a sudden change of heart, sings, "Excuse me, I'm a virtuous person now!" Sorry, Sir Roger, virtue is a bit like integrity -- it exists or it doesn't.

  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Jun. 17, 2010 10:20 AM ET USA

    Our Holy Father set the model to follow: he pleaded for the forgiveness of God and the victims and promised to do everything to prevent this from ever happening again. I pray that anyone who turned a blind eye to the suffering of children from abuse will cease making excuses and follow the our Pope's example. Bishops can restore trust and set an example for all of us by devoting their lives to the prayerful care of the victims in their dioceses and by safeguarding the children of today

  • Posted by: Athelstan - Jun. 16, 2010 10:15 PM ET USA

    O tempore! O mores! That Cardinals of the Catholic Church could be such moral morons would be beyond belief if their own words did not betray them. But how can the Holy Father suffer these moral idiots any longer to remain "Princes of the Church"?

  • Posted by: opraem - Jun. 16, 2010 7:21 PM ET USA

    they're only sorry because they got caught.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Jun. 16, 2010 6:56 PM ET USA

    Well said, although a case of the flu never made me angry. Thank goodness there will be justice in the end.

  • Posted by: BobJ70777069 - Jun. 16, 2010 6:53 PM ET USA

    This is by no means a defense of Cardinal Mahoney, whose record is pretty poor. However, in general, I believe you have to keep in mind the climate in those days relative to psychologists. They could do no wrong, then, and they assured the bishops over and over, "Father X is cured, nothing more to worry about." Deacon Bob

  • Posted by: voxfem - Jun. 16, 2010 6:34 PM ET USA

    Thank goodness the Holy Spirit guides the elections of the Pope!