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Catholic Culture News

what she said

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jul 26, 2005

Vision Book Cover Prints

Amy Welborn had a post the other day on the versatile Fr. Uribe (whom I discussed below) with a long, long, long comments thread including several by commenter "Nancy," who identifies herself as a lawyer whose California firm represents many Roman Catholic dioceses. Two of her comments deserve, I think, a wider audience. One concerns the personal/professional boundary as applied to therapists versus priests:

A psychotherapist is a psychotherapist on the job, 9 to 5 or whatever. If he is involved in a sexual relationship with a client he will lose his license -- at least in California -- without further ado. No inquiry will be made into who seduced who, all that garbage. The presumption of the licensing board is that whatever the client does, it's the psychotherapist's job to direct traffic, and deal with it in a professional manner.

If a psychotherapist after hours goes out and picks up a woman (or, man, according to his taste) at a bar and goes home and has sex with her (or him), after hours, his license is not in danger. He was acting as a private citizen. His behavior, while immoral, is no concern of his professional organization.

Priests are a little different. According to their own press releases, they are -- all the time -- "alter Christus", a living icon of Christ. This isn't something you can turn off at 5 pm, and then become a regular guy.

My own opinion is that if a priest dons civvies and goes to a bar, not disclosing what he does for a living, and picks someone up for sex (or allows himself to be picked up), he has not per se abused his office. He didn't use his station as a lure or as a protection. I personally do not want such a man as a spiritual leader, but that's a separate issue. His parishoners have a legitimate complaint, but the object of his "affections" does not.

But this is an unusual situation. Usually the people around a priest know very well what his status is.

Is a priest ever "off duty"? So that he can do the next thing that comes into his head, just as though he were a layman? God knows I'm not arguing in favor of bad behavior. But do these guys get any "time off"?

However, as Christians, do we get any time off in this sense? Doesn't God see everything we do? "Does he who made the eye, not see? Does he who made the ear, not hear?" Are we called to be holy 9 - 5, and after hours we can do whatever?

The second is a specimen of articulate exasperation at the handling of the Crisis:

Bankrupt. That's what we're talking.

Let pedophiles "minister" to cloistered nuns because ... because? Because they (the pedophiles) are so spiritually advanced that cloistered contemplatives will benefit by their counsel?

Let promiscuous men minister to children because they'll teach adolescents good values?

Allow men who have groped undercover police officers at truck stop restrooms to be pastors because ... because? Well, I don't know why, but there must be a good reason. Because no child was hurt. Yet.

Appoint a deadbeat dad as pastor of a wealthy suburban parish so that he can counsel both adults and children because ... because, well, again, I'm at a loss. Because the child was conceived a long time ago, although his determination not to support the child is ongoing? Because it's such a wonderful witness to the sexually challenged young men of his congregation? Ya got me there.

Because we don't have enough good candidates, so we have to take what we can get? Because healthy responsible men don't join the priesthood in the first place? Because we are an "Easter people," which boils down to meaning that we don't have any standards at all for men who assume the rank of spiritual leader? Because it's more important to maintain our real estate and our bank accounts than to take care of our children's health?

Regrettably, Nancy lacks the relentlessly upbeat optimism of your Uncle Di. But she knows how to target her indignation. If you have a spare half-hour, the entire thread is worth a read.

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