Sunday, January 24, 2010

Answering Scandal with Personal Holiness

This is a reprint of an essay I wrote in May 2002 at the crux of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. In it, I refute the politically motivated claim that states that the child sexual abuse was caused by celibacy. The root causes go a lot deeper than that.

Roseanne T. Sullivan
Answering Scandal with Personal Holiness

From: "Mary N."
To: "Roseanne Sullivan"
Subject: I added my name to votf today
Date: Wed, 22 May 2002


I had to tell you this. I hope you don't mind.

I don't know what you think about the Catholic church's scandal of the year erupting on the east coast, but it's something I think about more than I want to admit. What is coming out in the news strikes me as horrible in every sense of the word, and I am saddened by a church that really has done a lot of good in the world making a mockery of itself by all the denials and weasel-wording that seems to be taking place. I just don't get it.

At the same time, I can't walk away from the church, either. At least not yet. It's hard enough trying to be a Catholic these days without all the scandal heaped on top of the day to day living.

I added my email address to Voice of the Faithful's website today. I don't know if you've heard about them, but I think that this new group captures the essence of the possible good that could come out of this. If you're interested in hearing more about them, go to At times, I've thought about joining Call to Action, but a lot of what they stand for seems too radical even for me. The VOTF people have a chance, though.


Date: Wed, 22 May 2002
From: Roseanne Sullivan
Subject: Answering Scandal with Personal Holiness
To: Mary N.

"You don't judge something by those who don't live it, but by those who do."
--Rev. Roger Landry in a sermon dated 2/12/2002: Answering Scandal with Personal Holiness

Hi Mary,

Thank you very much for letting me know what you are going through about the abuse scandals and the coverups.

I never heard of votf until I looked at the web site. I will think about whether I should participate. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it, except that it might give more ammunition to the people who are trying to condemn the Church itself, rather than the sinful individuals who are to blame in this scandal. I certainly couldn't support call to action.

The way I think about the scandals is that evil permeates everything in this world, including some people in the Church.

For how to respond to this evil, I look to St. Francis' example. During his time when abuses were rampant in the Church and some bishops lived like secular princes, St. Francis lived his life simply according to the teachings of Christ. And He would even kiss the feet of priests whether they were living good moral lives or not because they had the exalted privilege of consecrating the body of Christ.

In other words, Francis did not condemn or point fingers or try to bring down the current Church hierarchy or start a new religion. He set himself to love God with his whole heart. He also set himself to live completely the authentic teachings of the Church. And his example inspired millions to clean up their own acts.

Luther when faced with the same set of abuses started a new church.

When priests are immoral and false to their calling, it is a great evil and a great shame. And Christ I am certain is grieved that little ones have been molested by priests who are supposed to be acting in His name. There is something much worse than a millstone around the neck waiting for priests like that.

Here are some of the root causes I see. After Vatican II, a lot of people thought that because some precepts changed (such as not requiring people to abstain from meat on Friday), that the whole doctrine and moral teachings passed down from the apostles were up for grabs. What I see in the modern Catholic Church are lots of people who think that Vatican II meant that the Church should conform to the world's ideas of what is right and wrong. The flaw behind that idea is, as it says somewhere in the Bible, the devil is the prince of this world.

As one part of the post-Vatican II attitude, I have noticed that priests seem to have a naive faith in the power of psychologists. If you go to them for spiritual counseling they often tell you to get secular counseling. I believe the Church has the answers, and I don't want to go for advice to someone who is probably an athiest and a moral relativist, like most psychologists I've met.

What I'm trying to say is that the problems we are seeing now are partly from the fact that this generation has put too much credibility in the pronouncements of psychiatrists and psychologists. For one example of how wrong they can be, about 20 years ago, I was acquainted with an older woman getting a PhD in psychology at the U of MN. She was reading in psych journals that echoed Kinsey's position: that sex between adults and children can be good. She didn't practice it herself but she acquiesced because she had a respect for experts. At that time a lot of counselors were having sex with their clients because they believed it was beneficial--for the client. She was one of the clients of a psychologist who thought that way.

Did you know that Kinsey did most of his research on pederasty by interviewing one subject who had abused hundreds and hundreds of children? You can search for Kinsey at google and prove it. That is how he was able to document how early in a child's development a child is capable of orgasms and how many. The pederast took notes! Just think, the fact that Kinsey didn't turn the guy in has never been seen as a coverup. After all, as a psychologist and a scientist, he had to protect the man's privacy, and couldn't reveal his sources.

Kinsey and others have also promoted the idea that a child who has been molested will not be traumatized unless his parents make a fuss.

I bet you many priests and bishops even those who were pure themselves might have swallowed those lines of baloney.

And I have found homosexuals I have known to believe that sexual repression of any sort is wrong and that children should be taught to explore sexuality without any limits. For example, I hung out with Alan Ginsbery and his lover Peter Orlovsky, and they talked fondly about how Peter walked around naked in one family's house and how cute it was that a small child came up and touched Peter's .... I found out before he died that Ginsberg was a member of the Man Boy Love Association. MBLA, and he practiced it himself.

[A man I was once involved with, who since has decided he is a homosexual] at one point mused about how he would like to get a chance to free my children from the sexually-repressive teaching he was sure I was foisting on them.

I don't have any proof, but I am convinced that the almost all the priests who are abusers of boys were practicing homosexuals before and probably after they joined the priesthood. It is going to be hard to be a good priest, I believe, if you have been practicing unloving uncommitted sex for its own sake, hetero or homo, outside of marriage. Just saying some vows won't automatically make you able to resist the impulses you cultivated before you made the vows. And when you secretly or not so secretly believe there is no harm in it, then you definitely won't put up too big of a fight.

At the same time period I knew the PhD student quoting the experts about the beneficial nature of children having sex with adults, my daughter Sunshine was a student at the Children's Theatre Company. When the scandal about John Donohue molesting students came out, many parents rallied to John's defense. I remember I was interviewed by TV news and I told them "Parents have been paying him a lot of money to teach their children, not to molest them." They then interviewed a very modern little girl next to me who confidently spoke to the microphone: "It takes two, you know." Can't you just hear through her what was being said around her house? I've heard the same thought expressed in my own family.

It just crossed my mind that we don't say that the theater industry is evil because of people like Donohue, do we? Donohue was a member of MBLA too. And we don't brand all psychologists as evil because some of them sexually abuse their clients or because some of them promoted rot such as the stuff I quoted earlier.

The Church is Christ's body on earth, a mystical body whose breath is the Holy Spirit. Even though some Catholics close themselves off from the Spirit, the Spirit is alive. God will not abandon His Church, because the Church is His Body on this earth.

I cry about what is happening. There is more to cry about than the sexual abuse of young people, horrible as that is. I pray to God to purge the Church of unworthy shepherds who are not caring for the sheep that God has entrusted to them. And for those who are teaching their own opinions formed by the most cynical of wordly philosophers instead of what God has taught.

Here is what I think of the coverups. Those of the bishops who haven't capitulated to modern mores probably put too much stock in the notion that you can trust a repentant priest to be able to stay away from sin.

I'll call them the "good bishops." The good bishops, being maybe more virtuous than many of us, probably did not understand how hard it is to break the hold of habitual sin. So they might not realize that turning away from sin is not just a matter of deciding to not do something wrong again. They don't know that sin is addictive, and even if a priest is truly repentent, he might not be able to turn away from the behavior just by wanting to. They saw it as their duty to forgive.

And I know the priests that were only outwardly repentant got a lot of mileage out of their superiors' beliefs that they had to forgive and rehabilitate sinning priests.

I know that the notion of turning the sinning priests over to the authorities probably never occurred to the bishops.

I am personally affronted by the fact that some bishops really didn't seem to realize that these activities weren't just (oh well) a result of our sinful fallen human nature. And that they didn't seem to be concerned appropriately with how terrible it was that children were being used for sex. And I'm affronted that the priests who were abusers could allow themselves to do those terrible things. I definitely think there was too much tolerance.

I also think that the good bishops and the others also were bound to try to avoid scandal that might damage the reputation of the Church (as is happening right now). I don't think it was a coverup to save their own skins (like the attempted Watergate or Monica Lewinsky coverups). The motive was to avoid bringing shame on the Church. If they made it public that nice Father Shanley was doing unspeakable things with the altar boys, they would cause a lot of people to lose heart and maybe to lose faith. As is the case right now.

How they could have reassigned these wolves to other parishes and not forced them to leave ministry, even I cannot come up with an explanation for that. How they could promise parents to deal with an offender, and then allow him to keep offending, I don't know about that either. Maybe they were like us all, too busy, finding it hard to put things in the proper priority. Maybe they just let proper action slide out of avoidance for distasteful tasks.

I am glad that the Pope has said that no man who practices such things can be allowed in the priesthood.

Don't bail out Mary.

Here is the title of a sermon written by a very articulate priest after the scandals broke: Answering Scandal with Personal Holiness. He said that even one of Christ's closest friends betrayed him. Don't let these betrayals separate you from the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.

Affectionately from your Catholic friend,

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