Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! – Luke 17:1
Throughout the Church’s history, since Her founding in Christ, scandals have come and gone. Christ warned that “Scandals you will always have.” Who could refute such a warning, for the Church’s custodians are comprised of fallible men. Yet each time Holy Mother Church was in need of repair through reform God has sent such a reformer – the likes of Saint Francis of Assisi – willing to sacrifice all to realign Her with the intent of the Divine Founder.
In the 1990s reported cases of sexual abuse by Catholic Clergy began receiving significant media and public attention. In 2002 most noted accusations came from the victims out of the Boston Diocese, where Rev. John J. Geoghan had been accused of sexually abusing them as alter boys. These and other allegations were dealt with in secret by bishops, and often the accused priests were assigned to parishes outside the dioceses in question or other non-parish related duties.
The office of state Attorney General Josh Shapiro impaneled the grand jury in 2016 to investigate allegations of child sex crimes across six of the Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic dioceses: Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie and Greensburg.
On August 15, 2018 the grand jury in Pittsburgh Pa., which completed its investigation in April, produced a 900-plus page report that names more than 300 members of the clergy by name in connection to sex crimes against children. More than 1,000 children were found to have been abused.
According to a 2004 research study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 4,392 Catholic priests and deacons in active ministry between 1950 and 2002 have been plausibly (neither withdrawn nor disproven) accused by 10,667 individuals of the sexual abuse of a youth under the age of 18. Estimating the number of priests and deacons active in the same period at 110,000, the report concluded that approximately 4% have faced these allegations. The report noted that “It is impossible to determine from our surveys what percent of all actual cases of abuse that occurred between 1950 and 2002 have been reported to the Church and are therefore in our dataset.” The Augustin Cardinal Bea, S.J. specializes in abuse counseling and is considered an expert on clerical abuse; he states “approximately 4% of priests during the past half century (and mostly in the 1960s and 1970s) have had a sexual experience with a minor.” According to Newsweek magazine, this figure is similar to the rate of frequency in the rest of the adult population.
Allegations of and convictions for sexual abuse by clergy have occurred in many countries. There are no accurate figures available on the number of sexual abuse cases in different regions. But, in 2002 The Boston Globe reported, “clearly the issue has been most prominent in the United States.” The US is the country with the highest number of reported Catholic sex abuse cases.
After the United States, the country with the next highest number of reported cases is Ireland. A significant number of cases have also been reported in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and countries in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. All between the dates of 1950-2010 BBC news release dated 2010.
As regards the reported abuse cases by Catholic clergy, 1950, seems to be the beginning of the saddest and most disconcerting period in the Catholic Church. Not only in the United States, but in other countries around the world, as well.
Bella Dodd was a Catholic girl – born in Italy – who, because of certain events and influences in her life, became one of the most powerful figures of the American Communist Party at the height of its power during the late 1930’s and 1940’s? The story of Maria Assunta Isabella Visono’s journey from a poor southern Italian village to the intrigues of Soviet Communist penetration of America is fascinating and frightening. It should be better known than it is. – Aug. 31st -Catholicism.org
In the early 1950s, Mrs. Bella Dodd provided detailed explanations of the Communist subversion of the Church. Speaking as a former high-ranking official of the American Communist Party, Mrs. Dodd said: “In the 1930s we put eleven hundred men into the priesthood in order to destroy the Church from within.” The idea was for these men to be ordained and progress to positions of influence and authority as Monsignors and Bishops. She stated that: “Right now they are in the highest places in the Church” — where they were working to bring about change in order to weaken the Church’s effectiveness against Communism. She also said that these changes would be so [drastic] that “you will not recognise the Catholic Church.” Dodd gave testimony on communist infiltration of Church and state before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in the 1950s.
On Tuesday, August 5, 1952 she publicly announced that on April 7th of the same year, she was received back into the Roman Catholic Church. Not being able to secure her baptismal certificate from Italy after inquiry, she was therefore conditionally baptized by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York. Sheen was instrumental in opening Dodd’s eyes to the flawed philosophy of Communism and its lies thereby leading to a change of heart and her eventual return to the church. Only when she became clearly aware of what she had done and her part in this subversion of the church did she want to dedicate the rest of her life praying for forgiveness and reparation for the harm that she had helped inflict upon the church. However, Sheen convinced her that it would be more important that she tell her story. Which led to her testimony as noted above.
“Becoming a priest and Bishop”
It takes 5 years of study before a seminarian can be ordained a priest.
Bishops are always men. In addition, Canon Law 378 § 1 requires that a candidate for the Latin episcopacy should be:
- outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence, and human virtues, and endowed with other qualities which make him suitable to fulfill the office in question;
- of good reputation;
- at least thirty-five years old;
- ordained to the preliterate for at least five years;
- in possession of a doctorate or at least a licentiate in sacred scripture, theology, or canon law from an institute of higher studies approved by the Apostolic See, or at least truly expert in the same disciplines. – Wikipedia
Dependent on the above criteria, it could take as many as fifteen years or more to achieve the status of bishop. This information will have more than passing meaning in how it and the aforementioned data may relate to the main subject of this post.
Bishops are those who have the authority to assign selected priests to head and organize the running of seminaries. The seminaries provide the necessary education and training to fulfill the requirements for ordination. These seminarian head masters are responsible for the design of the programs in which the seminarian will partake.
Beyond the outrageous atrocities perpetrated by the guilty priests, I, as a Catholic, am deeply saddened that such as this could have taken place in the Church for decades without being stopped in its tracks. I am also perplexed. In that how could such a continual wave of sin come upon the Church, seemingly, as a sudden tsunami. I refer to the data that I have collected above. Not only in the U.S.A, but around the world clergy abuses seem centered in a time period between 1950 to 2002, when the first study was made as victims came forward. The Bella Dodd testimony raises a red flag. The time at which these 1,100 communist infiltrators entered the church and had followed the process to achieve the ranks needed to be in authority to implement subversion tactics coincides quite timely with the sad events of clergy child abuses. If one would wish to weaken and damage the Church, what better evil strategy could be chosen than a [drastic] one that would shatter the trust of its parishioners and provide fodder for Her outside secular enemies. Whether this is the lit fuse for the present explosive circumstances or a part, will not be known unless an in-depth investigation is pursued. Any means necessary to achieve the desired end is acceptable for those who believe that man, himself, is God .
The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen tells us that: “A priest in not his own.” This is true, as well, for a woman who decides to become a nun. But, for the purpose here I will keep my focus on the priest. A man does not seek the priesthood, or should not, based upon some a fad or emotion. It is the ultimate sacrifice. The five years spent as a seminarian is not like pursuing a college degree in physics. It is a five-year development of a relationship between the seminarian and Christ. During that time one must have determined that his life is no longer his but Christ’s. If any doubt remains he must not accept ordination. That is how serious this commitment should be taken. This is the ultimate human expression of love. Once he lies prostrate before the altar at his ordination he will from that day forward have the authority to consecrate the Holy Eucharist; the Blessed Sacrament of the sacred Body and Blood of Christ. He is then and for always a conduit of Christ on earth. In every execution of the Sacraments it is not he but Christ who touches and heals our souls. We look to the priests and bishops to guide us in the will of Christ as Christ has so willed it since the apostles. It would be impossible to betray Christ if not for free will. But, the priest is not his own. He joins his will to that of Christ, if he truly is a priest. Only those who possess ulterior motives can be capable of such an affront to God as to harm the innocent. Fr. James Schall says: “We decide on our chosen ends when we decide upon the actions that lead to those ends.” One leads to the city of the man and one leads to the city of God. The former is the end result of evolution and the latter of revelation. As the priest chooses so too is influenced his flock.
The potential for vice or virtue is in us all. No matter the outside influence, it is the individual who decides to give in or to turn away from sin. These priests, not the infiltrators, came to the church because of love and a willingness of that love to do His will and sacrifice all for their role in the salvation of souls. The causes of social justice can be an enticing endeavor to the religious. To help their neighbor as Christ urges us too. But, in their zeal to help the poor, disenfranchised, and downtrodden the priest sometimes loses sight of his first commitment; saving souls not ruining lives. Well meaning clergy falsely believe the secular thought that in order to change the individual for the better, that, first, society had to change for the better. However, social fixes are accomplished by first fixing the individual. It took but One solitary figure to change the world. He turned it upside down so that it may be turned right side up. To make the Church right again it must first make itself right with God. Confess to its sins, seek absolution and make amends. Conform its will completely once again with its founder, Christ. It starts here and now. Including the Pope, bishops, priests, religious and laity. Those who were guilty of abuse and those who covered it up. We will know we are right again when the world hates us for the right reason, the only reason; that we are one with Christ.
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” – Matthew 18:6