Monday, July 20, 2020

Will There Be Racists in Heaven?

Will There Be Racists in Heaven?   
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D.
Director of Mission and Ministry Cristo Rey Jesuit Hgh School, Baltimore MD

“If you hate black people now, and you get to heaven and meet black people there, you’re not going to want to stay.  And that will be your hell.” 
Whenever I’ve preached on racism, it almost always gets blowback. 
“Father, there’s no place for politics in the pulpit.”
“You’re condemning all white people.”
And what someone said and was then reported to me, “He’s just another N***** lover.”
I was born three months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat.  In September of 1955, segregation was legal, lethal and largely unquestioned.  If you opposed racist policies and overt racists, you would not just get mocked on twitter; you would be murdered.  Yes, that’s exactly what happened to three young civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964.  Cheney, Goodman and Schwerner were shot, and then buried in an earthen dam.
Yes, there has been progress.  Yes, two thirds of African Americans are firmly ensconced in the middle class, and Oprah is richer than the Queen.  Yes, we elected an African American president.
But “Yes We Can” has swung back to “No we won’t.” 
Think Charlottesville 2017.  Remember the murder of Heather Heyer. 
Think the massacre in El Paso, August 2019.
And now add the names Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery.
What does the Catholic Church have to say about racism?
Back in 1998 when racial tensions were exacerbated in Philadelphia, PA, the Catholic Archbishop Cardinal Bevilacqua promulgated a pastoral letter entitled “Healing Racism through Faith and Hope.”[1]  Bevilacqua wrote, “Racism a moral disease and it is contagious.  No one is born a racist.  Carriers infect others in countless ways through words and attitudes, deeds and omissions.  Yet, one thing is certain - the disease of racism can and must be eradicated is.    In short, racism and Christian life are incompatible.” 
He makes clear that we cannot be united with God if we are not united with one another. “Jesus is clear that this is a matter of holiness and a matter of salvation.  Our attitudes and actions towards others enter the mystery of our communion with God.  Racism is a sin that weakens and diminishes this sacred union....”
Prophetically he teaches, “Racism has been condemned as a sin many times…  For the truth to have an impact on us, for it to really set us free, it must become our truth.  It must be operative within us.  It must penetrate and ignite our minds and hearts.”
Last August, after the massacre of 22 people in a Wal Mart, the Bishop of El Paso Texas issued “Night Will Be No More,” an even stronger condemnation of racism.[2]
Bishop Seitz asks how we are to comprehend the massacre, another shooting that leaves us “feeling dazed, wounded, fearful and helpless.”  He asks, “How should we think about racism and white supremacy?”
He raises to consciousness the mystery of evil and how it seeps into our minds and lives in our hearts.  “This mystery of evil also includes the base belief that some of us are more important, deserving and worthy than others. It includes the ugly conviction that this country and its history and opportunities and resources as well as our economic and political life belong more properly to ‘white’ people than to people of color. This is a perverse way of thinking that divides people based on heritage and tone of skin into ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’, paving the way to dehumanization.”
“In other words, racism.”
He charges that, “If we are honest, racism is really about advancing, shoring up, and failing to oppose a system of white privilege and advantage based on skin color. When this system begins to shape our public choices, structure our common life together and becomes a tool of class, this is rightly called institutionalized racism. Action to build this system of hate and inaction to oppose its dismantling are what we rightly call white supremacy.”
Bishop Seitz calls this the work of the father of lies (John 8:44) “incarnate in our everyday choices and lifestyles, and our laws and institutions.”
“God gave the earth to everyone, not just the privileged.   We must all work together “to ensure all our children have access to quality educational opportunities, eliminate inequality in the colonias, pass immigration reform, eradicate discrimination, guarantee universal access to health care, ensure the protection of all human life, end the scourge of gun violence, improve wages on both sides of the border, offer just and sustainable development opportunities, defend the environment and honor the dignity of every person.”
There is not an option to opt out.  “This work of undoing racism and building a just society is holy, for it ‘contributes to the building of the universal city of God….”
Here in the City of Baltimore, back in the 1960s, Cardinal Archbishop Shehan called for all Catholics to heed our obligation to promote racial equality.  He joined with other faith leaders calling for abolishing discrimination in rental housing and real estate.  For that, he received death threats.[3] 
I hope no one is contemplating violence against those who will build the new Mother Mary Lange Catholic school, a $24 million, 66,500 square foot complex in West Baltimore.[4]
Truth is truth.  Rev. Martin Luther King said, “We must all learn to live together like brothers, or we will perish like fools.”
In 2018, the United States Catholic Bishops forcefully stated that racism and racist attitudes and actions are destructive of human life.  All ways in which life is threatened contradict the love proclaimed by the Gospel.
“It is not a secret that these attacks on human life have severely affected people of color, who are disproportionately affected by poverty, targeted for abortion, have less access to healthcare, have the greatest numbers on death row, and are most likely to feel pressure to end their lives when facing serious illness.”
Our bishops teach that “racism is a life issue.”  They call us “to speak forcefully against and work toward ending racism.”[5]
To put it bluntly, to be Catholic is to be anti-racist.  In Christ, we are all brothers and sisters.  We are preparing ourselves for heaven by the way we live with and love one another now. 
There will be no racists in heaven.  Racists need not apply.
Jesuit Father Richard G. Malloy is the director of Mission Integration at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Baltimore, and author of Being on Fire and A Faith That Frees, both from Orbis Books.

[1]    Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua.  1998.  “Healing Racism Through Faith and Hope.”  (Philadelphia Archdiocese).
[2]   Bishop Mark Seitz.  August 2019.  “Night Will Be No More.” (Diocese of El Paso, TX)
[3]  Antero Pietila.  2010.  Not in My Neighborhood.  (Chicago:  Ivan R. Dee, Pp. 190-191).
[5]   United States Catholic Bishops Conference.  Open Wide Our Hearts. The Enduring call to Love. A Pastoral Letter on Racism.  Washington, DC, 2018, p. 30.

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Friday, April 24, 2020

Bill McGarvey "I Call Your Name"

Amazing Song by Bill McGarvey.  Give it a listen.  Now! click here I Call your Name

Monday, March 16, 2020

A Prayer as We Confront the Corona Virus

A Prayer in Time of Trial.

“Out of my distress, I called on the Lord. The Lord answered me and set me free” (Ps. 118:5).

Good and Gracious God, you are compassionate and merciful.

Be with us during this time of trial and anxiety as we here at Cristo Rey Jesuit, and our human family all around the world, experience the reality of the Corona virus.

Help us to remain healthy, not just in body, but also in mind and spirit.

Give us the graces we need to remain calm and hopeful.  Show us how to bolster and enliven one another during these days of disrupted routine.

Let us use this time well.  Show us what to read and watch so that our souls are nurtured, and our minds enriched.  Help us take time for conversations.  Help us to find ways to recreate and rest.

During these weeks of Lent, help us take this opportunity to immerse ourselves in prayer, find ways to give and be of service to one another, and refrain from all that keeps us from loving relationships with you and others.

Especially, be with health care workers and all institutional leaders who are responding to this crisis.

Most importantly, we pray these days for all who are suffering the effects of Covid-19.  We ask that your power and love be with all who have contracted this virus.  And for those who have died, may they rest in peace.  Please console their loved ones who remain.

Good and loving God, be with us and lead us through this time of difficulty.  Show us how to be happy and healthy and holy and free.  Help us hope.  Forge in us faith.  Let us live love.

Many of us ask all this through Christ Our Lord.  AMEN

- Fr. Richard G. Malloy, S.J.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Good Life Has Turned to Ashes in our Mouths

Let's get ready for Ash Wednesday.  This Ash Wednesday, let's engage in METANOIA, a change in one's way of thinking, in personal and societal change.

“Alinsky may not have been a theoretician, but his view of what was ailing post-war America influenced generations of community organizers.  When an interviewer asked him if he agreed with Nixon that there was a conservative “silent majority” that disdained everything about the sixties, he dismissed the idea, but said the country was in a state of terrible disruption and likely to move either toward a “native American fascism” or toward radical social change.
Right now they’re frozen, festering in apathy, leading what Thoreau called “lives of quiet desperation.”  They’re oppressed by taxation and inflation, poisoned by pollution, terrorized by urban crime, frightened by the new youth culture, baffled by the computerized world around them.  They’ve worked all their lives to get their own little house in the suburbs, their, color TV, their two cars, and now their good life seems to have turned to ashes in their mouths.  Their personal lives are generally unfulfilling their jobs unsatisfying, they’ve succumbed to tranquilizers and pep pills, they drown their anxieties in alcohol, they feel trapped in long term endurance marriages or escape into guilt-ridden divorces.  They’re losing their kids and they’re losing their dreams.  They’re alienated, depersonalized, without any feeling of participation in the political process, and they feel rejected and hopeless… All their old values seem to have deserted them, leaving them rudderless in a sea of social chaos (from an interview with Saul Alinsky in Playboy, March 1972).  [Quoted in Remnick, 2010, p.127-128]"

Monday, February 10, 2020

Bishop Seitz's Prophetic Pastoral Letter: "Night will Be No More"

Faith calls us to experience and analyze our world from the perspective of Christ’s Kingdom, a social order of peace and prosperity, joy and justice, hope and healing, faith and freedom, life and love. Anything in our hearts and minds, in our social systems, in our cultural ways of being, that counters the values and processes of God’s Reign must be prayerfully, and often politically, challenged and changed.
Bishop Mark Seitz, of El Paso TX, does exactly that in his pastoral letter “Night Will Be No More.”  He wrote in response to the racist massacre at the Wal Mart in El Paso last August.  Here are some quotes.  The link to the full document comes after these opening paragraphs from the letter
1.  On August 3rd, 2019, El Paso was the scene of a massacre or matanza that left 22 dead, injured dozens and traumatized a binational community. Hate visited our community and Latino blood was spilled in sacrifice to the false god of white supremacy.
4.  After prayer and speaking with the People of God in the Church of El Paso, I have decided to write this letter on the theme of racism and white supremacy to reflect together on the evil that robbed us of 22 lives. God can only be calling our community to greater fidelity. Together we are called to discern the new paths of justice and mercy required of us and to rediscover our reasons for hope (cf. 1 Peter 3, 5).
5. This letter comes shortly after the recent pastoral letter against racism by the bishops in the United States, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, which I recommend to our priests and community. My brothers in the episcopate have also published penetrating reflections on the intersection of race and violence, especially Bishop Edward Braxton.1 This letter is an attempt to complement those efforts and to reflect on these issues from the perspective of the border.
9. How do we begin to understand the El Paso matanza? How should we think about racism and white supremacy? 
10. The never-ending mass shootings leave us feeling dazed, wounded, fearful and helpless. Causes and solutions seem evasive and our nation’s political life is broken. The Catholic Church in the United States supports the ban on assault weapons that lawmakers senselessly let expire in 2004 and our Church continues to advocate for reasonable regulations on firearms that Congress still won’t pass. The constant pressures on families and the embarrassing lack of access to mental healthcare in this country surely also play a role.
11. But the mystery of evil motivating attacks like the El Paso matanza goes deeper than these. It is something more complex than laws and policies alone can fix. What else explains the perversity of attacks on African Americans, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and other communities? 
12. This mystery of evil also includes the base belief that some of us are more important, deserving and worthy than others. It includes the ugly conviction that this country and its history and opportunities and resources as well as our economic and political life belong more properly to ‘white’ people than to people of color. This is a perverse way of thinking that divides people based on heritage and tone of skin into ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’, paving the way to dehumanization.
In other words, racism. 
13. Racism can make a home in our hearts, distort our imagination and will, and express itself in individual actions of hatred and discrimination. Racism is one’s failure to give others the respect they are due on account of being created in the image and likeness of God. And it is more than that. 
14. If we are honest, racism is really about advancing, shoring up, and failing to oppose a system of white privilege and advantage based on skin color. When this system begins to shape our public choices, structure our common life together and becomes a tool of class, this is rightly called institutionalized racism. Action to build this system of hate and inaction to oppose its dismantling are what we rightly call white supremacy. This is the evil one and the ‘father of lies’ (John 8, 44) incarnate in our everyday choices and lifestyles, and our laws and institutions.
*  What moves in me as I sit with God and contemplate the sin of racism, and racist policies and structures?

*  How is God calling me/us to be anti-racist?  How do I/we hear the call to conversion? 
Read the whole thing. Enough Said!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

415 ppm Carbon Dioxide will kill us.


CO2 levels reached 415 parts per million in May 2019.  That's the highest levels humans have ever seen.  Read my op-ed in the Scranton times.  Read Pope Francis's Laudato Si.   Pray, and then act to save our planet.


You’re from Scranton and you have never heard of Charles Keeling? Don’t feel bad. I’ve lived here for almost 10 years and never heard of him, either.
You might have missed the recent news that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has climbed to 415 parts per million. Not knowing that could cost your grandchildren’s lives.
Keeling and CO² are both things about which you really want to know.
Scranton-born Keeling (1928-2005) was a geochemist. After getting a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, he went to work on how the Earth “breathes.” Trees, with all their leaves, and billions of plants take in CO² in sunlight and exhale oxygen.
When too much CO² is around, it overwhelms the green lungs of our planet. Unable to inhale it all, CO² builds up in the bubble of air surrounding Earth. Our planet begins to get warmer — and not in a comfortable way.
Scranton’s superb geochemist is credited with being the first to find ways to measure how much CO² is in the air. Figuring out how to know levels of CO² “is one of the great underappreciated scientific accomplishments of our time.” Most of the credit goes to Scranton’s Charles Keeling.
In the 1950s, it was well known that CO² molecules trapped heat. What Keeling proved was that carbon dioxide levels were rising, dangerously. Much of that increase is due to us. The main culprit is our burning of fossil fuels, which produces greenhouse gases that everyone has heard about in school science classes for the past 50 years.
James Hansen, of NASA, notes Keeling “altered our perspectives about the degree to which the Earth can absorb the human assault.”
Keeling measured CO² levels on Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. His son, Ralph, continues the work.
Which brings us to 415 ppm. Recently, CO² levels reached their highest point in millions of years. Humans have never lived on a planet with 415 ppm.
In 1900, we were at 300 ppm. Environmental expert Bill McKibben has been preaching for years that we need to get CO² down to 350 ppm. We were at 383 ppm in 2007. Instead of cutting back, we headed in the wrong direction. The hockey stick- shaped “Keeling curve” is not some talking head’s opinion on cable news. It is fact. It is truth. It means your grandchildren are going to suffer weather like never before unless we make major changes now.
A recent New York Times article, “Time to panic,” said a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen.”
Pope Francis, in Laudato Si, teaches about climate change and more. He appeals “for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”
Pope Francis offers challenge and consolation, healing and hope: “Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. … All is not lost. Human beings … are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start … and embarking on new paths to authentic freedom.”
In 1962, author and conservationist Rachel Carson asked in “Silent Spring,” “Have we fallen into a mesmerized state that makes us accept as inevitable that which is inferior or detrimental, as though having lost the will or the vision to demand that which is good?”
Let’s make America, and our world, good again. Check out and NASA’s website Learn about the fragile condition of planet Earth. Whether or not you like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old congresswoman from Queens, she’s right about the fact that we don’t have much time to stop disaster.
This isn’t rocket science. It’s Earth science. And we need to learn it and get it right. Or we, or our children and grandchildren, are going to die. If Earth is not fit for human habitation, it is over.

It’s a reality: No people-friendly planet, no people.

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

One Priest's Analysis of the Never Ending Crisis. Pedophile Priests, Bishops and the Sex Abuse Crisis in the Catholic Church 1985-2018


The Never Ending Crisis of Sexual Abuse[i] 
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D. 
University Chaplain, The University of Scranton

To understand what happened in past decades in the Catholic Church, one must realize this: what previously had been considered a sin came to be understood as a crime.  What once was seen as a treatable, compulsive condition, understood as something to be handled quietly by an institution’s authorities, came to be seen as something best dealt with by the Criminal Justice System, with the full light of the mass media shinning on the proceedings.  Cultural mores shifted, obviously for the better.

Given the revelations of priests’ sexual abuse of minors, all Catholics are challenged to try and comprehend the whole tragic morass surrounding clerical sex abuse that has been revealed in the past decades.  Let us pray for and support victims, try to understand all involved, and strive to construct a church wherein sexual abuse of children never happens again. 
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.  Well, no one ever called me an angel.  And it may be foolish to try and say anything in the today’s context that simply doesn’t echo the endless charges of “cover-up,” “insensitive / incompetent / criminal bishops,” or “the church still doesn’t ‘get it.’ ”  Yet, I hope thinking through the crisis will be more helpful than self-righteously and loudly condemning the hierarchy.
First, know that I, and any sane and sensitive priest, hate and abhor what was done by priests to innocent children.  One child molested is one too many.  The pedophiles and ephebophiles in the church have caused incalculable harm to both the children they abused and violated, and all those torn apart by collateral damage.  SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests)[ii] and other organizations deserve our thanks for forcing all to deal with these realities.
In 1985, as the disturbing reports of serial child molester Fr. Gilbert Gauthe of Louisiana became known, due in large part to the courageous journalism of Jason Berry and the National Catholic Reporter, I was in theology studies.  Those were turbulent times for those preparing for ordination.  Liberation theology and questions like women’s ordination were being hotly debated.  Gauthe’s case raised even more questions.  Those of us who were given the grace to persevere to ordination knew we were in for a rough ride.  Little did we know.
After ordination in 1988, I was sent to our Jesuit parish in Camden, NJ.  Early in his tenure, Bishop McHugh called all the priests working in the Camden diocese to a mandatory meeting.  He let it be known in no uncertain terms: things were changing.  We were told if there was an accusation against any of us, we were on our own.  Prepare to get a lawyer.  Do not expect any preferential treatment from the diocese.  Civil authorities would be informed.  I was impressed.  I thought, “Good.  This is being handled.  Cases like Gauthe’s won’t happen again.”
Was I wrong.  The efforts of bishops like McHugh were too little, too late.  The 2002-2003 daily front page excoriations of the church burst the festering boil.  Under mounting pressure, the bishops authorized an independent study.  The John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that between 1950 and 2002, 4% of Catholic priests had been accused of sexual abuse.  10,667 people reported being sexually abused as children by 4,392 priests, about 4% of all 109,694 priests.[iii]  The study also found that the rate of pedophilia in the church was no higher than in other institutions in society.  The sad case of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State revealed that many other institutions and revered figures like Coach Joe Paterno acted much the way Catholic Bishops too often did.  And the church, far from covering up, had reams of documentation about these cases.  Many other institutions keep no records at all.  If someone complains to a public school district they may well hear, “You’re asking about Mr. Miller who taught 2nd grade in 1979?  Don’t know what happened to him.”
I don’t blame the media for focusing attention on the crimes, but when ABC Evening News reports (03/29/10), relying on, that 5%-10% of priests “are abusers,” they contradict the most authoritative study done on the issue.  Still, the 96% of priests, the 99.9% of the sisters, and the vast majority of the laity, who never hurt a child also have had to confront what all this means.
Newsweek reported in April of 2010 that Catholic priests’ rate of abusing children is no more than other institutions: “…experts who study child abuse say they see little reason to conclude that sexual abuse is mostly a Catholic issue.  ‘We don't see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else,’ said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  ‘I can tell you without hesitation that we have seen cases in many religious settings, from traveling evangelists to mainstream ministers to rabbis and others’ ”[iv]
The problem is massive and extends far beyond the church’s walls.  25% of girls and 16% of boys will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday, and 20% of all children will suffer abuse before the age of eight.  There are 39 million in the USA today who have survived sexual abuse in their childhood.  30% to 40% suffer abuse at the hands of a family member, or an older child.  Only 10% are abused by strangers.[v]
In 2007, the Associated Press reported that, “Sexual Misconduct Plagues US Schools.”  In a study that covered five years, there were over 2,500 cases “in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic.”  Even though the vast majority of the over 3 million schools teacher are dedicated and devoted the children entrusted to their care, almost every day in our schools, there are three cases of an abusing teacher.  The “much larger problem [is] a system that is stacked against victims.  Most of the abuse never gets reported.  Those cases reported often end with no action. Cases investigated sometimes cannot be proven, and many abusers have several victims.  And no one – not the schools, not the courts, not the state or federal governments – has found a surefire way to keep molesting teachers out of classrooms.”[vi]
To understand what happened in past decades in the Catholic Church, one must realize this: what previously had been considered a sin came to be understood as a crime.  What once was seen as a treatable, compulsive condition, understood as something to be handled quietly by an institution’s authorities, came to be seen as something best dealt with by the Criminal Justice System, with the full light of the mass media shinning on the proceedings.  Cultural mores shifted, obviously for the better. 
Back when homosexual activity was considered a crime, pedophilia (Andrew Sullivan and others call it “child rape”) committed by a priest was a sin.  In the 1960s and 1970s, police were routinely sent out to try and catch homosexuals in the act and arrest them.  Today, homosexuality is accepted by large sectors of society.  Several years ago the military dropped their “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and several states soon allowed Gay marriage.  In 2015, the Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled that marriage for homosexual persons is a constitutional right.  In contrast, priest pedophiles are those who can never be understood, nor forgiven, and any bishop that did not defrock a priest immediately after the first allegation is considered guilty of cover-up. 
Priests who abuse children are today justly treated as criminals.  Their pedophiliac condition, whether caused by their being molested as children themselves, or perversely freely chosen, results in arrest and jail time.  The children molested by priests can sue the Catholic church, a possibility denied many children molested by adults in other institutions.  Statute of limitation laws are overridden, and the criminal justice system yields to cries for vengeance or justice depending on your perspective.  The reason given: many so traumatized cannot come forward in the time allotted.  The Church has paid billions and the bills keep piling up.  Much of the money comes from people in the pews who did no wrong.  Millions go to lawyers who are not working pro bono.
The constantly repeated charge of cover-up masks the fact that many bishops and religious superiors were following the standard operating procedures of the times.  In 1961, John Kennedy, a Catholic, had to justify his right to run for President.  In that year, if a Bishop McGillicuddy had taken a Fr. Smith down to the local precinct and told the Police Sergeant to book him, and that Johnny the altar boy would soon be brought in by his parents to press charges, everyone would have said the bishop was crazy.  In 1952, 1966, 1974 or 1982, neither parents nor police were publicly decrying how bishops handled these matters.  In those times, if journalists knew about it, they were not saying any more than they did about John Kennedy’s multiple marital infidelities.  Often money was given to either pay for needed therapy for the victim, or in some small measure, to try and make amends.  Now such payments are categorized as “hush money.”  Rene Girard’s cogent analysis of scapegoating is applicable here.  We need someone to blame, someone to punish: bishops are the most convenient target.
Well into the late 1980s, church leaders were being told by therapists at rehab centers that priests with this “problem” had been “treated” and could be placed back in ministerial positions, sometimes with the caveat that the priest would have no contact with minors.   What seems so horrible now, the moving of priests from parish to parish, did not seem so crazy in 1978.  That was the year The North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) was formed.  It is incredible that that organization still exists and has a website, but in 1978 it seems their views were worth at least being given a hearing.[vii]  To think or speak as if this problem exists in the Catholic Church alone is disingenuous.  Again, just google “Penn State, Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky.”  Experts opine that ten to twenty percent of males in the U.S. abuse sexually.[viii]
It was not the fact of the matter that bishops were sitting around conspiring to actively encourage priests to go and molest more children.  Bishops, parents, cops, and everyone else in the decades preceding the sexual revolution of the late 1960s, did not deal openly or forthrightly about sexual matters.  Bishops probably wanted to handle these matters quickly and quietly and get on to other concerns.  Does this indicate 1) a “cover-up” evidencing a callous disregard for the welfare of children, 2) a justifiable fear of gravely harming the church by being open about this issue, or 3) in hindsight, bewildering incompetency?  Probably a combination of the second (and in their defense, note how these revelations have hurt the church) and third (no one suggests the bishops did anything right).  Still, I hesitate to charge them with the first. 
The vast majority of bishops were good and decent men, and none of them had any training, nor much help, in dealing with sexual deviants.  Nor were they schooled in the intricacies of public relations in a world with a 24/7 news cycle.  A Jesuit would get appointed provincial and in a matter of weeks go from decades of scholarly pursuits to a six year term as an administrator of some 600 to 1000 men, without a day of management training.  They cared deeply about children, but what could we expect them to have done, given the times and cultural cues available to them?  They did not act any differently than the family who kept a close eye on Uncle Eddie at Thanksgiving or the school principal who kept Mr. Smith away from the first and second graders.  If the bishops and provincials had covered this up, there would not be hundreds of thousands of incriminating letters and other documents in church files.
Even parents were not always immediately outraged.  Even parents did not initially call for priests to be put in jail.  The first reaction to Gauthe was to get him “help.”  In 1972, Gauthe was caught after molesting three boys.  Parents confronted him.  In his deposition Gauthe stated, “They simply asked me if I had been involved with any of the children, and I said, ‘Yes.’ And I asked them if they would help me find a good psychiatrist.”  A lady made an appointment for him.  “And,” he said, “I simply kept it.”  Gauthe said the parents paid for these sessions, which lasted several months and that he did not report them to Church superiors.”[ix]
In the 1980s, a Jesuit in California moved to Los Angeles where he was able to more easily and often visit his brother and his family.  He was caught molesting his nieces by his brother, an LAPD police officer.  His brother, a cop, didn’t arrest him.  He told him he needed to get help.  “I threw him out of my house,” Larry Lindner said. He urged his brother to seek treatment but did not report him to authorities.  “I trusted him,” Larry Lindner said. “I told him, ‘I’m not going to ruin your life or ruin your career. Just go get help.’ ... I should have had him arrested right there. But he’s still my brother, and I did what I thought a brother should do.’ ”[x] 
Many bishops who acted like those parents in the Gauthe case or Officer Linder are being castigated for not acting as omniscient CEOs.  In reality, the relationship of bishop to priest ought to be more like brother to brother than boss to employee.  The bishops had to consider and care for all the church: the victims, the victimizers, and everyone else who would be affected by revelations of abuse.
In 1990, a good and balanced movie, Judgment, starring Keith Carradine and Blythe Danner presented the excruciatingly difficult choices bishops confronted.  In one scene, the bishop wants to reach out pastorally to the family of a child abused by a priest character based on the real life Gilbert Gauthe.  The lawyers tell the bishop if he meets with the family he will be admitting guilt.  The lawyers tell him that he can meet with the victim, or he can keep his diocese.  He can’t do both.
Even Spotlight, the Oscar winning movie dealing with the Boston Globe’s crusading campaign to uncover clerical sexual abuse in Boston in 2002, recognized that the Globe had had the information years before.  They had not printed the revelations in bold headlines on page one.
In the age before Oprah and reality TV’s constant self-revelation, the world and church felt that some things were not aired in public, much the way universities don’t place date rape info in their recruitment materials, nor do banks highlight the history of any embezzlers in their midst.
Bishops often had to respond to the needs of all involved.  Victims, victimizers, and the larger community and church.  Many people didn’t want victims’ suffering aired publicly.  Parents didn’t want their child’s rape known throughout the parish and neighborhood.  Today, with 24/7 news cycles, and unscrupulous news outlets, victims’ suffering can be compounded  For example, one of Jerry Sandusky’s victims was bullied so badly he had to leave school.[xi]
Today, some bishops are unjustly held to a standard neither they, nor anyone else at the time, expected them to meet.  Many of those bishops are dead.  Many who were bishops and provincials in the 1980s gradually began to realize a radically different approach was needed, thanks to their heeding courageous voices like Fr. Andrew Greeley’s and Fr. Tom Doyle’s.  But, frankly, the giving a position of authority and power to Bishop Law, who continued old practices well beyond the time that things had changed, is insane and disgraceful.
Since 2002, the church has had a policy of zero tolerance.  If anyone accuses a priest, the priest is immediately removed from ministry until the matter is resolved.  Although false accusations are rare, priests are completely vulnerable to whoever wants to make a baseless claim.  Priests must never engage in any kind of abuse.  The Church’s Essential Norms document states: “When even a single act of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, if the case so warrants.”[xii]
The priests named in the PA Grand Jury report who were accused post 2002 were often immediately removed from ministry.  And the PA Grand Jury Report has said there were 301 predatory priests.  But the report doesn't say how many priest served in PA in the past 70 years.  301 is what percentage of total priests?  Higher or lower than the 4% reported by the John Jay Report of 2004? And again, one child abused is one too many.  No abuse is acceptable.  But were all 301 priests in the report equally horrific?  Several of the 301 contest the allegations.  Some offenses, though sick, sad, sinful, shameful and criminal, were less harmful than the completely heinous examples.  Still, no one can judge the depth or degree of a victim's pains except the victim.
The problem isn’t zero tolerance.  The problem isn’t celibacy.  96% of the priests were not pedophiles, while many married men are.  The problem isn’t homosexuality.  The investigators from the second John Jay College of Criminal Justice report on the causes and contexts of the crisis, told the bishops in 2011 that there is no connection between homosexual priests and pedophilia.[xiii]  The high incidence of boys being molested by priests was due to the fact that priests had easier access to boys.  Fr. Bill taking the altar boys on a camping trip was considered wonderful for the boys and he was considered a “great guy.”  If Fr. Bill had suggested taking the fifth and sixth grade girls on a camping trip, people would have thought that weird.  The problem isn’t callous and insensitive bishops or incompetent provincials.  Most of them did the best they could with the resources and within the cultural mores available at the time.  The problem is what do we do now and in the future? 
The amazing reality is that so many Catholics are sticking with the church.  Several years ago, in the 2000s, I presided at a first communion celebration.  A packed church accompanying some 40 second graders; the boys looking cool in blue suits and the girls in an array of white dresses, the parents hovering as they walk up with their child to receive the Lord in the Eucharist, the grandparents, brothers and sisters, the teachers and the school’s big kids in the choir and acting as altar servers: the church continues. 
We need new Catherines of Siena, Francises of Assisi, Ignatiuses of Loyola, Dorothy Days, Thomas Mertons, Oscar Romeros and Dan Berrigans to reinvigorate and renew the church.  We especially need new St. Mary Mackillops, the courageous Josephite sister who stood up for abused children in 1870s Australia.  She was excommunicated for standing against a priest who was sexually abusing children in Australia.  The priest was removed, but a priest friend of his carried out a vendetta against St. Mary MacKillop and her sister Josephites.  Eventually, she was exonerated, but the stain of an intrinsically disordered patriarchal, clerical system remains.[xiv]
The Catholic Church is the largest private provider of social services in the United States.  We cannot allow catholic schools, soup kitchens, nursing homes, hospitals, social outreach, family service organizations, immigration services, prison ministries, AIDS ministries, and myriad other local, national and global charitable institution to fall victim to the present crisis. 
The thousands of children harmed can never be forgotten or ignored.  But let’s not compound the crimes of a small percentage of priests by letting their actions destroy not just the souls and lives of too many children, but also the mission and ministries of the whole church.
In 1975 the Society of Jesus defined the Jesuit mission as “The service of faith of which the promotion of Justice is an absolute requirement.  For reconciliation with God demands the reconciliation of people with one another” (32nd General Congregation, 1975).  Many quickly picked up on the phrase “faith and justice” or the “faith that does justice.”  But the reconciliation theme dropped out and received much less attention.  The Good News is that by 2008 the 36th General Congregation defined the Jesuit mission as being “Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice.”[xv]
Today, and at all times, we need to do justice and work toward reconciliation.  How to reconcile over the issues of how the sexual abuse of children was addressed by the church as an institution, how to find some way to get to forgiveness… these are huge challenges for us as the pilgrim people of God, as the Body of Christ.  Yet, these are challenges we must meet.  Issues like abortion, the use of artificial means of birth control, homosexuality and same sex marriage, on and on, call us to be agents of reconciliation.  Genocides, economic inequality and pollution of the planet call us to be agents of reconciliation.  Pedro Arrupe once said that ours is, “A Planet to heal.”  May we courageously and generously embrace the needed work of repenting, recreating and rebuilding.  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18).

[i]  Much of this reflection on the Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis appeared in Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Being on Fire: The Top Ten essentials of Catholic Faith (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2014), 77-86.
[iii]  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  “The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002.”  A Research Study Conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the City University of New York.  February 2004.  P. 8. (accessed August 2018).
[iv]  Pat Wingert, “Priests Commit No More Abuse than Other Males, Newsweek, April 4, 2010. (accessed August 2018).
[v]  Darkness to Light: End child sexual abuse. (accessed August 2018).
[vi]  Martha Irvine and Robert Tanner.  “AP Sexual Conduct Plagues US Schools.”  The Associated Press. Sunday, October 21, 2007. (accessed August 2018).
[vii]  NAMBLA. (accessed August 2018).
[viii]  Pat Wingert, “Priests Commit No More Abuse than Other Males, Newsweek, April 4, 2010. (accessed August 2018).
[ix]  Jason Berry, “The Tragedy of Gilbert Gauthe.” May 23, 1985. (accessed August 2018).
[x]   Glen F. Bunting, “L.A. Priest Blamed for Legacy of Pain.” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2002. (accessed August 2018).
[xi]  Sara Ganim,   “Alleged Jerry Sandusky victim leaves school because of Bullying, counselor says.”  The Patriot News.  Nov 21,2011  (accessed August 2018)
[xii]   USCCB, “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” (2006.  2nd revision June 2011). (accessed August 2018).
[xiii]   Thomas G. Plante, “The New John Jay Report on Clergy Abuse in the Catholic Chuch.  May 18, 2011.
[xiv]  Mary MacKillop. (accessed August 2018).
[xv]  36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.  “Decree 1: Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice.” (accessed August 2018).

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