Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Enough of kid gloves for erring priests

Enough of kid gloves for erring priests

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, February 23, 2005 12:15 AM

I just spoke to my brother who lives in Boston, Massachusetts a while ago. He works with the mentally ill. He calls them the “mentally challenged.”

During our conversation, he touched upon the problems that the archdiocese of Boston is currently having. They are huge. Who would think a few years ago that this once rich and prestigious archdiocese would be closing 38 parishes next year? It needs to in order to raise money to pay off the liabilities incurred because of the clergy sex scandals that have plagued the Church there recently.

As you know, the archdiocese has been forced to pay tens of millions of dollars to litigants who have won their cases in court. Now the bill has come due and the Church must come up with the money. The once wealthy archdiocese has to sell some church properties and cut back on its services to make ends meet.

It’s sad, but Boston is by no means alone. A number of dioceses are in financial trouble as a result of clergy sex abuse cases and have had to do likewise. Two dioceses lately have declared bankruptcy.

The consequences of the sex abuse scandals, according to my brother, can be seen in the drop in attendance at Sunday masses. “There are few people, mostly the old, who are present,” he says. “If you want to see a decent crowd, you need to go to immigrant parishes, like those serving the large Brazilian community here in Boston.”

It’s so sad to see the devastation caused by the scandals. My brother further states that the “priesthood has suffered much from a huge credibility gap.” People no longer respect priests the way they used to. The scandals have tainted the good priests as well as the bad. And with the loss of credibility has come the loss of faith for those whose beliefs are not strong. If they have not left the Church outright, they have grown silent and inactive.

The Philippine Church needs to learn from the events that have truly traumatized the Church in America. It needs to move fast to clean up its ranks of those members of the clergy who are damaging the people of God. It must do so expeditiously and with conviction.

There has been too much tolerance for erring priests. The Church needs to take off the kid gloves and deal with these abusive priests with a strong hand, if not a mailed fist. The welfare of the people of God should be the primary concern. It should not matter if some of the erring priests get hurt. The message should be made clear and it must read: “Shape up or get out!”

Unless the Church is proactive, it will have to react to events that will overtake it. What we don’t need but will eventually get if we don’t get deadly serious, is a repetition of the trauma that the American Church has experienced.


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