by Anthony DeStefano
As a lay person who has worked closely with the clergy for over a decade, and who has seen first-hand how heroically selfless and self-sacrificing our Roman Catholic priests truly are, I have some advice for the beleaguered Catholic faithful of this country: Stop playing defense!
Like so many American Catholics, I am sick to death of the vitriolic attacks on our Church. Yes, we know, there are a few sinful priests out there who have sexually abused children. Yes, we know, there are some bishops who have attempted to keep the matter quiet and deal with the problem internally. Yes, we know that all this is wrong and scandalous and that the guilty priests should be punished.
But for goodness sake, enough with the Mea Culpas!
This entire society is plagued with sexual problems, sexual abuses, sexual infidelity, sexual promiscuity, and sexual deviance. Just look at the current divorce rates. Look at the statistics on rape and other sex crimes. Look at the number of teen pregnancies produced by the MTV generation.
Ever since the 1960s we have been traveling, headlong, down the path of increased sexual freedom and openness. Is it any wonder the clergy is experiencing some problems with sexual misconduct? Everywhere we look there is sexual temptation. It’s impossible to turn on the television or listen to the radio without being assaulted by sexually explicit imagery, sexually explicit language, and sexually explicit lyrics. You can’t even attend Mass on a Sunday afternoon in the summertime without seeing scantily clad young girls in sexually provocative clothing!
Is it really any surprise that the clergy has been affected, at least to some extent, by the same disease that is infecting the rest of the culture?
Of course this doesn’t mean that we should ignore the seriousness of these despicable crimes. Perverts and sex offenders no matter what their profession must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the Church must make sure it has a policy in place to deal with these offenders quickly and harshly. But come on; we know what this is really about, don’t we? The current feeding frenzy in the press has little to do with any real concern for the victims of sexual abuse. The American public isn’t that naive. Throughout this country, the haters of the Catholic Church are grinding their axes, ecstatic at the chance of cutting down an institution that has staunchly opposed the social, moral and political credos they adhere to. That’s the real truth.
After all, prominent Catholic Bishops have already openly admitted to making mistakes in handling abusive priests. The Pope himself has called an unprecedented meeting of U.S. Cardinals in Rome to emphasize the importance of dealing with this issue forthrightly. Yet, these clearly penitent actions have done nothing to tone down the venomous rhetoric against the Church that we see daily in the newspapers and on television.
No, something more is going on here. While no one doubts the sincerity and anguish of the victims going through this crisis, all the indignant cries for justice emanating from the Church bashers in the media are a sham. Sentencing guilty priests to long jail terms will never appease them, nor will a million apologies from the bishops or the Vatican.
Nothing is going to mollify the hatred of those who are wielding their axes. That is because their true aim is to hurt the Church: to damage its credibility in order to reduce its ability to work effectively against the immorality of an ever-increasing Godless society; to discredit it so that the politically conservative influence it exerts in matters such as abortion, pornography and gay rights, is minimized. That is the real meaning of these attacks.
So what should priests and bishops do? Their hands are tied, to some extent. If they protest too loudly against the one sided treatment they are receiving, they will undoubtedly be accused of gross insensitivity to the victims of sex abuse.
But as for the rest of the faithful those of us who belong to powerful organizations like the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Malta, the Catholic League and Priests for Life, as well as the millions of other loyal Catholics in this country it’s time we quit turning the other cheek.
It’s time we started to defend our Church.
Anthony DeStefano is the Executive Director of Priests for Life, an international association of Catholic clergy and laity.