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Another Day, Another Christian Criminal, Why Would Anyone Want to be One of These Chri$tians?

Monday, October 05 2009 @ 10:35 PM CDT

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Lahey scandal: huge blow to Church credibility


SHAME, shame, shame

What else can you say about the fall from grace of yet another senior official of the Roman Catholic Church? A bishop no less, in disgrace for one of the worst of all sins: the exploitation of children.

Shame, disgust and shock were the most common reactions to the revelation that Bishop Raymond Lahey stands accused of possessing and importing child pornography. A few days before, he had mysteriously resigned as Bishop of the Diocese of Antigonish to seek what he called "personal renewal."

For the faithful, it was a double shock because it was Lahey who had negotiated a $13-million settlement with sexual assault victims for sins perpetrated by priests but left to the penance of innocent parishioners.

What credibility does that settlement have now with the Church’s signatory facing public revulsion and potential jail time for an alleged crime against children, one not unlike the crimes it had concealed for decades?

Who could blame any member of the diocese for refusing to pay any part of that tainted settlement? Beyond that, who would blame any Catholic for doubting the faith?

In the Catholic Church, priests and bishops are the ultimate authority figures, their word and deeds held in utmost respect. To doubt the priest is to doubt the holy Church and the authority of God.

In the wake of these latest allegations, what’s left of that awesome power? What authority has any priest to preach about morality or ethics when the brotherhood that goes back 2,000 years has now been cast as a fraternity of sin and a brotherhood of shame?

Rev. Anthony Mancini, the Archbishop of Halifax and now the apostolic administrator of the Antigonish diocese, seemed as shocked as anyone by Lahey’s arrest.

Archbishop Mancini did the right thing by immediately travelling to the area to speak to the faithful and offer reassurance. He seemed genuinely saddened and ashamed. But there was something missing.

He acknowledged the "sadness, pain and anxiety" of the moment, and said all members of the Church "are standing in a place of brokenness and vulnerability."

But why wasn’t he angry? Why didn’t he rage at the idea that Lahey might have been another priestly exploiter of children? Why didn’t he pound his fist on the table and demand hard justice for every offender hiding in the folds of the Church’s holy vestments?

Every right-thinking Catholic should be furious at what’s happened to the institution that guides and nourishes their faith. And not just because they, not the Vatican or the institutional Church, are being asked to pay for the sins of the fathers.

Beyond who pays for the abuse settlements, a lot of people have cause to be angry at what’s happened to the Church over the past 50 years, and not only the Catholics. While all this was going on, people of many faiths and no faith at all were being hectored by priests, bishops and popes about morality and ethics.

Catholic authorities have constantly railed against abortion rights, against same-sex marriage, birth control, stem cell research and fertility treatments. They cite the word of God as their authority. By definition, anyone who disagrees with them is not only wrong, but immoral and a sinner.

Yet there is strong evidence, including at least one massive U.S. study commissioned by the Church itself, that those same clerical authorities were aware of abuse allegations against priests and clerics. Rather than cleaning up the mess, they covered it up.

That meant many offenders were moved around and protected by senior Church authorities, often to repeat their abuses in other parishes. That the Church evidently knew that and did so little to stop it suggests hypocrisy on a global scale.

After the Mount Cashel scandal in Newfoundland, the Canadian Church ordered its parishes to deal with abuse openly, to report it to proper authorities and to offer counselling to victims.

Last year, Pope Benedict apologized for the abuses, which he called an evil which deserves "unequivocal condemnation."

But apparently, it still goes on and the Church faces more challenges in cleansing itself of criminals. But in the meantime, if priests and bishops won’t listen to the Pope, why would anyone else?


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