Bernardo M. Villegas
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Reasons to Stay and Fight (Part 1)

          Catholics all over the world have been shocked beyond description by the sex abuse scandal among the Catholic clergy that has gripped their Church for the past thirty years and that continues to wreak havoc even today.  Fortunately, a famous media personality who is a Catholic bishop in the diocese of Los Angeles, California has taken the bull by the horns and has pulled no punches in describing the lurid crimes of these unfortunate men of God.  In a small book called “Letter to a Suffering Church,” Bishop Robert Barron has written a no-holds-barred description of the sordid affair in the United States.  More importantly, he has given some very practical advice to Catholics who are wavering in their faith because of the horrible example shown by some malevolent clergy.

         Bishop Barron started by going against the trend in some circles of the Catholic hierarchy who have usually been in the state of denial.  He did not mince words in describing the sexual abuses recorded in the courts of the U.S.  Let me quote from him: “In the summer of 2018, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania issued a report of the cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy in that state over roughly the previous seventy years.  The number of abusive priests was depressing enough (roughly 300 priests and 1,000 victims), but the details of the cases sickened the Church—indeed, the whole country.  A group of priests in the Pittsburgh diocese acted in a predatory ring, identifying potential candidates for abuse and passing information about them back and forth.  They would take Polaroid photos of the children, in one case requesting a young man to take off his clothes and stand on the bed  in the attitude of the crucified Jesus  To children they found particularly attractive they would give gold crosses to wear around their necks, so as to signal their availability to other pedophile priests.  One priest raped a young girl in the hospital, just after she had her tonsils removed.  Another raped a girl, got her pregnant, and then arranged for the young woman to have an abortion.  A Pittsburgh priest would give homeless boys drugs, money, and alcohol in exchange for sex.  And while these crimes were being committed, the priests in question were typically removed from the parish or institution where the complaints originated but then reassigned somewhere else in the diocese, free to abuse again.  As is now well established, this pattern of abuse, reassignment, and cover-up was repeated again and again across the Catholic world, fueling the massive frustration of the offended parties.”

         In his book, Bishop Barron described other equally if not more outrageous examples of clerical sexual abuse, especially those of the former Cardinal Theodore McCormick, retired Archbishop of Washington, D.C. who was convicted as a serial abuser throughout his clerical career.  What made the image of the Catholic Church even worse in the case of Cardinal McCormick was the fact that numerous bishops, archbishops, and cardinals, both in the U.S. and in the Vatican, knew all about McCormick’s  immoral and criminal behavior and did nothing in response to it; or, rather even worse, they continued to advance him up the ecclesiastical ladder, from auxiliary bishop, to bishop of a diocese, to archbishop, and finally to cardinal.  Bishop Barron rightly concludes that the average Catholic in America could certainly be forgiven for thinking that something like a conspiracy of silence and a deep corruption obtain within the institutional life of the Church. (To be continued).