March 26, 2010
By Daniel C. Maguire
Milwaukee has now replaced Boston and other competing centers as the epicenter of the priest sexual crimes against children. Nothing matches what happened here in Milwaukee, with over 200 deaf boys repeatedly molested and raped by Rev. Lawrence Murphy, a priest who was never punished and who was buried, after a lifetime of child rape, with full priestly honors.
What makes it a perfect storm is the list of rogue actors in this crime spree. It involves the current pope, a Vatican cardinal, three Milwaukee archbishops, and-something that is usually overlooked in press accounts of these abuse cases----the collusion of the local police and district attorneys. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (March 26, A 1): "Police and Milwaukee bishops had known of the allegations at least since the mid-1970's and the Journal Sentinel has reported on them for years. However, criminal charges were never filed, and the archdiocese did not attempt to defrock Murphy until 1996."
There was no separation of church and state in this case and this should be investigated by the current district attorney in Milwaukee. Otherwise the current district attorney is complicit and joins the Catholic hierarchy in the cover-up.
The pope now faces a major hypocrisy test. He has been accepting resignations from bishops around the world who failed to take action against priest rapists. It is now no longer in dispute that he himself is guilty of the same criminal negligence in the Milwaukee case and in Germany when he was archbishop. He can only serve the church by resigning. If he were in charge of some secular institution he would be forced to resign and be subject to criminal prosecution. He has no moral right to hide behind Vatican walls.
It is now clear that this is not a localized problem in the Catholic Church. It is a Catholic pandemic. Hierarchical efforts to say the priest criminals were only a few bad apples are as pathetic as they are incredible. The Vatican is still engaged in cover-ups of crime by attacking the press, trying to kill the messenger who brings the bad but true news. The reason offered by bishops for not reporting this publicly was that it would cause "scandal." Scandal in that case is a fraudulent misnomer. It is code for "public relations disaster." Their not reporting crimes is the scandal. Their concern was church image, not the victims or the law.
The pope and the bishops involved worldwide in these criminal cases, are, ironically, the same people who say that no woman can be ordained or hold a position of ecclesiastical power. Have these men not really proven that they are not up to the job and it's time for the women to take over? Ironically also, these same men say that two gay people who love one another and seek to commit themselves to one another in a permanent exclusive marriage, may not do so. That too would be a "scandal." These men are also the same ones who insist that all who serve as priests must be celibate. All these headlines proves that enforced celibacy is a failed discipline. A priesthood based on the requirement that you will never fall in love or have the enriching experience of parenthood is based on a illusion and it is an invitation to pathology. There is a reason why rabbi's, ministers, and imams are not filling the press with a comparable parade of horrors. Celibacy is not a bona fide occupational qualification for priesthood or ministry. Of course, enforced celibacy is not the only factor behind these horrible crimes but that it is a factor is beyond any doubt.
An Italian editor with whom I worked was on a train in Italy and was joined in the dining room by a Monsignor from the Vatican. The editor found the monsignor very urbane, knowledgeable, and sophisticated. He felt prompted to broach some delicate issues of church reform. He asked: "The Church would be greatly helped if there were reform on issues such as birth control and priestly celibacy." The mood changed. The monsignor stiffened and blurted out: "We may die but we will not change!" The monsignor might have uttered an all too accurate prophecy.
Daniel C. Maguire is a Professor of Moral Theological Ethics at Marquette University, a Catholic, Jesuit Institution and President of the Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics. Dr. Maguire has a degree in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
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