Was Percy ever involved in the debate on molestations by Catholic priests?

Wade Riddick riddick at mail.la.utexas.edu
Sat May 4 23:21:11 EDT 2002

My father tells me about twenty years ago, he remembers that a pair of
lawyers representing the Catholic Church in an Abbeville sexual abuse suit
made an interesting statement to the press.  Dad thinks the case was the
first of its kind which started the ball rolling into today's crisis.  The
two lawyers encouraged the church to adopt a more aggressive policy towards
molesters and predicted that if it didn't then it would mushroom into a
billion dollar problem.

Today that estimate looks unrealistically low.  My father and I think once
the Catholic Church actually starts selling its properties, this could have
a globally depressing effect on real estate prices.  (Yeah, I know.  You
guys think I'm nuts.  After all, the suggestion that people who work in
skyscrapers ought to buy parachutes is nutty... except that's exactly what
they ran out and did after 9/11.)

I'm curious as to what light Percy's friends might shed on his role in any
internal church debates at the time, given that it happened in our backyard.

I'm also curious about the reaction of Catholics on this list to the way
the church scandal has recently blossomed.  While it's true that molesters
gravitate to any profession that involves children, there appear to be a
unique combination of infelicitous circumstances which have come together
in the Catholic hierarchy.

1)  The hierarchy looks unresponsive on the scale of the 24 hour news
cycle.  I'll skip remarks I've made before on the modern media machine.
Appearing unfriendly is the only capital sin.  (For a list of other sins,
you can visit www.mediawhoresonline.com).

2)  While school administrators often transfer suspected molesters with
glowing recommendations just to get rid of them, schools are mostly locally
controlled and there isn't a global hierarchy that links them together.
Schools act this way precisely because they're not closely linked together.
In the case of the Catholic church, the tendency to bury the problem
coupled with a global and quite rigid chain of command has got people
understandably wondering if there's some sort of conspiracy at work in the

3)  The Catholic Church in particular has a recruitment crisis of epidemic
proportions.  Parishioners are right to ask if celibacy requirements are
unnecessarily narrowing the pool of candidates for the priesthood -
although wrong to suggest "straight" family men are less capable of
molestation.  Recruitment problems pressure administrators to retain even
suspect priests on staff.  I remember a graph in Canada showing that most
nuns were older than 50 and only one nun was in her twenties (I don't think
she was native, either).  By muddying the issue with homosexuality and
claiming that priests are really happy with celibacy (conveniently leaving
out of all statistical surveys those men AND WOMEN who wanted to be priests
but never applied) this adds to the view that the Catholic Church is
deliberately avoiding the real issue by trying to apply a layer of Norman
Rockwell paint to the problem.

It's not my church.  It's not my flavor of the faith and I really have no
particular dog in this fight.  I suppose I see churches everywhere being
adversely affected by falling membership, so I don't expect answers to
these particular problems in the Catholic Church to shed light on this.  I
wish I knew what button to press to turn it around.

I also wish I knew what causes child molestation.  I suspect it's partly
chemical/genetic, partly moral choice and partly bad upbringing (e.g.,
prior abuse).  Because of the stigma, it doesn't look like we're going to
apply much money understanding and preventing it.  Maybe if it was covered
by HMOs...

People like to think that pills can't cure your problems.  They can sure as
hell help.  If you never get the opportunity to make a moral choice, how
can you?  There's pretty good scientific evidence indicating that
everything from the increase in our sugar intake to the decline in Omega-3
oils in our diet has indeed been affecting our cognition.  This is
something I can speak about from personal experience.  How much it affects
others out there is anybody's guess.

I have no doubt that molesters have committed a horrendous crime of
terrible proportions and deserve isolation from society in a prison cell.
Wouldn't it be nice, though, if we knew in advance who the alcoholics were
before we started setting up the drinks?

I applaud this current Pope for his rapprochement with Jews and for
tackling a number of other tough issues in the Catholic past.  The church's
current approach on molestation, however, is abysmal.

Finally, could we please turn off the HTML?  Parsing the code by hand hurts
my eyes and since it's a security hole I'm never going to turn it on in my
email reader.

Wade Riddick

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