OK, I’ve written about the Roman Catholic sexual-abuse issue before… at length, so I’m not going to rehash it all over again here. However, based on a couple of local headlines this past week, I do have a unique observation and a couple of comments to share.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, covers 5,307 square miles, including all three counties in Delaware and 9-counties located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. And, while its size is nothing compared to some much larger archdioceses located anywhere from a 20-minute to, at most, a 3-hour drive from Wilmington, it’s been a major topic of conversation around the 4-state area of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey.
From the mid ‘40s to the present, thousands of priests have served this diocese, in one or more capacities. And, they’ve done so with nothing less than the honor and integrity befitting vocations to the Holy Priesthood. Unfortunately, though, not ALL of them have personified God’s finest requisites.
Going back as far as the ‘50s, a minimum of TWENTY of them—and, perhaps a couple of more that managed to slip through the cracks—have devastated the reputation of the entire Catholic Priesthood. Each member of this infamous group has been the recipient of at least ONE credible complaint of sexual abuse of children.
But, as morally bankrupt as this has been, it’s been the seemingly cultural, systemic cover-ups by the Church’s hierarchy that has resulted in the in unprecedented modern-day moral outrage and devastatingly huge legal settlements against the Roman Catholic Church.
In the Diocese of Wilmington, at least two previous Bishops flatly refused to identify these priests publicly. In fact, it took several years of parishioners and others appealing to his sense of moral turpitude before the late Bishop Saltarelli finally published the infamous list of “TWENTY.“
And, as this sudden change of heart seemed to correspond to parishioners’ precipitous drop-off of Sunday money offerings, I’ve often wondered if IT had anything to do with it.
I am not anti-religion and I’m certainly not a Catholic basher. My parents were two of the most well intentioned dogmatic Catholics I’ve ever known and they raised me accordingly. And, even though I’ve grown to question much of that dogma, it doesn’t mean that the dogma is untrue; it simply means that I no longer believe it. And, yes, I realize that I could end up in hell; but I’ll take my chances just the same.
As well, one of the priests on that infamous list of “TWENTY” (the late Walter D. Power) tried molesting me after serving one of his Sunday Masses. He didn’t succeed, though; he merely piqued my YUCK meter and my rage.
I didn’t tell my father because there would have been one seriously hurting priest and my dad would have gone to jail for assault and battery. My mother, on the other hand, wouldn’t have taken my word against that of “another Christ,” her reference to all Roman Catholic Priests.
And, the thought of suing the Diocese of Wilmington has never entered my mind. The attempt failed; he’s long dead; and I’ve lived a long and successful life. Others, however, have not fared so well.
Besides, I still enjoy a twinge of nasty pleasure (57-years later) over the fact that I was able to demonstrate to him that a skinny-ass 13-year-old altar boy could cause a 6-foot plus, 225 pound priest to hit the floor like an anvil merely by landing a punch in the just the right anatomical location.
Anyway, the fact is that had the Catholic Church dealt honestly with these problems, including the involvement of law enforcement and real mental health experts, they’d not be paying out hundreds of millions in civil settlements today. It’s all about the LIES!
Earlier, I referred to three eye-snatching headlines of the past week or so pertaining to this long-festering matter. I’m providing hyperlinks, but I can’t guarantee how long they’ll remain good. The News Journal has a habit of killing hyperlinks after relatively short-lived periods. They archive them so they can charge people for later access.
Click here for the first one. It’s a Community Voice column written by Vincent A. Schiavi of Brandywine Hundred. In it, he explains a lack of fairness in making present-day good-faith parishioners, schoolchildren, teachers, etc bear the price for the actions of those in the past. As well, it explains that no one today had any control over what took place in the past.
I agree completely with Mr. Schiavi. He states his case well. It’s historically accurate and undeniably sincere. I applaud him and respect his position. But, what happened to many of the children of my generation, AND their parents, wasn’t fair either. And, I’ll concede the point that even THIS does not justify indenturing the innocents of today by making them pay for the criminal acts of past narcissistic morons—most of them long-dead.
But, the fact is that we live in a world that fails to realize that there is no cosmic arbiter of “fairness.” And, more specifically, America has become a simmering litigious society driven by a prolifically growing social mandate that SOMEONE must pay.
It’s no longer enough to WIN; others MUST LOSE! And, until we find a way to change this attitude, loosing litigants—uncontrollable circumstances notwithstanding—will simply have to swallow hard, hold their noses, and write the checks, especially the ones payable to the LAWYERS.
The second headline I referred to is here. It’s a letter to the editor of The News Journal written by Ken Turoczy of Wilmington. In it, he criticizes the efforts of State Senator Karen Peterson in her successful efforts to have the Delaware General Assembly pass the Child Victims Act of three years ago.
As well, it accuses her of being in cahoots with Delaware’s trial lawyers and extols the virtues of State Representative Greg Lavelle’s attempt at balancing it all out by sponsoring a bill to cap settlement amounts relative to all the resulting lawsuits.
I don’t know Mr. Turoczy personally, so I’m not going to criticize his position. He may not be aware of other pertinent facts. First, both the legal counsel for the General Assembly and Delaware’s Attorney General have declared the Lavelle bill unconstitutional. And, second, EVERYONE agrees that sexual-abuse laws should treat ALL institutions equally. There’s no question about it.
But, unfortunately, Mr. Lavelle aimed his bill at capping ONLY settlement amounts relative to the Diocese of Wilmington. As such, he certainly does APPEAR to be carrying a great deal of water for the Diocese of Wilmington, a hell of a lot more of it than Senator Peterson has EVER carried for ANYONE.
Anyway, while I’m a vocal critic of abusive priests and the Church hierarchy that encouraged the cover-ups, I neither offer a blanket condemnation of the Catholic Church nor do I condemn ALL priests. Non-abusive priests have outnumbered the abusive ones by a huge ratio.
“Thou art Peter and upon this ROCK I will build my Church.” It just blows me away that so many of the Church’s leaders had so little faith in the strength of that ROCK that they had to cover up such stupid, despicable conduct on the part of a relative handful of idiots, thereby undermining the structural integrity of that ROCK considerably.
Oh, and there’s one other observation. Click here. Notice how swiftly and decisively they involve the police when their MONEY is involved!
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.