The faithful of Glendale Community College and clergy and parishioners from neighboring churches have expressed concern over recent reports of sexual abuse of children among priests in the Catholic Church, which has led to the investigation, removal and prosecution of dozens of priests in parishes and dioceses from Los Angeles to New York and the resignation of two bishops.
Bishop Anthony O’Connell, head of the archdiocese of Palm Beach, Fla., resigned after admitting he sexually abused a boy 25 years ago. Recently, Archbishop Juliusz Paetz, the archbishop of Poznan in Pope John Paul II’s native Poland, resigned after admitting sexual advances on young male members of the clergy.
“The church leadership has stumbled in so many ways,” said Dennis Doyle, GCC Learning Resource Center director and parishioner of Incarnation Church in Glendale. “[They have stumbled] in failing to protect victims, in listening to their lawyers rather than to their hearts, in shifting priest abusers away from one community and into other unsuspecting communities and in sheltering perpetrators in a veil of secrecy.”
Doyle, who once studied for the priesthood but was never ordained, believes that the recent scandals are a wake-up call for the church.
“Sexual abuse of minors is a sickness and sin about which there has been an evolving understanding in recent years, even by psychiatrists,” echoed the Rev. Gerald McSorley, pastor of St. Bernard’s Church in Eagle Rock, in an Easter Sunday message to parishioners.
Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, celebrated a “Mass of reparations” at Our Lady of Refuge Church in Long Beach on March 25 in which he apologized for the “gruesome” acts of some in the Catholic Church.
Although the archdiocese is cooperating fully with law enforcement officials, it is not releasing the names of priests accused of sexual abuse to the public. Some believe that Mahony should; however, the cardinal rebuts that by saying that releasing the names of priests who have committed these acts would needlessly harm victims again.
The scandal, which has been labeled as one of the most “grave” the church has faced in modern times, stemmed from the improper handling of child abuse reports in the Archdiocese of Boston in the form of sexual abuse by former priest John Geoghan and others. More than 200 people have come forward to accuse Geoghan and other priests in the Boston Archdiocese of past sexual abuse. Geoghan has been accused of molesting more than 130 children.
“By molesting a child, not only are you going to feel guilty, not only are you going to have to live with the fact that you did this, but you’ve scarred a human being. You’ve scarred another one of God’s children,” said Jessica Andrew, president of GCC’s Alpha and Omega Christian Fellowship club.
The public image and reputation of the Boston archdiocese is further marred by accusations that it covered up Geoghan’s activities during the 1980s and ’90s. Citing “tragic misjudgments” in dealing with the accusations, the head of the Boston Archdiocese, Cardinal Bernard Law, is facing extreme pressure by the editorial board of the Boston Herald to step down from his post. However, Law is standing his ground and has refused to resign.
Ever since the Boston accusations were made known to the public, reports of sexual abuse of children by priests have sprung up in California, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, among some. Like a stone thrown into a pond, accusations of sexual abuse by priests have spread all over the U.S. and the world as more victims come forward.
“The revelations of the abuse of children by members of the Catholic clergy and the obvious failure on the part of some church authorities to deal in a proper manner with those guilty of it have caused us [priests] much anguish and confusion,” said McSorley.
More than a dozen priests in the U.S. out of 47,000 nationwide have been accused of sexual abuse since January, according to MSNBC.com. The accusers are mostly men who said they were molested as children by a priest, whether it was in the form of fondling or requests for sexual favors.
Sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church is nothing new. Although there have always been cases of sexual abuse of children in the church, these cases have been usually dealt with as quietly as possible in order to keep the situation under control and within the boundaries of a respective parish or archdiocese.
The Catholic Church has never revealed too much about its inner workings, according to TIME magazine. Priests who have committed sexual abuse are usually sent away to be rehabilitated, then assigned to a new parish. However, this strategy sometimes backfires, as was the case with Geoghan, whose child abuse activities spanned 20 years.
“We’re just human,” said Alpha and Omega club member Ravyn Capalla. “The religion itself should be not be judged on human beings’ actions. It’s in our nature to mess up. It just so happens that some people tend to give in to temptation.”
However, some believe that accusations of sexual abuse of children by priests come from those who oppose celibacy in the priesthood and who are out to convince people to “keep away” from religion and whose sole purpose is to cast a shadow over the church.
“These are people who are looking for anything to keep people away from the church and away from God,” said club member Matthew Gausman.
McSorley said he believes that pedophilia is not at all connected to celibacy. He said that people who have developed sexually and emotionally in a healthy manner are not attracted sexually to children.
“It [sexual abuse] is an evil that is found .among the clergy and ministers of all faiths,” said McSorley. “Pray that we may.be worthy of our vocations and be the kind of ministers in whom you the people of the church can place your trust.”