A Priest Deals Himself In

I had posted an article in which I addressed the issue of pedophile priests. In that article, I quoted from a book written by a Catholic priest and educator.

As I have come to expect any time I publish an article such as that one, there was a Catholic reaction. One of the emails I received allegedly was sent by a Catholic priest who found fault with what I had written. As also is usual when defenders of Catholicism choose to challenge something I have posted, this ‘priest’ supported his attempts to refute with nothing more than his opinion. I responded to his comments in what I thought was a courteous email, particularly when compared with the missive he had sent.

The ‘mystery priest’ fired a second email at me, this one more loaded with sarcasm and Catholic ‘apologetic’ devices than his first. I again responded, but soon received my response back. It seems the secretive defender of Catholic priesthood was not interested in any response I may have cared to tender. Therefore, I am publishing the full text of the four emails here, so that readers might have yet another opportunity to see Catholicism on the defensive. Because I do not know my mystery antagonist’s name, I shall highlight his words in brown boldface text. My responses will be in the normal color for this site.

His first email to me:

I was sick to my stomach as I read these lies. I can say as a member of the Catholic clergy, a clergyman who has ACCEPTED JESUS CHRIST AS LORD AND SAVIOR, that if you want to spread Catholic hatred over the Internet, at least get your facts and percentages more correct. These are horrible situations, and yes, these men will have to answer one day, but they are VERY VERY RARE. Jesus Christ said, "...you will know them by their fruits." Yes, pedophila, homosexuality, all are sins which cry out.....however, hatred and lies are too.

My response::

Sir, I do not doubt that, within the ranks of Catholic priests and religious, there are many who are keeping their vows of celibacy. I do not doubt that there are many who have never even considered sexually molesting a child or adolescent. I have so stated in some of the articles I have posted. I have also stated, more than once, that as a Catholic child growing up in a Catholic neighborhood, I was never molested, nor had I ever heard even a hint that some other child may have been. I grew up respecting the two priests at Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Cincinnati, as did every kid I knew. Those two priests never, to my knowledge, ever had neighborhood kids in for dinner, nor did they involve themselves in activities of parish children - something that was left for selected members of the laity to take care of.

You say that such men are "VERY, VERY RARE," yet in the Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal Law has caused to be delivered to the district attorneys of the five counties served by his archdiocese the names of EIGHTY priests against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse have been received. At least nine of those priests have had their faculties withdrawn and were removed from pastoral duties. How many pastoral priests do you reckon there are in the Boston Archdiocese? I submit that the number would have to be VERY, VERY HIGH, if eighty suspect priests is to be considered so insignificant a number as to be considered VERY, VERY RARE.

Here in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, reports of priestly sexual abuse surface with disturbing regularity. The former priest of my wife's parish, though neither pedophile nor homosexual, certainly appears to have been a sexual predator who preyed on the women under his pastoral care. He was sent to his order's retreat center in Ireland, then transferred to another parish on his return. He apparently was not affected by his stay in Ireland. After two paternity suits were filed against him, and the archdiocese, this priest was defrocked, but not deprived of a happy hunting ground. He joined the faculty of one of our Catholic universities. ]

My next door neighbors worship in a different parish. They told me that the priest in their parish has banned future fund raising activities intended for a church building fund. According to my neighbor, his priest had explained that he was tired of seeing the parish building fund raided bythe archdiocese to help pay the financial costs resulting from priestly sexual abuses.

You wrote that reading those "lies" I had posted made you sick to your stomach. Well, Sir, I am willing to believe that you are not a sexual predator, but that does not mean that what I wrote was untrue. Can you honestly say, in your own heart, that you have never known a priest or religious who was a sexual predator or deviate? Can you honestly say, in your own heart, that the worldwide public apology made by the Christian Brothers for the sexual and other deviant acts of members of their order had no basis in fact? Can you honestly say, in your own heart, that the trials of Catholic priests and religious held in just about every Canadian province, and all around the USA, in the past several decades had no basis in fact?

Finally, I wonder if you have read the book that I sometimes cite as an information source, The Changing Face of the Pristhood? It was written by a former Vicar of Priests for the Cleveland Diocese and President-Rector and Professor of Pastoral Theology at Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in Cleveland. Surely he has been and is in position to make an informed statement on the subject of sexuality of priests and seminarians. Have you bothered to read the many books and studies that he calls up in support of his statements? Or are you merely venting your own upset and responding to what I wrote with nothing more than unsupported personal opinion?

Personally, I believe your response, though heartfelt, to be unworthy of serious consideration, for it is but one man's unsupported opinion. That might work with the laity in your parish, if indeed you have pastoral faculties, but it does not impress me.

His second email to me:

Thank you for your response, you may think I have no idea of what I am talking about, and yes, I will admit I have known some. However, I also happen to know from a BAPTIST MINISTER that in fact, taught me pastoral counseling AT OBLATE SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY IN SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, that unfortunately, and as the Gospel warns, woe to those who create scandal, that also in PROTESTANT CIRCLES THERE ARE PROBLEMS AS WELL. Of course, because of a loosely tied structure as he pointed out, what kind of money is there to go after. I will admit, we shoot ourselves in the foot due to the fact that our structure makes it so that if a priest does something immoral, the bishop and the diocese and the parish, and on and on can be sued.

Yes, I have read for a fact, "The Changing Face of Priesthood," and even in the Catholic Church, there are quite liberal positions that many of us are not in agreement over. If you noticed, as did many of my priest brothers, what mention does he make over the importance of prayer or a personal relationship with the Lord in that book??????? Something that thanks be to God, was stressed in my seminary formation.

I was happy only for you to admit, yes, the majority of us are faithful, and of course, it is amazing how in these things, ONLY CATHOLICS ARE GUILTY. Lord knows that independent Bible churches and charismatic fellowships have been spared of any type of failings.

So, though I do not have time to continue on in this discussion, I will say that my statements (I do not wish to be clearer because I do not wish to identify myself) are not based purely on "anger" or "emotion." And; therefore, because I cannot be more clear, I have to accept the consequence that my argument looks like one based purely on emotion.

Let me end giving you a word of thanks, for furthering the hatred and even fright that those of us who are faithful live through by your rambling. By the way, I know it may be hard to believe, I lived in a town where a youth minister had affairs and killed his wife, and are you sitting down.....he was a washed in the blood of the Lamb, once saved always saved, proclaimed righteous, SOUTHERN BAPTIST. And it shattered me greatly, for we were friends. So, give the whole story.

My response:

Sir, once again, you have written things that indicate to me that you have not read much on my websites. Were that not true, you would surely know that I have a number of times acknowledged the sad fact that religious sexual predators are not to be found only among the ranks of Catholic priests and religious. Your sarcasm aside, even a reasonable amount of reading at my sites would have made you aware that I believe it takes more than simply declaring oneself to be saved to make that so. I doubt that you are seeking to engage me in debating the Five Points of Calvinism (TULIP) or the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, so I must assume that your raising these issues was for the sole purposes of obfuscation and diversion from the principal issue on the table: Some Catholic priests have, and no doubt continue, to use their pastoral posts and priestly authority to prey upon children and adolescents supposedly under their pastoral care.

Let me see if I understand the nature of the half-hearted defense that you are raising against the figures provided by Cozzens. You and some other priests known to you appear to believe that Cozzens fails to address "the importance of prayer or a personal relationship with the Lord." In the same context, you mention there are liberal positions within the RCC that "many of us," which I judge would include yourself, do not agree. Since you have read his book, you must know that Cozzens is a psychologist, or at least a teacher of psychology, and educator in addition to being a priest. In that his book is an exploration of changes within the ranks of the Catholic priesthood and some of the possible issues underlying those changes, one would hardly expect his book to be a devotional of the order of one of Louis Marie de Montfort's fluffy tributes to the Blessed Virgin. The direction his study will take is clearly visible in these words:

As a pilgrim people, the Church turns again and again to the Holy Spirit seeking strength and wisdom to remain faithful to its mission. Though grounded in the truth of the Spirit and guided by her wisdom, the Church as a human institution is subject to the patterns and dynamics identified by such social sciences as organizational development, systems analysis, and social psychology. To the extent that the Church ignores social patterns and organizational dynamics it risks losing sight of its pastoral mission and compromising its ecclesial integrity. Institutions and organizations, for example, that fail to take seriously their own as well as external data practice a kind of denial that is sustained by the blinding force of their own previous successes." - Donald B. Cozzens, The Changing Faced of the Priesthood, (c) 2000, The Order of St. Benedict, Inc., Collegeville, Minnesota, p. 19

When I purchased Cozzens' book, I expected to acquire a scholarly examination of some of the psychological and organizational factors bearing on the great differences between public perception of the Catholic priesthood today and what it was when I was a young Catholic. I was not looking for Catholic theology nor even pastoral practices. The book was exactly what I expected it to be.

Before moving on, perhaps it would be useful to point out that, in fact, you and the other priests who remarked on Cozzens' apparent failure to address "the importance of prayer or a personal relationship with the Lord" apparently did not read the book as thoroughly as you might have. I consider raising this point to be nothing more than "smoke and mirrors" intended to discredit Cozzens and his work. Did either you or one of your priest friends happen to read into the book as far as page 85? If one of you did, then you must have overlooked these words:

Tending the word, it should be clear by now, is at the core of the priest's spirituality. To him the word has been entrusted. Karl Rahner notes that: "This efficacious word has been entrusted to the priest. To him has been given the word of God. That makes him a priest." A presbyteral spirituality, then, that is not grounded in the saving word of God and in tending to this word will lack the depth and power of the word itself.

Abraham Herschel captured the essence of this intimate relationship between word and spirit when he claimed that he preached in order to pray. Prayer, of course, must precede preaching the word of God, for preaching is alive only if it flows from the preacher’s spiritual core, a spiritual core nourished and sustained by prayer and an abiding state of prayerfulness. Yet, Herschel's insight is critical. He preached in order to pray. If a priest's preaching does not prompt him to pray, at least most of the time, something is amiss in his soul. Those who tend to the word through preaching find a quiet but insistent pull to solitude welling up within them after they have preached. Preaching, Herschel argues, is "successful" when it leads the assembly to prayer.

The homily then, that holy tending of the word that is the staff of the ministerial priesthood, becomes the ground and center of the priest's spirituality--especially, we shall see, of the parish priest's spirituality. For the parish priest, at the prompting of the council, now preaches at weekday Eucharist as well as the vigil and Sunday celebrations of Mass. Fidelity to this responsibility and privilege inevitably leads to prayer. In light of his calling to be tender of the word, the priest's decision to pray is arguably the most important decision he can make.

Without a decisive commitment to prayer, the ministry of preaching at Sunday and daily liturgies becomes an intolerable burden to the priest--and to those who hear him. Rather than tending to the word, the spiritually shallow priest subverts the word. With unusual passion, Rahner insists that:

The word of God in the mouth of a priest empty of faith and love is a judgment more terrible than all versification and all poetic chatter in the mouth of a poet who is not really one. It is already a lie and a judgment upon a man, if he speaks what is not in him; how much more if he speaks of God while he is godless.

Faithful to prayer and lectio divina, to the quiet listening for the voice of God as revealed to him in the events of the day, the tending of the word becomes the priest's rock of salvation, the cornerstone of his spiritual life. - Donald B. Cozzens, Op. cit., pp. 85-86.

Granted, in the passage quoted above, Cozzens does not suggest that the problems afflicting the priesthood can all be solved by prayer, but he makes a good argument for prayer and for focusing on the tending of the word being the "priest's rock of salvation, the cornerstone of his spiritual life." And he certainly addresses the importance of prayer. Perhaps you and your fellow priests might wish to read again Cozzens' little book--this time paying more attention to what the man has to say.

I agree with your implied suggestion that many are motivated to sue the hierarchical Catholic Church because they see the predatory actions of some of her priests as an easy way to make big bucks. If the only motivation people have for trying to bring sexual predators to justice, whether Catholic or otherwise, has to do with getting rich, then I condemn those who bring these actions for their motivation, but in no way absolve either the offending priests and religious for their actions or their Mother Church for her complicity in protecting them.

I am willing to accept your claim that your arguments "are not based purely on "anger" or "emotion." I would expect you, however, to accept that I am not willing to give much credibility to unsupported arguments, especially when the person presenting them is sheltering behind a mask of Internet anonymity.

Your closing sarcasm and the gratuitous non-sequitur concerning your Southern Baptist friend did absolutely nothing to refute the information provided by Cozzens or to weaken my firm antipathy toward the Roman Catholic Church.

You say you do not have time to continue this discussion. Perhaps that is the best course, for unsupported statements are of little value in such a discussion, and your desire for anonymity places me in the position of arguing with a wraith. I shall write you no more, unless you choose to continue this exchange by first writing to me.

This time, my response was returned with this reason given:


My priestly antagonist, in true Catholic style, fired a parting shot heavily laced with smoke and mirrors, sarcasm and red herrings but was unwilling to let me respond to his weak arguments.

How typical of Catholic 'apologists.' He challenged a number of points in an article of mine, and offered absolutely no support for his position other than his anonymous opinion. When I responded and addressed the weaknesses of his arguments, as well as of the red herrings he had tossed out, he blocked my response.

Of course, I could have used an anonymous email address to go around the block he had placed on my primary email address, but to do so would have reduced me to playing at his level. I choose to publish the full text of the exchange here for the enlightenment of visitors.

I view the priest's conduct as typical of the Catholic hierarchy's unwillingness to have the wrongdoing of its priests exposed to the light of day.

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
--John 3:17-21

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