Thursday, April 22, 2010

LU Jesuits respond to Church scandal

The Phoenix > Sections > News
LU Jesuits respond to Church scandal
By Sean Connolly


| Published: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Catholic Church has received much criticism recently about the way alleged sex abuse cases were handled by top bishops.

But that criticism is not coming just from outsiders, as shown by the reaction from faculty and staff at Loyola University Chicago — some of whom said the Church’s moral authority is badly shaken.

“We have lost all moral credibility as an institution,” said Matt Jacobson, chaplain and coordinator of faith and service for Loyola’s Campus Ministry, and one of the school officials interviewed by the Phoenix about the clergy sex abuse scandal erupting around the globe.

“Our response should be asking for deep forgiveness from society,” Jacobson said. “Too long, it seems, the Church’s position has been to protect its priests. There has not been as fervent [of a] response to protect the children.”

The Rev. Mark Bosco, S.J., director of the Loyola’s Catholic studies minor program, thinks the Vatican handled the crisis “badly.”

“At the very least, officials, including the pope, should have said that mistakes were made and asked for pardon and forgiveness,” Bosco said.

Pope Benedict XVI’s handling of abuse cases — particularly before he assumed the top position in the Church — has come under intense scrutiny in the media with allegations arising that he did not do enough to protect children from accused priests.

While he was archbishop of Munich, Pope Benedict reportedly “led” a meeting at which approval was given to return a pedophile priest back into pastoral work, according to the New York Times.

The Times also reported that Vatican leaders, including the current pope, did not remove a priest who abused up to 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin, “even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church.”

“The news of his role in Munich and what happened in Wisconsin comes from that time before Pope Benedict seemed truly to understand the magnitude of what is at stake,” Bosco said. “Pope Benedict has demonstrated a real understanding of the nature and scope of the sexual-abuse crisis. He came to that too slowly, but once he grasped the horror of the scandal, he acted with diligence.”

The Rev. David Godleski, S.J., who works for Campus Ministry and is the acting rector for the Loyola Jesuit Community, said “most Catholics are still faithful. There is still a sense of respect for the priesthood.”

But, he added, “I think that it has tarnished the reputation of the priesthood … It’s a very sad situation and very painful for the victims.”

“I certainly think it’s adversely affected the moral credibility of the Church,” Godleski said.

On the other hand, Sean Salai, S.J., who is studying at Loyola to become a priest, had a slightly different view.

“If the Church had really lost all of its moral authority, none of these things would be happening,” Salai said, referring to people continuing to support the Church and attend Mass. “What’s clear, however, is that the Church is suffering deeply right now from the public exposure of some unspeakably evil things.”

The Rev. David Stagaman, S.J., a professor of theology at Loyola, suspects that the U.S. has probably experienced the worst of the abuse scandal already and is now ready to move forward, but Stagaman warns, “It’d be foolish for me to say it will never happen again.”

He has taken issue with the way that some bishops reacted to news of abuse in their parishes.

“I think it’s deplorable that some bishops thought they could hide it,” Stagaman said. “It’s been a tragedy for the Church.”

“It has led to a general loss of confidence in the leadership of the Church,” Stagaman said.

He has been encouraged to see that people in his parish, Saint Issac Jogues in Niles, Ill., understand that a minority of priests were involved in the abuse.

Stagaman said he has also been bothered by the lack of hard evidence from people accusing the pope of having a direct hand in covering up some of the abuse cases.

Stagaman does, however, acknowledge that serious mistakes were made.

“There are significant steps being taken to prevent this from happening again,” Stagaman said. “I think there should be a more forthright statement that the priests have done terribly wrong things and a lot of people in the Church have not dealt with it.”

Both Bosco and Jacobson dismiss recent accusations made by some that the Church has a homosexuality problem that has caused the abuse.

“First of all, it is bad science,” Bosco said. “It sounds like the accusations are made to deflect moral responsibility from Vatican Church officials. We do a disservice to the Church and to one another if we scapegoat homosexuals.”

“There’s not a Catholic in the world who doesn’t hang their head low with the history of abuse.” Jacobson said. “It’s an issue that’s not going away. We have to be advocates for those who are abused or scapegoated.”

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