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"Double Standard" Update

Coddling the Guilty, Punishing the Innocent

by Christopher A. Ferrara

A recent article in Civilta Cattolica, a journal whose articles are reviewed and approved by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Sodano, illustrates quite well a basic problem contributing to the current crisis in the Church: for the past forty years those who preach error or commit scandal have been coddled, while only those who have opposed the ruinous changes in the Church have been condemned and harshly punished.

Writing on the question of sexual predation by priests, Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a Vatican City appeals court judge, asserts: "If a bishop or a religious superior arrives at the moral certainty that an accusation is well-founded, he must quickly intervene to protect the community from other scandals and damage."

So far so good. But what does Father Ghirlanda recommend be done with, say, a homosexual molester of altar boys? The article states that the bishop can use a "judicial or administrative process to impose penalties, as spelled out under canon law - but things should reach that point only if ‘fraternal correction’ and rebukes don't reform the offender and repair the scandal." Fraternal correction of a child-molester? Tell him not to do it again? And only if he does it again, impose penalties?

Is this for real? Is this what Cardinal Sodano thinks appropriate?

But it gets even worse, dear reader. As noted by Catholic News Service (May 16, 2002), in the same article Father Ghirlando says that "In the case of a priest who has sexually abused in the past but who is reassigned to a parish after psychological therapy, the bishop should not inform the new parishioners of the past abuse," because this would "violate the priest's ‘good reputation’ and completely delegitimize him in the eyes of parishioners. If the bishop thinks he could commit another such crime, it would be better not to reassign him to a parish, he said."

It would be better not to reassign a child-molester to another parish - but only if the bishop thinks he could molest again? And what is this about "psychological therapy"? Does Father Ghirlando seriously propose that child-molesters can be returned to parish environments after "therapy" by lay psychiatrists? Isn’t that the very defense Cardinal Law has offered for his coddling and reassignment of monsters like Shanley and Geoghan?

CWN notes that Father Ghirlanda "wrote extensively about the risk of false accusations against priests, either by lying individuals or in ‘defamation campaigns’ by the mass media, and the damage that can be done if such accusations are made public." All well and good. A priest should be protected from false allegations by his bishop, from unjustified public disgrace, from defamation campaigns.

But why is there such solicitude for the reputations of priests accused of child molestation, and so little for the reputations of priests like Father Nicholas Gruner, who are punished for doing nothing more then upholding Catholic orthodoxy?

Consider the recent example of the renowned Father Joseph Fessio, who was ordered to abandon his academic apostolate at a conservative Catholic college in San Francisco and become a hospital chaplain some 500 miles away. This punishment was administered by Fessio’s so-called Jesuit "superior," Father Thomas Smolich. As noted by conservative Catholic columnist George Neumayr (Internet column of April 30, 2002): "Fr. Tony Mariano, a registered sex offender, lives at Smolich's ‘residence near Santa Clara University,’ the Los Angeles Times reported last month. Mariano had been nabbed for a sex offense after he ‘arranged to meet two teenagers by posing as a 25-year-old woman on an Internet chat room. He wore lipstick and rouge when he met the boys.’"

When good and faithful priests like Father Gruner are treated with as much compassion, restraint and respect as sexual deviants and professional dissenters, then we will know that perhaps the crisis in the Church is beginning to turn for the better. Until then, however, the invidious double standard of justice in the Church will continue to be one of the great symptoms of current unprecedented crisis of faith and morals - the very crisis no doubt predicted in the Third Secret of Fatima.