Dumping Ground

In 1985, the CDF head took three years to respond to an attempt to bounce a bondage-oriented priest-predator out of the clergy. Another predictable long thread on dotCommonweal over it. The pope just needs to say something believably truthful and do something administratively to begin to end the cover-ups. And get his lieutenants to hush up.

The pope’s defenders are right: Cardinal Ratzinger ran with the pack before his “conversion.” I don’t condemn him any more for it that I would other bishops who diddled while predators conned their way out of trouble. It’s certainly not saintly behavior, and it doesn’t mark him as a exceptional Christian. But if there were more powerful figures in the Church than the head of the CDF, I can’t imagine who they might be. But I’ll take the statement as it is that Cardinal Ratzinger was without power or recourse in the face of more powerful churchmen.

I didn’t see Rita Ferrone’s quote on that thread before, but I’ll repeat it here:

I find it unsatisfactory, as a lay person, that the lay state should be considered a kind of “dumping ground” for priest-criminals — we ALL ought to be held to the standards of Christ, by our baptism. But that’s another discussion.

I would like to explore that other discussion. But I have a suggestion for a “dumping ground.”

One additional reform to reinstate that would be good would be the order of penitents. I agree with Rita. Restoration to the lay state is too good for priest-predators and cooperating bishops. Off to a monastery (the traditional notion of a penitentiary) unless, of course, prison is in the picture.

And if the priest or bishop refuses, then excommunication is a viable option. No subtraction of Holy Orders to arrive back at square one, as it were. Shift the predators and enablers into a different order, proceed from there.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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6 Responses to Dumping Ground

  1. Sam Schmitt says:

    I found the press story confusing and possibly misleading (as usual).

    It implies that if Rome fails to defrock someone, they’re in effect saying that it’s OK if he continue in ministry while we consider the case. The priest had already been taken out of ministry, so how would laicizing him have stopped the abuse? In fact, after he was laicized in 1987, he went on to commit more abuse in the 1990s before he was convicted in 2004.

  2. Jimmy Mac says:

    Laicization should not be seen as “dumping” the miscreant. Another term needs to be developed and used.

    There should be a clear understanding associated with the term used that this person is not suitable to be a priest or given access to impressionable, vulnerable children in an atmosphere that encourages the falsity of a priest being somehow worthy of adulation on the face of things.

    And don’t give me this blarney about ontology!

  3. Liam says:

    Btw, what monasteries would volunteer to be a dumping ground for clerical penitents? Who would pay their board and medical expenses? Lots of practical issues to think through (not that I disagree with the general idea, but details will inform how to develop it properly).

  4. Todd says:

    Well, there are all those modern traditional orders.

    Seriously, a penitent should be pulling his or her weight in a such a monastery. It’s not like people just go there to loaf.

  5. Wolf Paul says:

    Todd, came to your website via Alan Creech’s site. I am a bit surprised by the stance you are taking in this post, when it has been repeatedly stated that this priest (whom Ratzinger was not quick to laicize) had already been removed from ministry; his request to be laicized had no immediate connection with his abus. So how is this Ratzinger dragging his feet (especially as this was at a time when dealing with abusers was not the CDF’s brief)? Not only does this notion that abusers should be laicized reflect poorly on the lay state as one commenter here has pointed out; it also smacks of the bishop trying to wash his hands of the priest. Because while a priest and incardinated in the bishop’s diocese he has at least some control over him, and thus responsibility; once he gets him laicized, he can wash his hands of him. I don’t think Ratzinger moving slow on these things reflects poorly on him, except in a PR sense because the press is screaming for a “defrocking”.

  6. Todd says:

    Good points. The thing that struck me about the case of the Wisconsin priest is that the archbishop never got a response from Rome, but the protesting priest did.

    That might be a matter of the CDF prioritizing just procedures for the ousting of a priest. I can understand it’s a matter of responsibilities, but it still looks bad in the eyes of some. Shouldn’t protecting children be a priority? And compared to the particulars of the Vatican, we can’t deny it. But still, Rome has to be organized in some way.

    I think dropping a guy from Holy Orders is a little more serious than you suggest. True, a predator will abuse regardless of state in life or standing in the Church. But we’ve all heard of clergy who have moved on and in grooming potential victims and their loved ones, have used their “good standing” as a wedge to get “in.” There was the case of that Australian priest who faked a terminal illness to bilk his parishioners out of money, and later popped up 3,000 miles away.

    That said, I do have a suspicion about the emphasis on the punitive in our culture. Too much focus on punishment; not enough on making amends. Clearly, ordination is vitally important to every priest I’ve ever known. Taking away a priest’s faculties and returning him to the lay state is hurting the abuser in the way closest to his heart.

    However, it’s also my opinion that addicts need to hit bottom before they will get serious about recovery. If Rome were more serious about bouncing predator priests from Holy Orders, maybe the road to recovery would be fast-tracked.

    There’s probably no single answer that works for every abuser.

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