Catholics Redefine ‘Zero Tolerance’

Eleven years ago, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted “zero tolerance” guidelines for dealing with sexually abusive clergy members. The guidelines were issued to help restore faith in the Church’s tattered image.

Many priests and their protectors and enablers seem not to have gotten the memo. The Chicago Tribune examines a few local cases of priests who, despite a record of inappropriate touching and worse, never came close to being disciplined, much less terminated, much less turned over to the police. Here is the opening section of the article:

When Will County sheriff’s deputies found the Rev. William Virtue sneaking into a private quarry in 1986, police records state that the Roman Catholic priest had blankets, two six packs of beer and a 10-year-old boy with him. He fled on foot when officers arrived, leaving the child behind.

Dammit, why couldn’t the Rev. Virtue’s first name have been Richard? Dick Virtue would have been perfect.

Authorities took Virtue into custody after he returned to his car but later released him without charges because the boy’s mother said she had given her son permission to go swimming with the priest. Still, a deputy forwarded the report to Joliet Diocese officials who put it into Virtue’s personnel file — which already contained several accusations involving inappropriate behavior with underage boys.

catholic church sexual abuse scandal women's ordination priesthood hypocrisy confession cartoon by mike peters dayton daily news

The arrest report would remain tucked away for 20 years as Virtue continued to have contact with youths, and even after a seemingly repentant Joliet Diocese pledged in 2002 to improve its handling of sex abuse cases and held up guidelines approved by American bishops as proof of its commitment to transparency and victims’ needs.

Virtue’s personnel file, which contains 500 pages of letters, memos and reports, reflects the struggles the church faced since its public vow to better protect children after a bruising, national sex abuse scandal. Records obtained by the Tribune reveal several instances in which the diocese’s handling of abuse allegations contradicted those promises, adding to concerns about the overall efficacy of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that U.S. bishops signed amid fanfare.

There can be little doubt that this story has repeated itself, and is repeating itself today, all over the Catholic world. See also here, and here, and here.

The wonderful part for the abusers is not only that they keep their jobs and keep getting paid (essentially by the very parishioners whose children they assault with their saintly cocks). It is not even that they keep getting access to molestable boys and girls, though I’m sure the padres appreciate that very much. No: the sweetest advantage of being a Christian abuser is that you get to enjoy the fruits of your redemptive faith, which holds that you will sit at the feet of the Heavenly Father for eternity if only you mutter a few apologetic prayers about your child-fucking ways.

Say “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned”… and before too long, your slate is wiped clean.

The Catholic doctrine of forgiveness, as warm and fuzzy as that word sounds, is the very article of faith that makes unending child abuse possible. If there’s no misdeed that can’t be erased by prayerfully showing penitence to Jesus, who already blotted away your sins by dying for them, then no heavenly consequences will likely ensue. Real contrition and self-improvement are, evidently, for suckers.

[cartoon via Wisdom Quarterly]