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FATHERS AND SINS : An Uneasy Coalition of Activists and Clerics Is Forcing the Catholic Hierarchy to Confront the Problem of Sexually Abusive Priests

June 13, 1993|JASON BERRY | Jason Berry is a New Orleans - based journalist and the author of "Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children . "

Capponi's brief argued that Wuerl erred procedurally, citing the wrong canon in suspending the priest. Capponi also said that his client refused to discuss sexual fantasies in the St. Luke evaluation, citing priestly ethics. He wrote: "St. Luke Institute, a clinic . . . based on a mixed doctrine of Freudian pansexualism and behaviorism, is surely not a suitable institution (for) a Catholic priest."

The Signatura accepted Capponi's position, and in a striking rebuke to Wuerl, ordered him to reinstate the priest--who is still awaiting trial. Wuerl refused and petitioned for a new hearing.

The decision jolted bishops trying to persuade the Pope to let them laicize abusers, prompting letters and calls of support to St. Luke from U.S. cardinals and bishops. But St. Luke is just one buffer between a calcified hierarchy and Catholics who see a celibate system in decay.

The central problem is how to rejuvenate the priesthood, how to attract healthy people who have the fire of faith and desire to serve the church, including the married men and women whose priestly ambitions are blunted by the celibacy requirement. The governing system has failed to uphold family values because it has historically considered wives and children to be an impediment to the all-male power structure.

Connors' sinuous path between victims and the hierarchy has given bishops an opportunity to come clean. Like a chorus in a Greek tragedy, the victims are demanding moral decency--and accountability--from leaders robed in shame. If the U.S. bishops remain stalled in the politics of inertia, the protest tactics are bound to escalate--to Rome.

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