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Victims Pay the Ultimate Costs of Sexual Abuse

April 05, 2002

Re "Mahony Says Victims' Requests Led to Secrecy," April 3: Cardinal Roger Mahony said that the current sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church is "one of the most difficult things" he has been through. I do not feel his pain. Dealing with sexual abuse by a priest or other authority figure is by far more grueling than trying to handle a political crisis. After all, Mahony receives a salary and (eventually) a pension for guiding his business through this storm. We victims of clergy abuse have only memories. And these don't pay the bills.

Jeff Miller

New York City

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Re Steve Lopez's column, "Victims Crushed in a Priestly Silence," April 3: Will someone from the Catholic Church please explain why John Lenihan was not sent to prison for his very serious crime of molesting a 14-year-old and subsequently causing her to become pregnant? Is the church above the law? This whole case in itself is so shocking as to be incomprehensible. And apparently this priest was simply transferred to another church where he continued committing the same crimes. It would seem the time has come for this man to serve time.

Virginia Watkins

San Juan Capistrano

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Re "'Lock 'Em Up' Isn't Enough," Commentary, April 1: I couldn't believe that Jay Adams would still be singing that same old song: treatment, not punishment, for sex offenders. After all, isn't the mess the Catholic Church is in today exactly because some shrinks convinced the church that sex offenders could be cured? How many secular sex offenders have gone on to re-offend and even kill innocent children?

Adams tells us there are 60,000 sex offenders on parole or in prison in California alone. (Kind of lessens the impact of 55 offending priests in the entire U.S., doesn't it?) He tells us this to show how expensive it is to commit them. As the mother of a child who was victimized at 6 years of age, I'd say it's worth it to keep these creeps away from women and children.

Agnes Peterson

Malibu

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As a Catholic woman, I was excited when I read "A Cloud of Sexism Over the Church" (Commentary, March 29). Thank you, professor Robert McElvaine, for your insightful article. I believe that fear has driven the leaders of my church to ignore the women, and celibacy is very much a part of that fear.

Women are the very heart of the church, holding responsible positions and doing God's work. We are coming in the back door, so to speak, as wives of ordained deacons. I am one of those women and have seen a gradual acceptance of deacon couples in ministry. It seems a shame that I was never ordained, having taken all the formation training with my husband. In my heart I am ordained: "The two shall be one."

I hope one day to see optional celibacy and the ordination of women. To paraphrase McElvaine: He and she will rise.

Maureen Murphy Conrey

Duarte

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