As a native Parkite, and one who hopes to return one day to our beautiful mountain town, I continue to follow news, articles, and events in Park City when the time allows. I was dismayed recently to find the article entitled, “Park City Priest Slams Catholic Church.” The editorial choice for the title of the article was very poor. Fr. Bussen’s comments do not “slam” the Catholic Church, and the title is an insincere attempt to perpetuate the false images of the Roman Catholic Church as some international institution of organized sexual immorality and crime (as Christopher Hitchens has recently suggested).
Admittedly, the Catholic Church has faced many difficulties in recent times. Most shameful of these are the recurring revelations of sexual abuse of both boys and girls by a minority of Catholic clergymen along with their accomplice and enabling bishops, who for too many years had turned a blind eye to the crimes, rather than dismissing pedophile priests from their ministry and convicting them to prison. What the US Catholic Church went through in 2002 beginning with the revelations of sexual abuse in Boston has now occurred in European countries, and has provided much fodder for the international press, such as the New York Times, which is often all too eager to portray that Catholic Church as an outdated, unprogressive, morally hypocritical and power-driven organization.
Facts, however, cannot be changed. The sexual abuse of minors is not a “Catholic” phenomenon, and especially not a result of the priestly requirement of celibacy for Latin-rite Catholic priests. It is a global scourge affecting all sectors of society, socio-economic classes, religious denominations and races. It is estimated that as many as thirty nine million Americans are victims of childhood sexual abuse, and that upwards of sixty percent of perpetrators are relatives. Only about two percent of perpetrators of sexual abuse are identified as Catholic priests, and most of these cases occurred between thirty and fifty years ago, a time of poor seminary training and massive changes within the Church. According to the 2009 United States Catholic bishops’ audit, there were six cases of priestly abuse within the nearly 65,000,000 member U.S. Catholic Church. The scourge of sexual abuse is a societal phenomenon, the causes of which can be attributed to a complex variety of factors ranging from the prevalence of pornography and sexually promiscuous materials in the media, to the breakdown of the nuclear family. In reality, the Catholic Church today is one of the safest environments for a child today.
The scandal of sexual abuse among Catholic clergy is rightly just that—a scandal. People expect holy and virtuous behavior on the part of the leaders of a Church. While a minority of priests and bishops have committed sins that cry out to heaven by perpetrating crimes and covering them up, the vast majority of leaders of the Catholic Church, beginning with Pope Benedict XVI, have exhibited the prudence and justice needed to purge the Church of pedophile priests. Pope Benedict, since the 1980’s, has shown a resolved commitment in the Church to root out pedophile priests—through the expansion of the process of applying canonical penalties, to priestly dismissals and harsh words, such as those to the Irish bishops in a March 20th letter: “You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals.”
Blaming the pope for covering up abuse without checking the facts, and setting up a “pope” versus “local church” dichotomy that has been enhanced through the recent Park Record article, does not help an honest reader come to a reasonably informed decision, but seeks to manipulate her into accepting a pre-conceived and false opinion. Such journalism is repugnant, dishonest, and simply unfair.