How Iowa Priests Are Reacting To Catholic Church Abuse

At most services, Father P.J. McManus moves quickly through the announcements — typically covering such things as the coming Christ the King Church sweet corn festival, the signup for the fall retreat, or a new book study group that soon will begin.

This past weekend, however, the announcements took a very different theme and tone.

Father P.J. began by mentioning he was at a Des Moines Hy-Vee on Wednesday, shopping for a dinner he was hosting that evening for leaders of the youth group. He was not wearing his Roman collar at the store, and a parishioner he encountered asked about that unusual occurrence.

McManus told the audience he did not wear his collar because of the news out of Pennsylvania the day before — news about another sickening scandal within the Catholic church.

Clearly agitated and with his voice rising, Father P.J. conveyed his personal sense of betrayal by the shocking events that had been documented by the grand jury in Pennsylvania. There was evidence that 300 priests had sexually abused 1,000 children over seven decades while church leaders looked the other way.

Father P.J.’s message was clear: It is up to the leaders of the Catholic church to hold the priests and bishops accountable for violating the trust of church members like those in front of him. And it is up to members to ensure that their priests and bishops do this, he told them.

The scandal is not a result of Catholic church’s demands for celibacy by its priests, McManus said. The scandal is a direct result of priests and bishops abusing their authority over the children, he said.

When Father P.J. concluded, scattered applause began in the back of Christ the King and grew louder as it moved toward the altar.

My friend Chuck Offenburger said his parish priest in Perry was similarly blunt on Sunday. Father Chris Reising told parishioners at St. Patrick’s Church, “God forbid that anything like that would happen here. But if it did, don’t call the bishop. Call the police.”

It doesn’t do any good to focus on the vast number of “good priests” when the church hierarchy in parts of the United States either directly or indirectly allows abusers to continue their horrible deeds.

The New York Post called the church’s response to the Pennsylvania grand jury “heavily lawyered blabber” that sounded more like a corporation worrying about its profits and reputation rather than the successors of Jesus and the apostles worrying about their flocks.

The ultimate responsibility for cleaning up this mess rests with the Vatican. Pope Francis’ legacy will be determined, in large part, by how he deals with this scandal.

We don’t need more expressions of sorrow from the bishops. Church leaders need to see this from the perspective of families and believers and recognize it for what it is — a massive crime wave that has been deliberately covered up and that is tearing away at the fabric of the church.

There need to be resignations and removal of lawbreaking priests and bishops who have averted their eyes from what was occurring or who were content to move lawbreakers to other parishes where unsuspecting families provided a fresh supply of children for abusers.

The grand jury’s findings are lurid, and horrific.

A Pennsylvania priest raped a girl and impregnated her, then arranged for an abortion. The bishop of Scranton wrote, “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.”

But the letter went to the priest, not to the girl.

The bishop of Erie wrote to a priest who admitted assaulting a dozen boys. The bishop thanked the priest for “all you have done for God’s people. The Lord, who sees in private, will reward.”

A group of priests in Pittsburgh created their own child pornography ring and shared nude photographs of altar boys they had violated.

Another priest finally resigned after years of abuse complaints. He was given a letter of reference for his next job — at Walt Disney World.

Chad Pecknold, a professor at Catholic University of America, explained to reporters what is different about this church scandal: “Previously, everyone understood that abuse was rampant and that the church worked hard to try to resolve the problem. What was not clear before, and is clear now, is how many bishops worked just as hard to cover things up.”

Most of the crimes occurred beyond the statute of limitations, making criminal charges impossible now. Many of the priests are now deceased.

But some of those involved are still active in the church, including Archbishop Donald Wuerl, a member of the College of Cardinals, who heads the Washington, D.C., archdiocese. He was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006, a time period covered by the grand jury report.

The grand jury said: “We can say that despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability. Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing, they hid it all.

“For decades, monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, have mostly been protected. Many, including some named in this report, have been promoted. Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic church sex scandal.”

Father P.J. is correct. We all must hold priests and bishops accountable for this nightmare.


by Randy Evans
Posted 8/22/18

7 Comments on "How Iowa Priests Are Reacting To Catholic Church Abuse"

  • Pardon me if I remain skeptical about the priests who appear to be appropriately sickened by the latest news. I’m having a deja vu experience…

  • The “responses” remind me of the “thoughts and prayers” after another mass shooting. And the victims of this church-sanctioned-by-turning-a-blind-eye pedophilia suffer for years, perahps the rest of their lives.
    And I completely agree; how Pope Fancis handles this crisis will determine, in the main, his legacy in the pantheon of Popes and their influence on the Roman Catholic Church.

  • I left the Catholic Church years ago, so I’m an outsider now. But I spent years as a Catholic who went to Mass every Sunday and to Catechism every Saturday.

    I do believe there is a connection, not “THE cause” but a connection, between the Church’s requirements for celibate male priesthood and the sexual abuse problems within the Church. Also connected is the role of women within the Church. Others of course are free to disagree. My view is based on my experience and the experience of some other Catholics with whom I have talked.

  • The sad reactions are getting old. Change the statute of limitations for the rape of children in criminal and civil court; arrest, prosecute and convict those who committed and covered up the crimes; quit sending offending priests to poor nations in Latin America and Africa. Then I might be interested in how bad these priests and Catholics feel. Until then, it’s all just blah, blah, blah.

  • round two of comments I wrote earlier.Not sure if got posted… Is the religon beat boring ?Never easy on this one. Good guys vs.bad guys….Just leave go start your own brand. crooks and straights every where..I do not like put downers or is just too short.Or stop going to church. You are covered by Gods love every where even in or out of church/And there are bad apples in every church too.

  • Any chance that Iowa’s AG will pursue an investigation in light of what was revealed in Pennsylvania, as Missouri is now doing? I hope, as a lapsed Catholic myself, that Miller’s background as a Catholic would lead him to be as outraged as my family and I are – and as moved to take action. While the three dioceses in Iowa have taken various action – including the Diocese of Davenport going bankrupt following payments to victims – I would like to see a full-scale investigation in *every* state. The troubling patterns brought to light by the Spotlight investigation, Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, The Keepers documentary, and the allegations by Viganò, speak to massive corruption in the entire U.S. Catholic hierarchy that need further investigation.

  • In most of the abuse cases reported by the Pennsylvania grand jury the statute of limitations has expired. Why do we accept that as an excuse for the church not making restitution? If their remorse is so sincere, let them pay the victims even when the law can no longer require it!

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