Every Catholic is saddened and sickened that Father Cornelius Ryan, pastor at St. Joseph Parish-Hessen Cassel, has admitted to sexually abusing a minor 20 years ago in Uganda and has been removed from the ministry.
It has been heartbreaking the last 10 years as stories of sexual abuse by our beloved priests worldwide are becoming known to us all. In our hearts we are outraged. But are we being completely fair in our condemnation of our bishops of 20 years ago?
Mental health experts back then believed that treatment and rehabilitation of child sex offenders was possible. Many bishops relied upon these experts. Were we not all blind to child sexual abuse 20-30 years ago? As a society only now are we opening our eyes to the problem.
The Catholic Church and the Penn State scandals have awakened us all. Yet as as society we have not acknowledged another sexual taboo — incest. St. Paul had to tackle it in the Bible. The Roman society had a problem with it. We like to believe it rarely exists. But what else could priests, ministers, school teachers, coaches and others who sexually abuse children have in common?
The Catholic Church teaches the “perfect will” of God about sexual matters much to the dissatisfaction of the worldly minded. So when a priest falls from grace, it makes the headlines.
Catholic priests are mortal men entrusted with a divine mission. We need to remember that when a priest commits the terrible sin of child sexual abuse it dishonors but does not discredit the Body of Christ, the Catholic Church.
Christ is the infallible head of his church. The standards of sexual conduct taught by Christ through the successors of Peter, the popes and bishops are tough. They are in the Bible if you care to read about them.