Friday, July 16, 2004

Catholic clergy must clear own eyes

Your voice: Gerard J. Ahrens

With all due respect to "Your voice" columnist Rev. Larry Gearhart ("Sin is sin, regardless of conscience," July 11), may I suggest that this is not the time for the Catholic Church to be resorting to such extreme punitive measures as denial of communion to pro-choice politicians? Though I may lose some dear friends in the pro-life movement, I cannot agree with such a glaring violation of Jesus' admonition to remove the log from one's own eye before the splinter from another's.

As difficult as it is to state this publicly, at age 12 I was sexually abused by a Catholic priest. As thousands of others did, I blamed it on my own naivete, considered it an aberration and moved on with my life. However, the recent shocking revelations of the extent of this "aberration" and its cover-up has rocked my faith to its core. Until the media's expose of this scandal, virtually all of these abusers were permitted by bishops to continue in ministry - thus often facilitating their continued molestation of children - and even today many still receive church financial support.

Nevertheless, to this date, as the bishops now consider denial of communion to some of their fellow Catholics in spite of manifest evidence of malfeasance, though some have resigned or retired under pressure, not one bishop has been canonically removed from episcopal office in this scandal. Instead, they have continued not only to receive communion, but to consecrate communion, to forgive sins, to ordain priests, and to stand before the entire Catholic community as alter Christus - another Christ! How coincidental it is that these very bishops, who dared not even suggest denial of communion in all the 41 years since Roe vs. Wade, should consider it now that the spotlight of moral impropriety has fallen upon themselves.

As a victim of this scandal, holding on to one's faith becomes increasingly difficult, but nothing makes it harder than the appearance of gross hypocrisy. My belief in the sanctity of human life will never waver, but I can see only hypocrisy in church leaders, scandalized themselves by the serial sexual abuse of children, self-righteously denying fellow Catholics the body and blood of Christ, who proclaimed in all three synoptic Gospels:

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

Gerard J. Ahrens of Westwood has been a Catholic school teacher for 33 years.

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