Tags: 'Stop | Playing | Defense | ' | Priests' | Group | Urges

'Stop Playing Defense,' Priests' Group Urges Catholics

Friday, 03 May 2002 12:00 AM

"Yes, we know, there are a few sinful priests out there who have sexually abused children," says Anthony DeStefano, executive director of Priests for Life, a national organization with more than 150,000 members, in a commentary that is receiving much attention.

"Yes, we know, there are some bishops who have attempted to keep the matter quiet and deal with the problem internally ..." he says.

"But for goodness sake, enough with the Mea Culpas," said DeStefano, a layman.

Since the 1960s, U.S. society has been plagued with problems stemming from sexual promiscuity and deviance, DeStefano argues.

"Is it really any surprise that the clergy has been affected, at least to some extent, by the same disease that is infecting the rest of the culture?" he asks.

While DeStefano doesn't seek to play down priests' "despicable crimes," he does suggest that the cries for justice emanating from the church bashers in the media are a sham.

Sentencing guilty priests to long jail terms won't appease the Vatican's critics, DeStefano said. "Nothing is going to mollify the hatred of those who are wielding their axes," he said.

Indeed, the real motivation behind the attacks is to discredit the church so that the politically conservative influence it exerts in matters such as abortion, pornography and homosexual advocacy is minimized, DeStefano added.

If priests and bishops protest against the "one-sided treatment" they are receiving, they run the risk of appearing insensitive to the victims of sex abuse, he said. But for the rest of the faithful, "it's time we quit turning the other cheek."

Patrick Scully, a spokesman for the New York-based Catholic League, took exception to the characterization that all Catholic groups were "turning the other cheek."

"You have to make the distinction between the straight hard news reporting of the story, which has been fair, in our view, and the columnists and editorial cartoonists, who have been over the top and out of line," Scully said.

The Catholic League has been on the offensive when it comes to monitoring editorial bias, he said. The group criticized Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham's announcement that she would convene a special investigation into sexual abuse by priests.

The League also took a stand against dissident groups who it said were using the scandals as an opportunity to push their agenda through the church.

"I would just say the Catholic League is not going to defend the indefensible," Scully said. "We will defend the church and have defended the church against people who want to use this as a club to beat the church."

He said, however, that the scandals seemed to be eroding the church's moral influence. The New York Legislature recently passed the Women's Health Bill, which mandated that Catholic institutions provide contraceptives, in violation of church teaching. Massachusetts recently passed similar laws, which the church objected to.

"Prior to the scandals in both states, the Catholic Church was able to say, 'Hold on, you can't make us violate the tenets of our beliefs.' Now since the scandal, they went ahead and did it," Scully said.

"Those that want to push their agenda are emboldened," he added.

Jerry Horn, communications director for Priests for Life, said newspapers and readers across the country are showing great interest in DeStefano's commentary, especially after the arrest Thursday of Fr. Paul Shanley, an accused pedophile priest at the center of a sex abuse scandal in Boston.

Shanley, who allegedly advocated sex between men and boys, is charged with three counts of rape of a child. His arrest brings further focus on the role of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who supported Shanley even though he knew the priest was accused of sexually abusing children.

"In a bad situation like this ... we must continue forward," Horn said. "Good things will come from this."

He said he believed the church's authority on moral issues would ultimately survive.

"I would never justify the things that a few have done poorly, but the things that the church has done to issue forth the culture of life, the good that the Catholic community worldwide have done, will not be hindered," he said.

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Yes, we know, there are a few sinful priests out there who have sexually abused children, says Anthony DeStefano, executive director of Priests for Life, a national organization with more than 150,000 members, in a commentary that is receiving much attention. Yes, we...
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2002-00-03
Friday, 03 May 2002 12:00 AM
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