A fund for laicized priests

A fund for laicized priests

A group of priests of the Manchester, New Hampshire, diocese are setting up a fund to help sick and retired priests in financial need, including some who are laicized. And by laicized, the general understanding is that it means those removed from ministry with credible accusations of sex abuse or admissions of same.  The group, calling itself the Organization of Concerned Priests, has recently asked each priest of the diocese to pony up $1,000 to the fund. That’s a lot of moola for most priests.

One of the priests behind the effort says it’s meant to help sick and disabled laicized priests who have been cut off from their pensions or whose needs exceed their $1,300 per month. There are some conflicting thoughts here. On the one hand, you have the Gospel message of forgiveness and a command to care for the sick and the poor. On the other hand, this looks like the same impulse to excuse monstrous behavior that got us into this mess.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure that victims’ groups are on the same wavelength.

“I have no problem with them reaching out to brother priests, provided they reach out to survivors as well,” said Carolyn Disco, an advocate for survivors of clergy abuse.

“To some victims, your efforts will no doubt feel very hurtful,” said Ann Hagan Webb in a letter to Griffin on Tuesday. “The impression some will have is that those who are raped get token verbal support, while those who raped get actual, tangible support.”

Must every action by Catholics also include obeisance to victims? It’s not like the Church hasn’t done anything over the past couple of years. Most dioceses now have special offices and offer counseling and therapy. Plus there’s the billion dollars in settlements.

It’s also important to keep in mind that this is a private effort. These are priests doing this on their own initiative, not sponsored by the Church. The priests organizing this effort are neither abusers nor, as far as we know, those who enabled such abuse by covering up. So why is their responsibility any greater than the rest of us?

I agree that a fund to pay for the upkeep and assistance of laicized abusers is at the least incredibly tone deaf and if were a victim or the parent of one I would be very angry. But is the effort wrong?

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli

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