Here’s a story that shows us where “zero tolerance” takes us. Now, I know I am a proponent of ZT, but only when the charges have been proven and punishment is being meted out. I don’t think a proven child molester should be allowed in ministry. But this case is different.
The director of young adult ministry in the Diocese of Worcester was fired recently. (Another article with more details is here.) The reason: The mother of a woman alleged that the lay minister, Solomon Toledo, 49, made sexual advances to her then-16-year-old daughter more than 25 years ago when Toledo was a 22-year-old youth minister. In fact, Toledo admits that he kissed the girl once and then apologized. Was it a dumb thing to do? Yes. Should he have been fired at the time? I think so. Was it a crime? No. Does it disqualify him from any ministry ever again? It certainly shouldn’t.
But that seems to be the position of the Diocese of Worcester, Mass. Toledo was fired on October 16 without being told what allegation had been made or who made it. When he asked for an investigation to clear his name, the diocesan chancellor, Msgr. Thomas Sullivan, refused, saying “99 percent of all allegations are true.” Aside some the fact that he is flat-wrong, the monsignor’s comments how a distinct lack of charity and justice. To him, Toledo was guilty. Period. Not even until proven innocent, because he didn’t want the proof.
When he pressed, Toledo was told by the monsignor that he didn’t know what the details of the allegation were and that he was just following up with what he got from the Archdiocese of Portland, to which the mother had complained. (By the way, the woman’s daughter has not filed any complaint.) Toledo eventually got the information from the police in one of the town’s where he worked in 1978. The police aren’t filing charges.
Look, Toledo may or may not be telling the truth, but that’s not my point. The point is that the Diocese of Worcester has decided that truth and justice are not their concern, only following policies and regulations. And it’s the past actions of bishops that have brought us here.
Normally, you would rely on the judgment and discretion of Church officials to determine whether Toledo poses a current threat or whether he had done something criminal or gravely sinful 25 years ago. But because that trust and judgment and discretion was abused to harbor pervert priests for decades, we have now shifted wholly in the opposite direction to where they refuse to use it—or perhaps they can’t use it. And thus the Church—which is about justice and mercy and truth—can’t be bothered to pursue it.
After all, now that the Church’s primary job is the protection of children, as some bishops have said, as opposed to the salvation of souls and the spreading of the Gospel, this must be the natural result.