Sin and misconduct

Sin and misconduct

Amy Welborn posts links to a series of articles out of Seattle regarding a Jesuit, Fr. Anton Harris, accused of sexually harassing a seminarian in the mid-90s.From one article:

“Jesuit Father Anton T. Harris resigned Oct. 12 as Seattle University’s vice president for mission and ministry after local news media reported that he was accused of sexually harassing a 25-year-old Jesuit seminarian in the mid-1990s.”

Amy says that this relates to an older case of 3 Jesuits from a Catholic high school in San Francisco accused of sexually harassing a student then. This Jesuit was one of them. In all the articles and all the quotes from spokesmen from the schools and the Jesuits, we hear that this wasn’t criminal and it wasn’t harassment because the priest had no authority over the seminarian and that there was no sexual activity. Apparently Harris sent some sexually suggestive greeting cards to the man, an act that Seattle University called “old news” and that the superior of the Jesuits’ Oregon province called “simply a matter of poor judgment or bad taste,” while adding that Harris is “an exemplary Jesuit.”

In all of this, not one person connected to the school or order brings up the fact that while this behavior might have been criminal or civilly actionable, if true, it was certainly sinful. Have we set out standards according to the world or according to the Gospel?

Commit a crime and go to jail for some years. Commit a mortal sin and go to hell for eternity. Shouldn’t we adjust our perspective?

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  • “Commit a mortal sin and go to hell for eternity.”
    The usual Catholic response used to be: Commit a mortal sin, repent, go to confession, make satisfaction, then go and sin no more.”  Of course the “sin no more” part was the hardest, an Catholics of the inferior sort used to have to just keep on going to confession.  What a scandal!  Cornelius Jansens wouldn’t (and didn’t) approve.
    How times have changed!  It seems we have somehow been stampeded into making two very questionable assumptions: (1) All priests should be forever sinless (like Peter, for instance, who denied Him thrice), and (2) anyone (especially a priest) guilty of a sin against the sixth or ninth commandment is irreformable (like the Magdalene or Augustine) and should be thrown to the wolves (like the woman taken in adultery or the woman at the well).  This sort of thinking has more to do with cult of the Temple of Vesta or the mysteries of the Bona Dea than with Christianity.

  • In your zeal to find fault with me, you’ve missed my point. By failing to address the sin rather than whether a crime or civilly actionable liability was committed the priest’s Jesuit superiors have ignored the potential eternal consequences. This certainly is not charity.

    No one’s saying priests should be sinless, only that they should recognize sin when they see it.

    I see nothing in any of these stories that indicate anyone involved thinks these priests did anything wrong.