Slash-and-burn mentality squanders moral capital

Slash-and-burn mentality squanders moral capital

The latest issue of Commonweal includes an article by Mark A. Sargent entitled “Vengeance Time: When Abuse Victims Squander Their Moral Authority.”

SNAP has taken it upon itself to conduct a campaign some might call vigilante harassment.

He examines the actions of groups like Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) who treat every allegation of sex abuse lodged against a priest as a mandate to pursue him wherever he goes and to never give him a moment’s peace. In this examination we encounter the gray area between civil law and Church discipline: How are we to deal with priests who are deemed to have “credible or substantial complaints of sexual abuse of minors” yet can’t or won’t be prosecuted by the legal authorities for criminal acts because of lack of evidence or expiration of the statute of limitations.

In November of last year, the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, released the names of twenty former priests about whom the diocese found “credible or substantial complaints of sexual abuse of minors.” Most of the twenty are dead. Edward M. Dudzinski, however, was still living-although he had not served as a priest since the 1980s-and resided in Herndon, Virginia.

When local members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) discovered Dudzinski’s location, they went door-to-door in his neighborhood distributing a file of documents with the title “Community Notification: Protect your children from a credibly accused serial sex offender,” which they believed established Dudzinski’s identity as a sex offender. Dudzinski, however, has never been convicted of, or even charged with, a sexual-abuse crime.

Even in cases where the priest was never charged, even though the case fell within the statute of limitations and several law enforcement agencies investigated and did not file charges, SNAP has taken it upon itself to conduct a campaign against the priest, a campaign which some might call vigilante harassment.

Aiming at the bishops; hitting secondary targets

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  • Physically going after those who are not necessarily proved guilty is one thing.  Cyberspace offers the ultimate in vigilante service right through the SNAP website.

    It is loaded with non-specific allegations against individual priests, with their names, states and so on. There may very well be guilty priests listed there, but are 100% of those listed guilty as charged?

    It’s troubling to me to think that if a person has it in for a particular priest, all they have to do is add that priest to the SNAP database with a false allegation.  Of course, they get to choose a pseudoname for themselves when they make their charge at SNAP and the sympathy among fellow posters will pour out.  Damage is done to that priest without any proof of charges filed, and without anyone else reading knowing or asking if official allegations were made, etc.

    In essence, the priest becomes tried in the court of popular opinion based on non-specific information, without concrete proof to back up the claim. 

    I don’t know how SNAP has not been sued for this yet. 

    When people have an allegation to make against a priest for sexual abuse of a minor, they need to take it to the police – as they would a school teacher, doctor or any other person – not to some website.  Of course, the police won’t settle for non-specific complaints so it’s less appealing, but the SNAP website will be glad to keep them around for decades.

    While there may be guilty priests among those listed at SNAP, how many of them are innocent of any such thing?

  • The church is lucky that this very mild action (the harrassment not the suits) is all that has happened. In my parish the implementation of the For the Sake of Our Children program has stunk of cya and legalese. I feel for innocent priests but place most of the blame at the feet of the “Princes” of the church.
    The response of the church over all has left me feeling guarded toward all priests. No admission that homosexuality was a problem. No admission that relying on psychotherapists instead of moral clarity contributed to the scandal.
    No my sons will not be alterboys.
    And for that I weep.

  • No one could ever cause me to hate all students because one was a madman and murderer.  I love my priests and I am grateful to God for them every day!  To me they are like Jesus on earth and I would like to kiss the ground they walk on!  (Sometimes in secret I do!)

    One of my son’s is an alter boy and I encourage all of my CCD students to serve on the Altar taking the place of an angel.  The blessings they receive in this service to Christ is immeasurable!

    I pray that God would call at least one of my son’s to the priesthood and some of my students too!

    There are people who do bad things and even absolutely evil things. The world is still beautiful and good and full of God’s love.

    What these people did is very, very wrong.  I would be very afraid for their salvation. To unjustly accuse a priest with malice is extremely serious and has the potential of seperating a soul from God forever.  I would stay very far away from these people as they are servants of evil and not of good.

    I wonder how many people who criticize our priests have prayed and made countless sacrifices for them.  Someday they may see what they failed to do and the bad fruits their ommission brought into the world.
      May Jesus bless our precious priests and give us holy and courageous men to shepherd us in the Gospel of our Lord.

  • I’ve been thinking of late just how sad it is when people distrust any priest they see, when in reality there were such a fraction of a percentage involved in such gross infidelity (to say the least). 

    As Isabelle points out, we can’t judge all students based on the actions of Dylan, Kleibold, and Cho. 

    Christ instituted the Catholic Church and the priesthood.  Among those whom were chosen, was Judas Iscariot.  Should we judge all apostles (and priests) by a bad act of free will on the part of Judas? 

    That is what is troubling to me. 

    I could never prejudge and individual priest based on the sins of a small percentage of men who made terrible acts of free will.

  • In the interests of balance and fairness, I think readers here owe it to SNAP to read their rebuttal.  Matt Abbott has covered the high points in his April 21 column at Renew America.

    Neither side in this controversy is lily white.  The bishops have deceived the faithful in the pew and continue to do so.  Chanceries have played legal games and continue to do so.  SNAP constantly talks about “child” victims when in fact those pursuing legal means are adults.  Victims names are carefully hidden, and no hint of who or what they have become is ever permitted to grace the pages of news sources.

    So long as we are constantly given evidence that the cover-up continues, it is reasonable to distrust all priests.  If I had a son, which I do not have, he would not be permitted to serve Mass.  There is ample reason to distrust priests who, while they may not have engaged in sexual abuse, play fast and loose with doctrine and push the social gospel as opposed to the gospel of the pre-Vatican II Church.  American Catholicism is bankrupt in more ways than the financial, and as always, it is the poor sucker in the pew who gets to foot the bill.

  • There is no such thing as American Catholicism.

    If God calls my sons or one of them, I told them to answer yes, Lord.  Would you have me tell them to answer, “I will not serve”?

    We all need to stop blaming others and look at ourselves.  Our Children are our responsibility.

  • Isabelle, if you asked me about sevice , my answer is ,no I would not tell you not to allow your boys to serve. I do not hate priests. In fact I admire them as a class.
    I think however that Satan tricked the American Catholic Church ( there is such a thing only in the sense of national differences in policy and culture)into allowing the scandal. The reliance on psychotherapists instead of strong moral compass allowed predators to wear the collar.
    Where the church once saw sin it now saw “sickness”. That root cause has not been addressed and so we have not corrected the problem.

  • I don’t belong to the American Catholic Church.  I don’t even know what that is.  I belong to the Catholic Church. Those who permitted homosexual predators into the Church and who covered up the barbaric attrocities of their actions should go to prison for life. Those who committed such grave attrocities should go to prison for life.

    They will not steal the Catholic Church from me or from my children.  My children will serve without fear and in the peace of Christ. The Catholic Church is our home. We are going to defend our home with our lives. We are going to serve in liturgy, in Catechesis, on the pro life committee and anywhere else God puts us.  I am not going to let a homosexual predator or a leftist political coward bishop steal my Church and you shouldn’t either! I am not going to hell for anybody.