Sometimes bishops are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Case in point: A priest in Saginaw, Michigan, has admitted to having had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl 30 years ago. The woman says she was over the age of consent, 16, at the time and thus civil authorities are not pressing charges. However, Bishop Robert Carlson is continuing his own investigation and will determine whether the priest, Fr. Richard Szafranski violated canon law. The priest’s supporters says it’s wrong to punish him for something he did so long ago.
“It’s so unfair to hold someone accountable for something that happened 30 years, when both of the people were young,” said Donna J. Liss, 62, of Carrollton Township. She is a member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. “(Father Szafranski) should be put back in office, but who knows what the diocese is going to do with him.”
The priest was in his mid-20 and he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl that went on for sometime. This is not simply a one-time indiscretion, but showed seriously flawed judgment. This was a serious sin.
Now Carlson faces some questions: Was this part of a pattern of behavior? Were there any other liaisons with other women since then? Is this evidence of a character flaw that continues to this day or can this priest continue to have an effective ministry? I’d say on that last score at least, probably not. Since 2002, any priest with a hint of scandal will have been tainted to such a degree that he will not be trusted by a large percentage of any parish he serves.
So if Carlson removes the priest from ministry, he’s an uncaring ogre persecuting this priest, and if he puts him back in ministry, he’s just like all those other bishops covering up for perverts. I wouldn’t want to be a bishop for anything.