Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has seemed like one of the good guys in most of the Scandal, but this latest case makes me wonder what’s going on in the Windy City. According to this story, the cardinal said he didn’t realize Fr. Kenneth Martin of the Wilmington, Del., diocese, had previously pleaded guilty to sex abuse charges when the cardinal allowing him to work part-time for the diocese and live at the cardinal’s residence. Really?
Fr. Martin was associate director of the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy until the sex abuse charges came out last year. (He was also president of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions before going to the BCL. It’s interesting to note that in the most recent list of BCL personnel—a list that supposedly goes back to the beginning—Martin’s name doesn’t appear.)
Anyway, at the time Martin’s scandal broke, Cardinal George was chairman-elect of the BCL. There’s no way he could have been ignorant of the situation involving his associate director.
George said the Wilmington diocese told him of Martin’s plea and told him he was still a priest in good standing. George said Friday he was distressed to learn more about the offenses.
“To be fair, I didn’t press the [diocese] for details,” he said.
A friend sends the following comment based on the above quote:
Readers of Waugh’s Decline and Fall will remember Paul Pennyfeather’s interview with Llanabba headmaster Doctor Fagan:
‘…I understand too that you left your university rather suddenly. Now—why was that?’
This was the question that Paul had been dreading, and, true to his training, he had resolved upon honesty.
‘I was sent down, sir, for indecent behaviour.’
‘Indeed, indeed? Well, I shall not ask for details. I have been in the scholastic profession long enough to know that nobody enters it unless he has some very good reason which he is anxious to conceal.’
Why shouldn’t the cardinal press for details, even if we pretend for a moment that he wouldn’t have known about them as chair of the BCL? In this day and age, in this climate, just for one’s own self-preservation, don’t you think common sense says you ask? We can’t be like Sgt. Schultz: “I see nothing. I know nothing.”
Wilmington’s response is even more incredible:
- The Wilmington diocese said it had understood the U.S. bishops’ abuse policy would apply only to offenses committed as priests, a conclusion George supported. Under the policy, priests found guilty of abuse are removed from ministry and forbidden to wear clerical garb.
I suppose that if one were more concerned with bureaucratic or legal butt-covering, that might make sense, but if one were to apply common sense, why should it make a difference if a guy abused kids before or after he was ordained? Being ordained doesn’t magically free you from psychological maladies and sinful temptations.
What if some priest abuse your child and the bishop’s only excuse was, “Well, we didn’t suspend him because the last time he did it, he wasn’t a priest yet.” Oh, then that’s okay?
I thought we had moved beyond all this last year. Why are we still learning these basic things more than a year later?