Wednesday, December 04, 2002


We've all heard the lecherous stereotypes over the years: priests and nuns engaged in all sorts of sexual devilry. A powerful organization maintaining outward respectibility while behind the scenes systematically thwarting the law. As more and more records come to light we find the stereotypes--in Boston anyway--are largely true.

Over the past decades the Catholic Church hierarchy in Boston has been involved in just about everything imaginable. Their impending bankruptcy is already complete on the moral ledger.

From affairs with women seeking marital counseling, to using cocaine to lure young boys for sex, to recruiting nuns in order to sexually exploit them, the list goes on and on. I understand there are runaway priests. But the diocese itself knowingly and systematically played musical chairs with the offending priests in an effort to cover up their misdeeds rather than face up to them and clean out the bad leaven:

Plaintiffs' attorneys and victims advocates say the documents show that Law continued to transfer problem priests until recently.

"It's not ancient history, it's very, very recent," [David] Clohessy said, [national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP].

And some of the offenders remain unrepentent to say the least.

In the late 1960s, the Rev. Robert V. Meffan allegedly recruited girls to become nuns and then sexually abused them, according to 1993 letters from Sister Catherine E. Mulkerrin to her boss, the Rev. John B. McCormack, who was a top aide to Law. Meffan allegedly would counsel the girls to perform sexual acts as a way of progressing with their religious studies.

Meffan allegedly engaged in sexual acts with four girls in a Cape Cod rental, one of the girls told Mulkerrin, according to the 1993 memo.

"They were all young girls planning to be nuns," said attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., who represents 247 plaintiffs suing the archdiocese.

Meffan told The Boston Globe the allegations in the documents were true, and that he still believed his sexual relationships with the teenage girls were "beautiful" and "spiritual," and were intended to bring them closer to God.

"What I was trying to show them is that Christ is human, and you should love him as a human being," said Meffan. "I felt that by having this little bit of intimacy with them that this is what it would be like with Christ."

Sin is not limited to Catholic leaders; I certainly understand that. I know preachers personally who have been engaged in sexual misconduct. But when that comes to light there ought to be a loss of responsibilities, at least for a time. And usually there is. The type of thing the Boston diocese has been involved in--and who thinks they wouldn't still be doing it had they not been caught?--is inexcusable. Did the Borgias immigrate to Boston?

The current scandals aside, I have profound Scriptural problems with the Catholic church--its structure and beliefs. In fact, I think that its organization principles are the very thing that's allowed this to go on. It is, as they say, an institutional problem. But I also have dear friends whom I respect and love who are devout, sincere Catholics. I know they can't approve of this. How long will the laity tolerate it?

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