Alleged church sexual abuse no joking matter

By Brian Mellen

We interrupt your normally light-hearted and witty weekly column by Brian Mellen to address an issue that’s no joking matter. Last month Cook County prosecutors brought up Chicago priest Daniel McCormack, a pastor of St. Agatha parish in North Lawndale, on counts of alleged aggravated criminal sexual assault against two young boys as well as a third added just last week.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Cardinal Francis George of the Chicago Roman Catholic Archdiocese has known about the alleged sexual abuse as early as August 2005. But George decided not to remove McCormack sooner because he says families of the alleged victims had not come forward with their allegations. Instead George simply instructed McCormack not to be alone with children and left another priest to watch over the pastor in question.

A mother of one of the alleged victims, a Willowbrook boy, is furious over George’s claims that she did not come forward with her allegations. The mother insists she contacted the archdiocese twice by phone and once in person. If this is indeed true, that the head of the Chicago Roman Catholic Archdiocese knew about these allegations and avoided them, then Cardinal Francis George should resign his position immediately. Although McCormack has not been convicted of anything yet, the Catholic Church cannot ignore accusations as serious as child molestation. Child molestation is a disgusting offense and cannot be tolerated by the Church, a symbol of moral values.

Unfortunately, the recent event in Chicago is not an isolated event. Priest scandals have occurred nationwide. What’s even more disturbing is that many of these priests brought up on charges were allowed to continue their ministry. For example, Boston church officials admitted back in 2002 to moving priest John Geoghan around to different parishes despite 130 allegations of sexual abuse. I guess the actual cutoff before a priest loses his job in Boston must be 131 allegations, only off by one in the “cutoff,” but 130 too many in my book. It seems as though the archdiocese in Chicago may have handled McCormack in a similar fashion. After all, George knew about the allegations since August and action hasn’t been taken until recently.

Many believe that the reason priests accused of sexual abuse are allowed to continue their work is because the Catholic Church is trying to cover up the scandal and save face. This may hold some truth, but what advantage is there to keeping accused priests in the Church? Can’t the Church find better priests to replace these men? Sadly, one cause of the scandal cover-ups within the Church is the fact that there is a growing shortage of priests in the U.S. Accused priests are shuffled around from parish to parish or allowed to continue their ministry simply because if the archdiocese removes them, there are few priests to replace them. There is one way this shortage can be helped.

In the Roman Catholic Church, priests are supposed to remain celibate and refrain from marriage. This may in fact turn some potential priests away from being ordained in the Church. Luckily the practice of celibacy is purely doctrinal. There was actually a time when priests could get married. The Catholic Church’s leaders in America need to encourage dialogue on this issue with hopes to one day allow priests to get married and draw more potential priests to the Church. If the Catholic Church can draw more pastors then there will be no reason to keep alleged child molesters within the Church.

However, regardless of the celibacy argument and a shortage in priests, there is no excuse for inaction in the case of McCormack. The Catholic Church cannot turn a blind eye on any sort of allegation. Each allegation much be taken in serious consideration and investigated thoroughly. Otherwise the criminal priests who are a minority will continue giving the Church a bad name and ruin it for the majority of priests, many of which in my experience as a Catholic are good men.

Brian Mellen is a junior in Communications. His column appears Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected]