Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Priest Scandal: Can We Put the 4% in the Rear View Mirror?

Pope Benedict XVI met with victims of predator priests and addressed the sexual-abuse scandal numerous times during his visit to America. Can we put it in the rear view mirror now?

I recently heard conservative commentator and priest John Corapi say he's not mad at the media for pounding away on the scandal. He thinks it's God at work.

Fr. Corapi mentioned the old Fram oil filter commercial: you can pay me now, or you can pay me later. You can spend a little extra for a good oil filter now, or you can let it go, really screw up your engine, and then pay me to fix the engine.

When your house needs cleaning, Fr. Corapi said, you have two options: you can clean it yourself or God will do it for you. The Catholic Church did not clean house when it came to flawed priests posing a danger to children, so God is using the media to do it.

Now let's do a little math in round numbers.

In the U.S., 10,000 victims have accused 4,000 priests. Any number higher than zero, in either category, is too many.

But 4,000 is 4% of priests active in the U.S. in the last half of the 20th century. That means 96% (96,000) were not engaged in such behavior. Hammer the 4%, but don't ignore the 96%. The pope reminded us to give the 96% the love and support they deserve.

Tens of millions of children interacted with priests over the last half of the 20th century. Let's be conservative and put it at 10 million. Of that number, .001 claim to have been abused. That's one-tenth of 1%.

Again, any number higher than zero is too high. But when you're the largest denomination in the country, even a tiny percentage of wrongdoing is going to produce a big number.

The point is to shake the shoulders of Catholics and people of faith in general who let things such as the sexual-abuse scandal sap their spirit. Don't let hostile voices use the flawed 4% to define your church or your faith or your belief in God.

Don't forget the 96% who served faithfully and continue to do so. Don't forget the 99.9% of children who engaged in Catholic schools and ministries without being preyed upon by predators.

Those who enjoy bashing the Catholic Church and religion in general will try to keep this ball in play. It's also handy for those looking for an excuse to justify their lapsing faith.

The rest of us will continue moving forward and making the world a better place by trying to apply the values and teachings of the Catholic Church.

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