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Outraged and insulted

What St. Leo’s Parish survey reflects about national Catholic sentiments in one way, excerpts from an open letter to San Francisco Archbishop William Levada published in the Feb. 16 Ukiah Daily Journal reflect in another.

Wrote lawyer Thomas F. Johnson, parishioner of St. Mary’s, Ukiah:

The people of the church are sick and tired of getting whacked a second time by priests who have seriously wronged the community and who were then secretly offered a second chance. It looks bad.

You can’t be serious when you say this can’t be theft simply because the people who squandered $30 million didn’t spend it on themselves. One is not less the thief because he gives his ill-gotten gains to the poor.

One of the people on [the new diocesan financial] panel identified a line item in the budget as “Priestly Indiscretion.” While I have great respect for him and you, I am outraged by the insensitivity of that title. One would think he is talking about a fund that deals with rude comments made by priests at tea parties. What he really means is that this fund was set up to cover the church’s liability payments to young boys who were molested by priests. You cannot, and should not want to keep it a secret or color it with soothing hue. It is an insult to the victims, to the community and to the people of the church to refer to this crime as “indiscretion.”

It is time to end the anachronism of celibacy that attracts people with the most serious of sexual dysfunction to the ranks of the priesthood. You need the balance that comes from single women and married men and women in the priesthood. We all know this change won’t insure us from transgressors, but it will help.

You need to go to Rome and fight for it. You need to say publicly that you support it. The Secret Code of Silence that has so long protected the aberrant priest from scrutiny and prosecution has got to come to an end. It is eating away at the church from the inside out.

You owe this to the victims, to the people of the church, to our community and, last but by no means least, you owe it to all the rest of the priests who are fine men and who have earned our respect.

National Catholic Reporter, March 10, 2000