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Issue Date:  October 7, 2005

From the Editor's Desk

Plans and lives disrupted

We had plans this week to run an essay about bishops by Eugene Kennedy, whose insights have long provided a way to make sense of what sometimes seems incomprehensible. We were also going to publish a lovely and moving report/reflection by John L. Allen Jr. on his recent visit to Taizé. There is a nuclear weapons analysis on hold as well as a report about Catholic Workers on trial in New York.

All of that was held -- we’ll get to it eventually -- to provide coverage of the grand jury report out of Philadelphia on the disturbing cases of child sex abuse by priests and the calculated cover-up of those crimes by members of the hierarchy. We could have chosen to run less about it. For more than 20 years, however, we have argued for release of the details of this debilitating scandal, we have asked the church to come clean, to open the archives and let the community know precisely what was done behind our backs by our leaders. The sad part is that it has taken judges’ orders and grand jury investigations, where successful, to undo the secrecy. So when some light is shed and a record of what went on is available, members of the community deserve to know. It is tough reading about awful crimes and the equally awful strategies used to cover them up. We have left much graphic detail out of the account. Given the volume of offenses and the number of perpetrators, it is enough to say that the crimes included the assault, including rape, of considerable numbers of children, boys and girls, often repeatedly, by priests.

~ ~ ~

It occurred to me, as the staff had to adjust plans for this week’s issue, that we were experiencing in a small way what the scandal has done in countless large ways to the wider Catholic community. Life gets disrupted, plans are put on hold, ugly truths repeatedly intrude on the lives of individuals, parishes and dioceses. We are expected to accept as explanation, in the way Cardinal Justin Rigali reportedly explained to Philadelphia priests this week, that “mistakes were made” that no one is “perfect” or “without sin.” What we all know, of course, is that something is terribly wrong.

I have a long acquaintance with Philadelphia. I grew up in that archdiocese, though well outside the city proper. I was an altar boy there, and learned in the archdiocese’s schools and high schools. I have fond memories of many priests who played no small role in my formation. I grieve for those priests who have to work on under the shadow of these revelations. All I can offer is our shared understanding that knowing the truth is the path to freedom.

~ ~ ~

As if that weren’t enough for one week, we had the sacking of Fr. Walter Cuenin in Boston (see story) and the long and friendly meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and his longtime friend, colleague and archcritic, Fr. Hans Küng (see story).

Finally, Arthur Jones weighs in, in his inimitable style, with part four of his goodbye (see story). He’s had his final word, and it’s a wonderful read, but we haven’t had ours. More later this month.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, October 7, 2005

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