Priests in abuse cases avoid defrocking
Three priests accused of sexual abuse, among them one of the most infamous clerics in the Seattle Archdiocese, have been formally barred from ministry with an edict from Rome. But the Vatican stopped short of defrocking any of the men, leading some to wonder where the concerns of the church lie -- with victims, or with priests.
The answer, said archdiocese officials, is both.
Archbishop Alex J. Brunett is "not looking to punish the priest," said Greg Magnoni, a spokesman. "He's looking to do what's in the best interest of the victims and the public and the priest who's under his authority."
By keeping each man "within the clerical state," the archbishop can maintain control over where they live and how they comport themselves, Magnoni said. He also can ensure that they never advertise themselves as practicing prelates. Defrocking them, Magnoni said, would permanently sever that oversight.
But Scott Brady, a member of the victims advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, found the church's logic hard to fathom.
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The authors return regularly to their theme that it is the pope, not callous bishops and callow priests, who deserve the blame for the crisis.
"His myopia on the church's corruption suggests the kind of hubris we associate with kings in Shakespearean drama, coupled with a tragic naivete about sexual intimacy," they write in an epilogue. "Instead of squarely facing the sexual revolution inside the priesthood, asking why so many good men left and others refused to enter, John Paul sanctioned the punishment of scholarly priests and intellectuals who asked the hard questions and argued for honesty and structural change."
The authors make an intelligent, passionate case, and they seem to be on the side of the angels. But precisely because Vatican secrecy denies them the sort of corroborative evidence contained, say, in the court files of abusive priests in the Boston Archdiocese, their charges against the pope are more argumentative than proven.