Helping disgraced priests

The Associated Press moved a story Monday that takes up a non-profit Catholic organization which assists disgraced priests.

Again and again, Opus Bono has served as a rapid-response team for the accused.

When a serial pedophile was sent to jail for abusing dozens of minors, Opus Bono was there for him, with regular visits and commissary cash.

When a priest admitted sexually assaulting boys under 14, Opus Bono raised funds for his defense.

When another priest was criminally charged with abusing a teen, Opus Bono later made him a legal adviser.

And while powerful clerics have publicly pledged to hold the church accountable for the crimes of its clergy and help survivors heal, some of them arranged meetings, offered blessings or quietly sent checks to this organization that provided support to alleged abusers, The Associated Press has found.

A miscellany of thoughts:

  • There is nothing innately sinister about Catholics helping disgraced priests, and it doesn’t need much work to build an argument that it’s the Christian thing to do. The story doesn’t need splashy scandal treatment.

  • The kind of help that is provided is critical. Priests should not be encouraged, or allowed, to evade responsibility for their wrongdoing; they should be given help easing into the real world, and to be useful that help ought to range from job skills to cultural (re-)orientation.

  • Some sexual abuse of minors is genuine-article pedophilia or pederasty, which probably is an operating-system switch, and I’m inclined to go along with public identification of them (a Scarlet P, so to speak). But some sexual abuse of minors appears to be a crime of opportunity that arises chiefly out of psychosexual immaturity; for those cases, I see no problem with discreetly protecting their privacy provided there are effective controls assuring that they have no association with children.

  • The organization misled donors about its activities, and its founder was, himself, recently accused of sexual abuse. This is probably not the right organization to be tasked with this particular mission.

Though nominally free to come and go as they please, priests no more live in the real world than convicts; their entire life is devoted to maintaining a degrading fiction and yet, conversely, they are presumed to be figures of especial rectitude. Entering the world that everybody else lives in can’t be easy.

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