Sins Of The Fathers

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THE PLANK NOVEMBER 15, 2007

Sins Of The Fathers

When I see that a blogger has linked to an article written by his mom, my immediate reaction is: Well, Thanksgiving is coming up, and no one wants to be stuck with just giblets. But I found this piece, by Patricia Snow (mother of Ross Douthat), quite fascinating:

Eight years ago in our urban Catholic parish in Connecticut, a
teenager I’ll call Elizabeth started a club for girls.... Anywhere from six
to twelve girls, aged ten to eighteen, would sit around a small table,
reading the Bible together or making cards for the residents of a
nursing home they visited monthly.... Eventually, there was a conflict. The Catechesis of the Good
Shepherd, a religious education program for three- to six-year-olds,
needed the hall on the same afternoon, and our girls asked for and
received from our pastor permission to meet on an enclosed stage in the
same hall, far enough from the younger children that noise wasn’t a
problem....

Summer came, and the club didn’t meet. In August, referred by our
pastor to a lay brother I’ll call Giles, I asked if the same
arrangement would obtain in the fall. Not meeting my eyes, he said
briefly that the girls could continue to meet but not on the stage.... No two groups could meet in the same space at the
same time, he said. An adult male organization, for example, couldn’t
meet in the hall at the same time as the catechesis.

I was still confused, so finally he said what he meant: Our girls
couldn’t meet on the stage on Wednesday afternoons because of the
possibility that they might molest the younger children.

What follows is a surprising (to a non-churchgoer like myself at least) description of the response by many Catholic churches to the sex-abuse scandals of recent years. It is, in essence, a program of vigilance against "anyone, anywhere"--which seems simultaneously a gross overreaction and a (perhaps deliberate) exercise in shifting blame away from offenders in the clergy and the superiors who protected them. You can read the whole thing here.

--Christopher Orr 

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