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Saturday, May 08, 2010

In the name of the father, the son, and the little deaf boy

I grew up Catholic.
For me this meant going to a Catholic school, making my first communion, being a youth ministry member, singing every Sunday in church choir,and generally feeling guilty about having fun.
When I think back on catholic school three very specific memories come to mind.

The first is getting called to the Sister Rachel’s office, (the principal), for wearing my hair in forty Alanis Morisette inspired braids to school.
I was lectured intensly for having an inappropriately distracting hairdo.
To make me feel better afterward, she gave me a cross shaped pencil before sending me on my way.

The second, is being in fifth grade religion class preparing for Easter. Our teacher had us sit in a wide circle, and pass around 11x 14 photo of a bloody, gutty, dead Jesus. As if the Jesus photo with eyes that followed us around the room wasn't already traumatic enough.
We were supposed to each take a minute each to stare at the photo, and remember what Jesus had sacrificed to save our sinful ten year old souls.
To this day I still see that freaky ass photo emblazoned in my brain.

The third, and most memorable, was when a classmate of mine asked our unmarried teacher who had a female “roommate” of over 25 years , “are you gay” ?
We all got in deep shit for that one, and had a serious lecture from the nuns the next day.
In the time we were receiving a lecture about what was inappropriate behavior as Catholics, hundreds of little boys were getting molested by priests across the world.

In 2003 Pope John Paul II declared "there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young".
The sad reality is that many child molesters are actually drawn to the priesthood for precisely the opposite reason: easy access to little boys.
Priests are one of the few clergy of all religions who are forced to remain celebrant and unmarried.
I suspect that men with sexual issues are actually drawn to this profession, hoping prayer and god will help draw them away from sin. When they can’t pray away the gay, they use their power and authority to take advantage of the young boys in the church setting.

So who is to blame, the priests with obvious mental and sexual issues, or the Catholic Church hierarchy for having such outdated views?
If these priests were average Joe’s they might have served jail time, or be on probation and a neighborhood sex offender list.
But in the catholic church, "The Code of Canon Law does not envision automatic penalties.”
A very small number of priests were actually defrocked, and 60% of these accused priests faced the rough punishment of not being able to celebrate mass.
The number of molestation allegations are staggering, and make me ashamed to call myself a Catholic.

In 2004, the John Jay report tabulated a total of 4,392 priests and deacons in the U.S. against whom allegations of sexual abuse were considered by their diocese to have been "substantiated".
10,667 people had made allegations of child sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002 against 4,392 priests.
81% of the victims were male; and of all the victims, 22.6% were age 10 or younger, 51% were between the ages of 11 and 14, and 27% were between the ages to 15 to 17.

Which brings us to the current issue at hand. From 1950-1974 Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy worked at a world renowned school for the deaf in Wisconsin. Deaf boys would go to Father Murphy’s office for confession, and wind up being fondled.
Murphy also got his kicks with more than 200 boys by visiting them in their dorm beds at night, masturbating them and leaving.
Pretty easy to get away with something when the kids you are molesting can’t exactly get the word out.

Some of the victims said at the time they felt it was alright, because it was being done by a priest.
Many of the victims spent next 30 years trying to raise awareness of what had been done to them.
They tried everything from handing out flyers, to creating a new sign language motion for kid fucker.

In 1993 Archbishop Weakland finally caught wind of these allegations and sent in a social worker to evaluate Father Murphy.
He admitted what he had done, but stated that he “felt no remorse”.
Obviously Father Murphy needed to spend some time with my fifth grade teacher and that photo of bloody Jesus.

Three years later Weakland finally wrote to Cardinal Ratzinger asking to have Murphy defrocked “to defuse the anger among the deaf and restore their trust in the church”. His efforts were halted,when Murphy appealed for leniency.
Archbishop Weakland was really not on a moral high ground here.
In 2002 he resigned after it became public that he had an affair with a man, and used church money to pay him a settlement.
Something to think about that the next time you put a dollar in that wicker donation basket at church.

Murphy died at age 72, unpunished, with his priesthood retained.
In a sad attempt to save the already damaged image of the Catholic Church Pope John Paul II tried to hide this scandal.
We all know how well that turned out.

I do think it is sad that there is now a general connotation that all priests are child molesters. It makes me feel bad for the ones who actually do live by the teachings of Jesus, and would never touch a child inappropriately.

My sister, and many other Americans like to call themselves “ala carte” Catholics, picking certain aspects of the religion to believe.
What other choice do we have when the church’s views are so outdated, that even our priests have to do the same?

It is my hope that someday the Catholic Church will enter modern society. Women will be able to enter the priesthood, priests will be able to have spouses, and these child molesting creeps will burn in a hell surrounded by my 5th grade scary dead Jesus photo.