Church Designs New No-Fault-But-Yours Law
By Steve Otto
The Tampa Tribune, May 5, 2002

All along I knew there was something fishy about this whole pedophilia scandal with the priests. Just the other day I watched Bing Crosby helping out the boys in ``Going My Way.'' Then there was Spencer Tracy taming Mickey Rooney at Boys Town.

Nobody messed with those kids at Boys Town.

In fact, when I was a boy in Omaha, our Air Force base peewee football team went out and took on Father Flanagan's Boys Town in a game on the frozen tundra of eastern Nebraska. It was like going to play Notre Dame. They beat the pants off of us. Toughest kids I ever got stomped by.

No. Forget what I just said. There is nothing funny, nothing cute in what's happening today.

The real world isn't a movie. Spencer Tracy isn't going to step in and make things right.

There aren't enough adjectives to cover the damage and backtracking of the Roman Catholic Church in this scandal.

One breach of faith would be enough, but the enormity of this crime is in the numbers, along with the refusal of so many to stand up and say this is monstrous.

The Boston Globe has reported that in the past 20 years, more than 1,000 priests have been identified as pedophiles and the church has paid out more than $1 billion to settle, to buy off victims.

The Apology Train

This hasn't slowed the apologists. The Rev. Stephen Rossetti, a psychologist and priest, went on CNN to suggest this is not a priests' problem but instead is a societal problem.

His figuring is that only 2 percent of priests are apparently pedophiles, which he says is about the norm in society. He doesn't add that it is the access and the trust parents have given to priests that skews the numbers.

The Vilest Of All

But it was left to Cardinal Bernard Law, America's senior Catholic prelate, to issue the vilest excuse of all last week.

Law, in response to a lawsuit filed against him and the Boston Archdiocese, attempted to shift the blame from the accused, The Rev. Paul Shanley, a priest in his diocese.

Shanley has been accused by Gregory Ford and his parents of molesting Ford for six years.

Law, already under heavy criticism for his handling of accused priests over the years, had the gall to suggest that it was ``negligence'' on the part of the then 6-year-old boy and his parents that contributed to the alleged abuse.

Maybe you can think of a dozen ways a 6-year-old boy can contribute to a priest abusing him. Maybe it was the family's fault. The fault could be that they brought the child to church.

It was one of those statements that made you want to take a shower, get out of town for a few weeks, maybe go up to the mountains away from the TV and the newspapers.

There is no defense for abusing children. This is not an argument about homosexuality or celibacy. That's the church's business.

This is about criminal behavior and coverup. And it involves those who, like teachers and law enforcement officers, are entrusted with the safety and care of our most defenseless.

If Law's statement accurately reflects what he believes, then he needs to be on the first train out of Boston. If his statement is one that is accepted by anyone in the hierarchy of the church, then this is a crisis that might be insurmountable in a world that can no longer tolerate any excuse for child abuse.

Columnist Steve Otto can be reached at (813) 259-7809.

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