The Catholic Priest scandal continues to make headlines locally in Fairfield county provoking community reaction.
Catholic Brad Dobbs, a Trumbull resident comments: “Nobody is perfect. People sin. We are supposed to look at ourselves and recognize that. But the priests should be punished.”
Dobbs was equally incensed about the cover-up by Catholic officials. “The cover-up is horrible. This is terrible. Both the bishops covering up and the priests should step down.”
When asked about the impact the scandal had on his faith Dobbs responded that he was initially rattled and wondered “did my priest do things like this?” He then added, “Why don’t they get married?”
Dobbs was unaware of anyone in his parish who has left over the matter. “I don’t know anyone who has left the church…I am still attending.”
The Trumbull resident said that while he did not have a friendship with his parish priest he was a “good guy”.
A Catholic columnist in the area has called for a cease fire of sorts. Columnist John Hourihan with the Connecticut Post (1-03-10) asks, “Haven’t we all had enough fun flogging Catholic priests for being almost as depraved as the rest of the country?” He asks, “When does this stop?” He offers some statistics culled from a religious professor, psychotherapist a lawyer and a university study showing that about 2-6% of priests nationally have “a predilection toward minors,” short of the 8% average for the general population.
He also sites reasons for the cease fire. Most of the abuse cases happened in the 60’s and 70’s and the Popes have moved to stopping the abuse. Apologies and compensation should be enough to end the “flogging” Hourihan concludes. He urges, “…remember that better than nine out of 10 priests are good people who are being flogged daily for no reason, and I ask: When does this stop? Enough is enough.”
Catholic Joan Bershefsky writing in response to Hourihan’s comments asks, “What would we Catholics do without our priests? They baptize us as babies, officiate at our marriages, celebrate the Sacraments, and are there to help us when it is our time to leave this world. Who do we Catholics turn to when we are in need? Let us not forget that there are thousands of good and holy priests ready, willing and able to help us. If Jesus was able to forgive Peter for betraying Him at Calvary, then maybe during this Christmas season, we can all look at that little baby in the manger, and begin this new year ahead with true forgiveness which will free us of the pain of the past and lead us to hope, joy, peace and love in the days ahead. May the Lord have mercy on us all.(1-15-10)”
Catholic Frank F. attending a Bridgeport Diocese Church comments that “we all know the actions (of the Priests and reassignment of offenders) were a bad practice and cannot be disregarded but programs have been put in place to address the issues. The Safe Environment program is a 3-4 hour instructional activity helping people to recognize potential situations involving child abuse. Those serving in ministry are required to take it. By the way abuse is happening everywhere and in the general population such as with teachers-and the word is teachers are move around.”
Frank responded that the scandal has not dramatically affected his faith. “I was initially disappointed. I heard of these priests but I did not know what they were doing. I think despite the disappointment I have met good priests through the Knights of Columbus. Certainly (the scandal) sheds a dark light on all but there are many good and faithful men. The fact is the diocese confronted the matter head on.”
Frank F. further said that the “Safe Environment program tells teachers and adults don’t be alone with children. We are trained to spot potential problem situations and alert others to them. I would tell them it is unwise to be alone with children. If you see a situation cropping up make it visible. The Safe Environment Program is an untold story but at the Bridgeport Diocese website you can learn more. I know of some who have refused the training taking the mandatory training as an offense to them personally but it is in place to prevent situations. Oversight is good.”
The Dioceses website details the program but a formal vetting process is in place for those in youth ministry positions.
“The Safe Environment program in the Diocese of Bridgeport has a full time director, Ms. Erin Neil, L.C.S.W. Safe Environment programs oversee the implementation of Charter mandates including victim assistance, criminal background checks, written Codes of Conduct, and child sexual abuse awareness and prevention training for Priests, Deacons, Lay Employees, Volunteers, Children, and Youth.”
At least according to some Catholics, the Diocese of Bridgeport has addressed the issue and they are ready to move on.