- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Reports of abuse cases settled by a moral leader behind closed doors, with the terms of settlement hushed up was this today's news on the Catholic Church sex scandal? No, this story was about the chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who had just quietly settled three of seven charges that she discriminated against Hispanic employees.
The facts emerged only after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ordered Mary Francis Berry, who is African-American, to pay one of the claimants, Emma Monroig, $160,000 and to reinstate her as CCR staff solicitor. Seven charges in a staff of 75 represents 1 in 6 employees claiming abuse, in an agency charged with using its moral authority to right civil rights wrongs.
What, you missed this in the news? It certainly had the same type of man-bites-dog appeal as the church expose, with a government antidiscrimination agency discriminating on a massive scale. So, what happened? It sank into news oblivion. Clearly, the story did not fit the liberal media stereotype of how to appeal to popular prejudice. Favored minorities are in and religious peoples are out, especially conservative ones.
A recent poll of 550 American non-Catholics by sociologist the Rev. Andrew Greeley, himself not especially traditionalist, found 52 percent believed American Catholics really are not permitted to think for themselves. A remarkable 73 percent believed they did "what the pope and bishops tell them to do." A strong majority of 57 percent thought Catholic statues and images were "idols," making them good candidates for news demonization.
As in the CCR cases, there was serious abuse by some Catholic priests and that was simply horrible. Unlike the CCR cases, remedial action was taken.
In the first place, only one half of 1 percent of 45,000 priests have been accused compared to 12 percent of civil rights commission employees.
Second, according to a survey of 178 dioceses over the past two decades, 232 abusive priests have been removed from the ministry. Four-fifths of dioceses already rely upon oversight committees with lay representation. More than half already automatically report all abuse charges to state authorities. Third, like the political map of conservative red and liberal blue, charges are overwhelmingly from the later areas. Finally, contrary to what the liberal National Catholic Reporter has been labeling for 15 years as the "pedophile priest" problem, a Chicago study of its 2,200 priests, found 40 identified as sexual abusers, only one of whom was a pedophile. The predominant problem was homosexual abuse involving teen-agers.
In the old days, homosexuality was a sin, an American Psychiatric Association-recognized abnormality, and a crime. Then we all got sophisticated and it was OK except for these antediluvian priests. After years of being called unsophisticated bumpkins by secular and religious media alike, the bishops finally relented and agreed it was simply disease.
Well, diseases have cures, see, so when a psychiatrist says one is cured, why not put him back in service? Every example of a priest put back in parish work by a bishop was at the recommendation of a psychiatric doctor who certified the abuser as cured. The poor bishops should have stuck with the old sin approach and recognized that evil is not so easily treatable.
Since September 11, evil and sin are back in the public lexicon.
Liberal Catholics have long pressed an agenda that the secular media have been happy to advance. At the recent meeting of bishops in Dallas, these were not subtle in pushing their cause. As reported, they demanded an end to celibacy for the priesthood, control of church decision-making by the laity rather than bishops, and independence from the pope. The fact that church authorities allowed Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, editor of the very liberal Commonweal magazine, and R. Scott Appleby, a senior fellow at the Joan B. Krock Institute for International Peace Studies, to make their case on the official program shows the continuing and enormous left-wing influence upon the church bureaucrats who selected them, as well as the fact that the bishops still do not understand the source of their difficulties.
Fortunately, the Catholic laity do get it. Ordinary members love their priests, support celibacy as long as the Vatican says it is necessary, want the bishops to lead, and they positively revere the pope. A recent story in The Washington Post, reporting upon its own poll, headlined: "Sex abuse policy dissatisfies Catholics." Well, of course, they were upset with the scandals but a close reader had to persevere to the penultimate paragraph to find what Catholics really thought 67 percent said they trusted the church to handle these problems for the future. One cabdriver told NPR Radio that we have survived bad popes and schisms, and worse, and we'll survive this too and be stronger for the test.

Donald Devine, former director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is a columnist and a Washington-based policy consultant.

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