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Letter to the editor: The Catholic Church must wrestle with the demon of pedophilia


Cardinal Donald William Wuerl, the former archbishop of Washington D.C., in 2015. — James Tourtellotte/public domain

By Scott Hartley, Fairfield

Americans in the Trump age are accustomed to atrocities flashing across editorial space and vanishing into the next outrage, but there are exceptions in longevity. Critics and accusers of the Catholic Church, while it remains a viable institution, must wrestle with the demon of pedophilia. Cardinal Wuerl, archbishop of D.C., recently resigned from some of his exalted church offices, facing grand jury findings that he presided over cover-ups for pedophilic priests.

Defending him in public interviews, his friend, John Carr, a big churcher and listed by Georgetown University as “adjunct professor in the Department of Theology,” reports that Wuerl was “better than most on sexual abuse…” but acknowledges that the Cardinal’s version of “better” still compels him to resign and the Pope to accept his resignation. Carr expresses his own regret but not any injustice. And to the credentials of this spokesman, we must add one more: he himself, when young, was a victim of clergical perverts and of the system that protected them.

We might leave the matter there — many would like to — but I think we had better not. Carr is not speaking carelessly; we must not think he is, and therefore we had better listen to him with a level of respect the Catholics of his day could not afford him. He said Wuerl was “better than most.” Carr is a highly educated, thoroughly churched, fully informed insider, and his evaluation is that the prelate who was “better than most” did not deserve to keep his position. Then what do we do with the rest of them?

And I have another question: Given that Wuerl, though he resigns the D.C. prelature, retains other high titles and remains a Cardinal, how is that different from the typical handling of pedophile priests, as we have understood it? For instance, and to put it graphically, when one corn-holed too many 10-year-olds in Dorchester, the Bishop of Boston moves him to Sommerville. How is this different? I put the question to Pope Francis.


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