THESE ARE the facts:
Some rogue priests committed crimes against children, and were aided and abetted by administrators who tried to hide evidence of the acts. While it is difficult to ascertain the veracity of many specific claims of abuse, given that decades passed before the victims spoke out, and very few of these cases have actually made it to court, no honest Catholic can deny that children and adolescents were sexually abused.
But this is what we deduce from those facts:
The whole church is guilty, including generations of men whose only crime was to devote their lives to Christ and their parishioners.
The leap in logic is stunning, but not surprising when you consider who's making it, and who has a particular interest in perpetuating the myth of the pedophile priest.
The bandwagon is now groaning under the weight of people who will use this sad chapter in the church's history to try to destroy it, either from within or without. You could barely miss the over-the-top outrage of the editorialists calling for "accountability":
"The damage illuminated in the sickening details of the grand jury report was inflicted not just on the children who were victims of these crimes, some of whom turned to drugs and even suicide to escape the pain. It also damages every member who seeks solace from the church, and who counts on it as a source of truth."
To which I respond: Don't presume to speak for me.
Every Catholic I know hates what has been alleged to have been done by some men who never should've been ordained in the first place. But we refuse to be railroaded by the media into attacking the church indiscriminately.
Of course, it's not just the journalists looking for their Outrage Awards who are on that train.
There are the victims groups that, while making legitimate claims about cover-ups, take it a step further to demand their pound of flesh in the form of payouts that seem to be as much an attack on the church as a form of solace for the victims.
Of course, some of the same folks are the first to cry foul when a diocesan school closes because - surprise! - there's no money to keep it running.
Then you have the people who were disappointed in the church of their youth because of their own private grievances, and are thrilled to see her battered and bleeding. People like the (dwindling) members Catholics for Choice, who have some strange notion that killing the unborn is consistent with Jesus' teaching to love thy neighbor as thyself.
Or the gay-activist community that attacks the church for its stand on homosexuality. Ironically, had the church been more vigilant in rooting out the gay priests in its midst, perhaps this epidemic of sexual abuse would have been curtailed decades ago.
And to those who are aghast that I'd mention the elephant in the room, namely that the vast majority of victims were boys and all the alleged abusers were men, I'm not saying that homosexual equals pedophile. What I am saying is that it's disingenuous to ignore the connection between the gender of the abusers and the abused as if it didn't exist.
And then you have the women who are absolutely disgusted that they've been barred from the altar, the ones who dishonor the generations of religious sisters by clamoring for the right to become priests.
In my decades-long connection with the church, women have had all the rights and privileges of their male counterparts.
And I have a great deal of respect for grand juries. In fact, the one that came out a few weeks ago and slammed the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for essentially letting a doctor profit from infanticide was right on target. (If only the media were conducting a crusade against the abortion industry with as much zeal as they're directing at the church. If only.)
But like any good, skeptical lawyer, I have a problem accepting on blind faith allegations of crimes that were supposedly committed decades ago. In the criminal-justice system, defendants are given a whole range of protections, including that sweet little tradition known as presumption of innocence. We don't convict unless we can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
But if you're Catholic, and wear a collar, don't expect to be treated to the same benefits given to the alleged Kensington Strangler.
So let's have a few more facts before we start making all those opportunistic conclusions.
Because blind faith can never trump due process.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. E-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org. She blogs at philly.com/philly/blogs/flowersshow.