Matt C. Abbott
April 15, 2011
Ex-seminarian 'deeply troubled' by abuse scandal; SNAP, Catholic League clash
By Matt C. Abbott

I received the following email (slightly edited) from Roger Grant:

    'I enjoy reading your columns on RenewAmerica.com (and some of the other writers as well). I'm a former seminarian from the Diocese of Joliet who is currently working in parish ministry in the diocese. I'm married now and have a daughter, and I've been deeply troubled by all the scandals that have erupted in the Church over the years. I've been scandalized by the silence and complacency, not to mention the secrecy, that the bishops of the U.S. have shown in shuffling abusive priests around from parish to parish without telling a soul about the problem.

    'I was in college seminary in the mid-1980s when Joseph Imesch was bishop of Joliet. The diocese was, and still is, a mess as a result of his leadership (or lack of) during his 26 year reign. We're currently without a bishop as we wait for a replacement for Bishop Sartain, who was transferred to Seattle last fall. We're losing clergy like crazy as younger priests resign, older priests either retire or die, and there is no one to replace them. The problem is only going to get worse in the next five or so years as we lose more priests. There's only one to be ordained in June; two next year.

    'When I was in seminary, they were hothouses of dissent and sexual aberrations. I was at St. John Vianney in Minnesota for a year; the rector at that time is now the bishop of Des Moines, Iowa. The place was a free-for-all! Eventually I transferred to Conception in Missouri, which was a bit better. After taking the long and winding road to graduation, I finally graduated in 1995 and then went to Mundelein for three years for theology. I did not like it there; never felt comfortable, but I kept my mouth shut and did what I had to do to survive. I tried to spend as little time there as possible. I was assigned to one of the worst pastors in the diocese for my pastoral internship. After returning to seminary for the third year I went through hell as I struggled with discernment issues. I went through my own 'dark night of the soul,' but God showed me the way — and it wasn't easy.

    'Here I am at almost 43 years of age, and I'm a spiritual mess as a result of the bad theology and formation I received at the hands of the modernists. They have not only [severely wounded] the Church, but vocations as well, mine included. Here in Joliet, 22 priests have had accusations of abuse against them; Richard Sipe talks about the problem in Joliet on his website and names all the priests. It makes for interesting reading, but it's quite disheartening to say the least.

    'I'm familiar with St. John Cantius Parish and its pastor, Father Phillips. In 1990, I lived there with him and a few other young men as I tried to discern where God was leading me. He's doing great things there and has really turned the place around!

    'I'm not sure what direction the Catholic Church in this country is headed, and I don't know what the future holds. I don't have much faith in many of the bishops as they are concerned only about their own image and climbing the ecclesiastical ladder. They have failed in their role as teachers of the Faith, and the declining membership and attendance at weekly Mass at many parishes only confirms that. Benedict XVI has spoken of his desire for a smaller, purer Church. I'm not sure what he means by this, but we are certainly headed in that direction.'



Not surprisingly, there's no love loss between the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

Responding to the Catholic League's recent full-page ad in The New York Times, Barbara Dorris, SNAP's outreach director, referred in an April 12 statement to "the millions of already-betrayed Catholics who must feel ashamed and outraged by the outrageous claims made by a well-funded and angry man."

In an April 14 news release, Donohue again took aim at SNAP:

    'Dr. Steve Taylor, a Louisiana psychiatrist who has worked with the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), has been sentenced to two years in prison for possession of child pornography....

    'How many more morally debased psychiatrists are working with SNAP? Did SNAP leaders know about the leisure-time activities of Dr. Taylor? When did they know and what did they do about it? It's time we learned the truth. What we know already is nauseating.

    'In 2008, Dr. Taylor's computer was seized by the authorities after they learned that he was downloading child pornography. He was jailed on 107 counts at the time, and in September of last year a grand jury indicted him. The court accepted a plea bargain from him this week.

    'Dr. Taylor got off easy, at least according to his own standards. In 2003, speaking for SNAP clients, he argued that the confidentiality of the confessional seal should not be respected by the law. In a contemptuous statement against the Catholic Church, he voiced his objections to a unanimous decision by the Louisiana House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice protecting the confidential communication of priests, ministers, rabbis and other clergy members. He said at the time that the seal has to be broken because 'We have faces now.'

    'Well, SNAP, we now have the faces of the children your colleague downloaded to feed his sick habits. If breaking the priest-penitent privilege is something you support, will you now support turning over the patient records of Dr. Taylor? Will you support a probe of this matter? What if there is more evidence against him? What if there are more victims? You're always looking for new victims, aren't you? Strike when the iron is hot — who cares about psychiatrist-patient privilege?'

David Clohessy, SNAP's national director, declined to comment on Donohue's news release.

Meanwhile, Father Philip DeRea, the Indy 500 chaplain known by some as the "Race Track Reverend," has been sued for sex abuse. Father DeRea, who "was interviewed in 1996 by ABC News for its 'Person of the Week' segment, and [who] performed the marriage of actress Ashley Judd to racer Dario Franchitti," reportedly admitted to the abuse and sent the victim "a few thousand dollars while urging him to 'keep all quiet.'" Click here for the Reuters news story; click here for the WLS news story.



Pertinent links:

Catholic League

SNAP

© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.


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