Matt C. Abbott
Jesuit criticizes clergy abuse researchers
By Matt C. Abbott
November 9, 2010

One of the e-mails I received in response to my Nov. 6 column, "No, the pope doesn't have a 'sex problem,'" was from Father Eric Albert Zimmer, S.J., Ph.D., director of leadership development at Creighton University, who wrote (slightly edited):

    I just read your reaction to [Joe] Rigert and [Richard] Sipe. I might make the following comment. If they are so certain that the abuse issues are a causal effect of priestly celibacy, then to what do they ascribe the more than 100,000 cases of abuse of minors in the public school system each year? Post hoc ergo propter hoc? Perhaps not. They would appear not to appreciate the Church's teaching on subjects of sexuality. However, if those teachings lead to sexual abuse, then they are logically compelled to explain the other abuses and they cannot.

Erich Baumgartner wrote (slightly edited):

    I found your defense of the Church off the main argument. It is fairly easy to defend the Church from radical reformers. But there is an argument that continues to bother me. That there is human failing in the Church is to be expected. But the hierarchical behavior in covering up, transferring accused priests, lying to parents and the laity becomes harder to deal with.

    There are now a number of places around the world where legal efforts have opened the Church's personnel files and such behavior is demonstrated. One might again attribute this to human imperfection. But two factors undercut this writing off the problem to human imperfection. When you consider the prevalence of the bishops' practices, it becomes much more likely this was not individuals' failures but organizational failure, a policy that has had horrendous and criminal consequences.

    This conclusion is supported by the fact that not one bishop has been penalized for such cover-up and lying. Generally only those who admitted to being involved in abuse have been allowed to resign. In Cardinal Law's case, he seems to have been rewarded.

Gregory L. Castano wrote (edited):

    Good response to Rigert and Sipe! What do these guys want? A Catholic Church just like what other denominations have become — representatives of Christ's teachings until those teachings conflict with their congregations' and society's views of good and evil? And then, as actually occurred, these denominations finally surrendered to the will of the people over what Christ taught.

    Aren't we all sinners striving to become saints, or at least to be as good as we can before standing before God on Judgment Day? Do they believe their suggestions would make that journey easier for Catholics and even the world?

    Matt, from a practical and human standpoint, I fully understand why these guys have taken the route they've taken. It's the same reason why when a person confronts and/or studies a situation, especially a personal one, having to do with a real person they know — perhaps a priest who gets involved with sexual abuse, a son or daughter who chooses an active gay life or a relative or friend confronting a hard case of whether to have an abortion following rape, or similar cases involving difficult real life decisions on morality.

    I can understand why people like Rigert and Sipe attempt to find ways to justify such behavior or decisions in favor of the actual people who are involved in the situation rather than acknowledging that such behavior or decisions are contrary to what the Church teaches — and people will make their own decisions (free will). So what do people like Rigert and Sipe do? They take the easy route and place blame on the 'remote' Church and her teachings.

    I would not like to be in any of the situations I mentioned above. However, the Church tells us what we should do in such cases and we are certainly free to follow or not follow that teaching (free will). We will be accountable to God. It's as simple as that.

Link of interest:

"A Crisis of Saints"

© 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 also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 'Unsolved' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other media outlets. In 2005 and 2006, he was among the first writers to expose former cardinal Theodore McCarrick's abuse of power with and sexual harassment of seminarians. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome thoughtful feedback and story ideas. If you want our correspondence to remain confidential, please specify as such in your initial email to me. However, I reserve the right to forward and/or publish emails that are accusatory, insulting or threatening in nature, even if they're marked confidential. Also, if you give me permission to publish a quote of yours, please do not contact me at a later time to request that I delete your name. Only in limited circumstances will I quote anonymous sources. Thank you and God bless!)


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