Saturday, March 16, 2002

Catholics have little sympathy for abuse

By Howard Wilkinson,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's a conflict. They want to know that abuses won't be swept under the rug, but it pains them to see their church under attack.

        On Friday, Tristate Catholics gathered at church fish frys — a staple of the Lenten season — for the food and the fellowship.

        But Thursday's statement by Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk that fewer than five priests accused of sexual misconduct are still working in the church was a topic of conversation at the decorated folding tables lining parish halls and school cafeterias all over Cincinnati.

[photo] At the Friday fish fry at St. Cecilia Church, Tom Buckley of Oakley takes a break from the kitchen. His wife, Jenny, is selling tickets.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        “It's hard for me to believe that they are any kind of religious symbol,” Paul Seal of Liberty Township said at Our Lady of Sorrows in Warren County, referring to priests accused of abuse.

        Mr. Seal said he is concerned to learn the men still serve in priestly roles.

        From the basement cafeteria of St. Cecilia School in Oakley late Friday afternoon, the smell of filets frying wafted out onto the playground. Inside, men of the parish rolled up their sleeves, donned cellophane gloves and dished out heaping mounds of mac-and-cheese, peeking up occasionally at the TV to catch the score of the Xavier-Hawaii NCAA game.

        Tom Buckley, president of the school booster club and one of those manning the fryers, said he doubts people who have sexually abused children can ever be rehabilitated as the archbishop suggested.

        “It's one of those things that I don't think you ever cure,” Mr. Buckley said.

        The church, and any other institution, should not tolerate sexual abuse of its young people, he said.

        “As far as I am concerned, it's one strike and you are out.”

        His wife, Jenny, was selling tickets at the fish fry. Every year, she said, she and other school volunteers are trained to spot sexual abuse.

        “I think the church does a good job screening the people working for it, whether it is priests or volunteers,” Mrs. Buckley said.

        At Nativity Church in Pleasant Ridge, John Royer of Amberley Village was adamant that the church should remove people accused of sexual abuse of any kind.

        “They shouldn't be in any kind of position serving the public,” said Mr. Royer. He is not Catholic, but his wife and child attend Nativity. “From everything I have read and heard, you cannot rehabilitate a person with a problem like that.”

        Sexual abusers, Mr. Royer said, “absolutely should not remain hidden behind the facade of the church.

        “It is disturbing to see the number of priests that seem to be pedophiles,” he said. “It is a problem that has been covered up way too long.”

        Pat Fisk, 51, of Pleasant Ridge, is a teacher's aide in a Catholic school who believes the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is vigilant in weeding out people who might harm young people.

        She has had two background checks as a teacher's aide, she says.

        “It makes me feel comfortable,” she said. “You cannot tell someone's background just by looking at them.”

        Jean Wissman, 63, of Madeira, belongs to another parish, but Friday at Nativity, she said she was conflicted.

        She said she does not believe the archbishop is trying to “cover something up,” but keeping priests who have abused children “is not being a "good shepherd' either.”

        At Annunciation Church in Clifton, parish member Eileen Krauss of Clifton praised the archbishop for addressing the problem.

        “It was reassuring,” Mrs. Krauss said.

        “All the priests I know are upright people, they're all celibate,” Mrs. Krauss said. “I don't think celibacy has anything to do with it. We're all human beings and human beings sin.

        “To say it's all the Catholic Church, that's not right.”

        Theresa Goettke, 46, of Price Hill, said any misconduct by priests hurts more because it involves her lifelong faith. She believes priests should be held to a higher standard but says the church should report cases of abuse to the civil authorities.

        She does believe the Catholic Church is being singled out among other religions and other occupations.

        “This isn't just a Catholic problem,” Mrs. Goettke said. “I think that Catholics sometimes get a bad rap.”

       David Eck, Jim Hannah, Angela Koenig and Sarah Buehrle contributed to this report.

Related stories:
Prosecutors ask what church hid
Covington diocese has written guidelines
Pamphlet sets rules for prevention, response
Sex abuse cases not new locally

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