Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Pilarczyk: Good work of priests overlooked

By Dan Horn,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk assured his priests Tuesday that not all of them will be tarnished by the few who have abused children.

        At a Holy Week service downtown, the archbishop praised the sacrifices of those who serve the church with honor.

[photo] Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk walks past priests Tuesday during the processional of the Chrism Mass.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        He said the good work of many priests has been overlooked in recent weeks as public attention turned to allegations of sexual misconduct.

        “It's hard to be a priest,” the archbishop said from the pulpit of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral. “The misbehavior of some is generalized in such a way as to envelop every priest in the umbra of suspicion.”

        The archbishop's message was another reminder that this Holy Week has been among the most difficult in decades for Catholics across the country.

        Although he never mentioned sexual misconduct specifically, Archbishop Pilarczyk's reference to the recent troubles was not lost on the hundreds of priests and parishioners who attended the Mass.

        At one point, the congregation interrupted the archbishop with a standing ovation.

        “It's hard to be a priest,” he repeated, “but it helps to have a generous flock.”

        His remarks came during the annual Chrism Mass, during which the archbishop blesses the oils that will be used throughout the year in sacraments such as baptism and confirmation.

        The Mass precedes some of the holiest days of the Catholic faith: Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

        But this year the archbishop and the dozens of priests who attended Tuesday's Mass are celebrating those Holy Days under a cloud.

        Allegations of misconduct by priests — and of the church's failure to stop it — have surfaced recently in Boston, Philadelphia and several other cities.

        In Cincinnati, the archbishop has said he has substantiated allegations against “fewer than five” priests who still are with the archdiocese.

        Since the scandals began, there have been calls by some critics for changes in church tradition, such as the requirement that priests remain celibate.

        But in his comments Tuesday, Archbishop Pilarczyk defended church tradition against those who consider it “quaint or old-fashioned.”

        “We live in a world that prizes self-assertion and comfort,” he said. “Whereas our commitment calls for self-sacrifice ... the culture in which we find ourselves does not treasure the kind of life we are called upon to live.”

        He said faith would see the priests through these trying times.

        “Our celebration tonight tells us that struggle and uncertainty and suspicion are not the final words,” the archbishop said. “The last word will be the Lord's word.”

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