Talk about bad timing.
The biggest story of religion in Iowa last week has been mind-boggling. Attorney General Tom Miller has announced that he has concluded a three-year investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against priests in the four Catholic dioceses in our state.
Miller’s staff reviewed church records, some dating from the 1930s, which involved around 100 priests. His office also received and investigated 50 allegations against 36 priests, many of which have been the subject of previous complaints.
Most of the cases involved deceased or retired priests. But three of the allegations concerned priests who are still active in the ministry of the church.
“Sexual abuse has been going on for decades,” Miller’s report said. “The complaints, the victims, the duration of the abuse were overwhelming. “
He continued, “The cover-up was extensive. The image and reputation of the church took precedence over the enormous harm done to young people.
Here we are, 20 years since the biggest scandal in the history of the American Catholic Church became widely known.
Yet we are still learning from recently reported cases of abuse, and we are learning that they have been covered up by the bishops and archbishops who are the eyes and ears of the Pope in America.
Instead of worrying about these horrible sins committed by these supposed men of God, instead of focusing on the lasting harm these crimes have caused to generations of children and adolescents, and to the church itself – even, the American Catholic hierarchy seems rather to worry about something rather insignificant:
Should America’s best-known Catholic layman, President Joe Biden, be able to receive Communion because of his stance on abortion?
Talk about misplaced priorities. Talk about bad timing.
Members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted 168-55 earlier this month to begin drafting a document to address the concerns of many bishops about prominent Catholic politicians receiving Communion while opposing the church’s position that all abortions should be illegal.
Biden said he personally opposes abortion but supports the right of pregnant women to have a legal abortion if they choose.
No one questions the authority of the bishops. Those pushing to exclude Biden and other pro-choice Democrats from Communion certainly have a right to decide who qualifies or not for Communion in the dioceses they oversee.
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is blunt about Biden: “Our new president is committed to pursuing certain policies that would advance moral evils.
To be clear, however, many Americans, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, have been sickened by the shameful conduct of church leaders in the United States – and in Rome too – who have turned a blind eye to the moral evils represented by the tastes. of two Iowans, Father Jerome Coyle and Father George McFadden.
When Coyle admitted in 1986 that he sexually abused about 50 boys in Iowa, the church did not report him to law enforcement for prosecution for his crimes.
Instead, the church continued its long-standing practice – quietly moving him to another community, where no one would suspect anything bad about the town’s new priest.
It was first in a treatment center in New Mexico, then in a care center in Fort Dodge across from a Catholic school, and finally in another state where his past is unlikely to catch up with him.
McFadden’s story was similar to Coyle’s – posting to a ward with unsuspecting boys and parents who had learned to respect and trust the priest. The church finally concluded – after too many years and too many victims – that McFadden had sexually assaulted at least 48 boys. He was removed from the priesthood but was not turned over to law enforcement.
The victims of Coyle and McFadden had parents who were likely more concerned about the safety and well-being of their children and less concerned about whether the President of the United States was worthy of receiving Communion.
Miller’s scrutiny of the abuse problem in Iowa has answered many questions and kept the public’s attention on the dioceses to ensure they don’t downgrade.
Nationally, one of the questions concerns another Catholic political leader, former Attorney General William Barr. These questions are silencing US bishops as the federal government, with Barr’s approval, executed more federal prison inmates under the Trump administration than during any other administration in the past 120 years.
Amid all the discussion and debate about communion, an Anglican priest, Reverend Daniel Brereton of Mississauga, Ont., Offered his take on the American bishops’ conflict with Biden:
“I do not understand the refusal of communion,” he said in a social media post. “It’s not a prize for the best performance. It is not a gold star for top marks.
“It is grace, and it is not we who give it. But what if someone “unworthy” receives it. Uh, that would be “everyone”.
Randy Evans lives in Des Moines where he is the Executive Director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He can be contacted at [email protected]