Mary Ann Sorrentino is a freelance columnist who writes from Cranston.
Thirty-five years ago this newspaper and newspapers around the world reported my excommunication from the Catholic Church. This action stemmed from my role as executive director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island, providing contraceptive care since the 1930s, and abortion services since abortion was legalized with the Roe v. Wade from 1973. I took the reins in 1977 and became proudly connected with pro-choice advocacy.
As a straightforward person, I understand Rome’s attack on my membership in a Church that considers abortion a “mortal sin”. What I question is my sole condemnation as the administrators and medical staff of these clinics around the world remain Catholic.
I’m not looking for their punishment. However, I highlight an arbitrary and sexist Church. (Can I be buried with my parents in a Catholic cemetery now that a so-called national crime boss rests there locally?)
I ignore the clergy who condemn me, but I am moved to address this subject as major newspapers around the world report the meticulous study which revealed that 330,000 French children were sexually abused by Catholic priests and lay people. diocesans since the 1950s. This number exceeds the total populations of Pittsburgh and Tampa.
It is in France only. Imagine what the global figures are if the experience of France is replicated around the world.
In this context of the ruin of young lives by men ordained to serve the faithful, women endure the constant condemnation of these same men attacking the right of every woman to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Legal abortions are called the worst of sins and women are condemned by Rome while the men who impregnate them advance without reproach.
Despite the vow of chastity taken by celibate Catholic priests, the number of child victims of sexual abuse represents an unimaginable number of criminal offenses. This vow of chastity is routinely broken, apparently, when priests engage in forbidden sexual activities with women and men of all ages.
I don’t care if Catholic priests have sexual experiences with consenting adults, male or female.
I am, however, seeking a uniform Church policy to create a more equitable distribution of charges and punishments for prohibited sexual activity. Preferably, I want the Catholic hierarchy to stop acting as if the sexual drive that God instills in every human person is a bad thing. Specifically, when the meeting of a man and a woman results in an unwanted pregnancy, I want a clergy guilty of breaking their own vows of chastity to refrain from comment.
There is no reason to believe that the God we love – if we have one – does not embrace and understand a woman struggling with an unwanted pregnancy. He may prefer that a child not be brought into a world to be sexually assaulted by the very priests charged with living in his image.
Abortion is a private legal matter. The widespread destruction of childhood innocence and the forced sexual abuse of children that we are told God wants us to have is a public crime.
With 330,000 victims in France alone, God knows how many there are millions in the world. Will priests pay the price for horrific crimes against innocent children which, when committed by a layman, rightly result in prosecution and jail time?
The Vatican should spend less time condemning pregnant women to make heartbreaking decisions about unwanted pregnancies and more time protecting unborn children who – every day and everywhere – are physically, emotionally and psychologically damaged by deviant priests , criminals and largely unpunished. Their innocent fellow priests, trying to save a jaded ministry, deserve our support, as do the children Rome wants us to have.