If I based my faith in man, I would have certainly left the Church after perusing Sylvia’s Site. According to the description, it is a site dedicated to “Blogging the sex abuse scandal and betrayals of trust in the Roman Catholic Church in Canada.” And does it ever do that – court dates, hearings and information on all the accused across Canada. It is heart-breaking.
I became aware of it through my association with a wonderful site, the Society of Canadian Catholic Bloggers. Dr. Colin Kerr, a theology professor at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, set it up so that Canadian Catholic bloggers can connect and discuss matters of faith.
There is currently a bit of discussion as to the nature of Sylvia’s Site, and perhaps whether it should be included in the list of the SCCB.
While this may not be important in the light of eternity, I am offering my thoughts on it anyway. If nothing else, it is a good intellectual and philosophical exercise for a mind that is constantly attending to non-intellectual and non-philosophical matters as I raise three small children.
Having viewed a number of pages on her blog, there are four things which concern me. The first is that she does not always refer to the accused priests as “Father”. While some of them may have destroyed the lives of others, and while they may not deserve the title, the ontological fact is that they have the spiritual mark of priesthood embedded on their souls.
I, in no way, condone or defend the guilty, or the superiors who have protected them. But even the National Post accords their subjects the dignity of titles – “Mr./Mrs.”, etc.
The second concern regards the specific blog posting that I linked to above, “Have They Been Deceived?”. It would appear that 95% of her postings are purely factual, offering court dates and information on the accused. This post, though, would seem to offer speculation and ask questions that suggest the guilt of the accused priest.
She could very well be correct in her presumptions. Much of what she has discovered about that particular priest could add up to him being guilty. I don’t dispute that. However, the Catechism is fairly forthright on offenses against truth:
2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
–of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
–of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;
–of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgements concerning them.
I would submit that Sylvia may have crossed the line with that particular post.
My third concern is healing. Many of those who have made comments on her site have suffered at the hands of priests and bishops. I don’t discount their pain. What these men have done to children and teens is sickening, shocking and horrifyingly wrong. It has made me embarrassed to tell others that I am Catholic.
However, does her site encourage healing when it allows vitriolic anti-Church, anti-clergy comments? I’d be enraged if my sons were abused, and I’d need to vent. But is her site the place to do it? If her site is simply a place to get information on court dates and the like, I don’t understand why the comments are allowed. If, on the other hand, it is meant to be a place that people can go to voice their anger toward the Church, then perhaps it ought to be described as such. Then I would know what I’m about to encounter when reading.
The fourth issue I have is that I have not seen exhortations anywhere in her site to pray for the accused, though I may have missed them. In a few places, Sylvia writes, “Please pray for the complainants.” What about the accused? Those who are accused wrongfully need prayers more than the complainants. Those who have been accused rightly need prayers for conversion and repentance.
Finally, whether or not we feel like a family, the Catholic Church IS a family – the very Body of Christ. The disease in the body needs to be removed. Bishops who have been weak in dealing with guilty priests need to be strong. But must it be so public?
I can’t imagine starting up a blog to detail the sins and failings of my family members, friends and acquaintances. Actually, I can, and I’d never do it. If I found it necessary to share horrible information regarding the behavior of someone I knew, I would do it quietly.
I’m all for (new catch-word) transparency in the Church hierarchy, but does that also mean airing out the dirty laundry for ALL to see? Is that necessary? Does it build up the Body of Christ? I’m not convinced that it does.
Rules for commenting:
I welcome comments and discussion, but would ask that you:
1) Read the posts I suggested at the SCCB and Slyvia’s Site, first.
2) Avoid rudeness (Saying, “You’re an idiot” or something similar does little to encourage rational debate and will not be posted).
3) Sign your first name at the bottom of your comment.
If you’re really interested in adding greatly to this, please consider writing a “guest post’ that I can put on my blog. Email me at email@example.com