Walking in Their Shoes

When Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News found out that Father Clay, a priest accused of sexual abuse, was serving at his parish, he faced a dilemna. He could become a "troublemaking whistleblower or peacekeeping

He decided to make trouble, turning the details over to the paper's religion reporters, who jumped on it. though not without anguishing over it.

It was not an easy decision, as he wrote in a column yesterday. And it taught him one unexpected lesson--some insight into why sexual abuse by priests was covered up.

I have more empathy with those I have denounced. I have never been able to understand
why bishops and parents of abused kids would try to handle things quietly. Well, I get it now. The
only reason I anguished over any of this was not for the sake of Father Clay, but for trouble
publicly exposing his deception would cause innocent people.

In the end, though, kids have to be shielded, and the church has to be liberated from this curse of
secrets, lies and clerical privilege. I did what I had to do, and am not sorry for it.

At a journalism conference a few months back, Stephen Scott, a friend and religion editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press pointed out another reason why the coverup happened. Bishops and priests have a "covenant relationship"--like the one between a man and wife in marriage or the one God made with humanity. It's like the bond between a father and his son--one with unswerving loyalty and a promise to be there no matter what happens.

Most of us have wanted the Catholic church to treat its priest like employees--if they cause trouble, dump them ASAP. But for a bishop, a priest is family, and so, in the case of abusive priests, they honored their obligation to their priests and not to their flocks.


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