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In Theory: Can the Catholic Church restore its image?

June 08, 2012
  • Father Thomas Doyle applies ashes to the forehead of a parishioner at the conclusion of a service on the first day of Lent at the St. James Catholic Church in La Crescenta on Thursday, February 22, 2012.
Father Thomas Doyle applies ashes to the forehead of a… (Roger Wilson/Staff…)

The image ofthe Catholic Church recently was further battered when documents revealed that Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York authorized payments of up to $20,000 each to priests accused of sexual abuse as “motivation” not to contest being defrocked.

The papers, found during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, outline how officials — including Dolan, then the archbishop of Milwaukee — discussed a proposal to offer $20,000 for returning to lay status ($10,000 at the start and $10,000 at the completion the process) to priests described as “unassignable” because of sex-abuse allegations. One priest, Franklyn Becker, received $10,000. Becker was accused of abusing at least 10 victims.

Victims of abuse by priests have slammed the revelations, saying that the compensation offered is only $10,000 less than that offered to the victims. “In what other occupation, especially one working with families and operating schools and youth programs, is an employee given a cash bonus for raping and sexually assaulting children?” asked the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests in a letter to the current Archbishop of Milwaukee.


Q: What can the Catholic Church do to restore its image?

The Catholic Church faces challenges to restore its image in the world after events of the past few years. Critics of the most recent actions and decisions of the church leadership might say that the Catholic Church is more than just the decisions of the hierarchy, and that certain members of the hierarchy have become accustomed to the benefits of privilege, status and wealth.

So while the church is attempting to find its path through the modern challenges of secularism, relativism and pluralism, some supporters and critics would suggest the church should seek discernment through dialogue and openness. I hope the Catholic Church will reduce its hostile reactions to the increasing secularism of the modern world, as it attempts to make internal changes.

Steven Gibson
South Pasadena Atheist Meetup


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