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Jennifer Delaney

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Could I Raise My Children In The Catholic Church?

Posted: 03/16/10 03:41 PM ET

This morning my stomach turned when I heard NPR's story about more child rapes and cover-ups by priests in Ireland, and about the growing abuse scandal involving the Pope in Germany. I wondered to myself, "When we have kids, could I still raise them in the Church after what I just heard?"

Democracynow.org (along with many other outlets) also reported on the Irish story: "In 1975, Cardinal Sean Brady spoke with children abused by a priest named Brendan Smyth. Instead of reporting the abuse to the police, the Bishop asked the children to take a vow of silence. A child abuse advocate said the priest continued to rape and abuse children." On the German front: "Fanther Hullermann was first accused of sexually abusing young boys in 1980, but Church officials, including the future Pope, allowed him to stay in the church for thirty years (and have contact with children), even after a 1986 conviction of sexually abusing children." There goes my breakfast.

This brought back memories of being a student in the early 1980s at Arlington Catholic High School in Massachusetts, hearing the vice principal announce over the loudspeaker that we were not to talk to the news reporters set up outside our school. It was never mentioned that the reporters were waiting for comment on the accusation that the school's pastor, Father Eugene O'Sullivan, had been brought up on charges of sexually molesting boys. This was the beginning of the Massachusetts Catholic Church abuse scandal.

I grew up Catholic, went to a Catholic school, was a member of the Christian Service Club, and the list goes on. I was baptized, had my Holy First Communion, went through Confirmation, and returned many years later to get married in the same Parish. I sometimes attend noon Mass. Church is still a place of solace for me, but it has become harder and harder for me to walk though those doors.

I now struggle with how I could raise my future children in this institution. I know that most priests are good, decent men, but the rape of children by the depraved ones is sickening. It is also deeply troubling that the church allowed sexual predator's access to a fresh crop of innocent victims by moving predator priests to unsuspecting new parishes and covering up their abuses. They put the lambs in the lion's cage. Children were the sacrificial lamb in keeping appearances up and the collection boxes full. The Church, obsessed with abortion and what they call "protecting the unborn," should have taken better care in protecting those who are already born from the sexual predators within its ranks.

I remember in high school telling a friend's mom (who thought priests could do no wrong) how creepy I thought O'Sullivan was, and she looked at me with serious scorn and said, "Never say that about a priest!" I Googled him today after hearing the NPR story, and I found a 1993 article on Bishop-accountability.org that said, "Father O'Sullivan pleaded guilty in 1984 to raping a 13-year-old Arlington altar boy ... [He] was back working in ordinary parish ministry in New Jersey less than a year later." It turned out that he was accused of molesting boys as far back as 1963 but was shuffled around to various towns in Massachusetts and elsewhere when parishioners started to get suspicious. He was finally banned from the priesthood in 1992.

O'Sullivan is also accused of molesting two of his nephews, one of whom said the AIDS he later contracted resulted from "sexual confusion directly related to my uncle's abuse ... at a time when it's very, very dangerous to be ill-adjusted sexually." The other nephew talked of his attempted suicide in his teenage years.

Suicide, sexually transmitted illness, drug abuse, prostitution, sexual abuse passed down to the next generation -- in many cases these have links to prior sexual abuse in childhood. These are things that the Church is supposed to help prevent, not propagate. We may never know the number of lives ruined and the amount of pain caused, not to mention the cost to society -- the social services needed and the loss of productivity and potential contribution to the economy and society.

If it is true and our current Pope allowed a pedophile priest to dole out communion and rape more children by shuffling the predator off to a new, unsuspecting parish, then how could I bring a child into an organization that has demonstrated a pattern of turning a blind eye to the rape of the most innocent and covering it up at the highest levels of leadership? There is no moral authority there.