October 17, 2009

Good news: Some priests don't rape little boys

The Rev. Henry Willenborg, a Roman Catholic priest in Quincy, Ill., in 1987 performing the baptism of his son, Nathan.

Bad news: Some priests choose to commit sexual misconduct with women. In fact, according to a study cited by the article below, 20% of priests have ongoing sexual relationships with women, and 8% to 10% more have occasional heterosexual relationships.

The most e-mailed article in the New York Times today was A Mother, a Sick Son and His Father, the Priest.

It's about a Franciscan priest who fathered a son with an Illinois woman, Pat Bond, who had come to him for marriage counseling. The Franciscans required her to sign a confidentiality agreement, but she's willing to break it now that she and her son are battling cancer.
With little to lose, they are eager to tell their stories: the mother, a once-faithful Catholic who says the church protected a philandering priest and treated her as a legal adversary, and the son, about what it was like to grow up knowing his absentee father was a priest.
It's a compelling read. This is the audio slide show that came with the article.

Update: The Franciscan priest, Rev. Henry Willenborg, has now been suspended by Bishop Peter Christensen, who leads Willenborg's diocese of Superior, Wis. Something that jumped out at me:
The bishop said he had been warned by Father Willenborg’s superiors that The Times would report that Father Willenborg had fathered a son. But he said he decided to suspend the priest after reading accusations in the article that the priest encouraged the woman to have an abortion the first time she became pregnant by him, and had sex with another woman who was young enough to be in high school. (Italics mine.)
Whoa! Willenborg's superiors had warned Bishop Christensen that he had fathered a son (a clear violation of the vow of chastity) and it was evidently not enough to punish the errant priest. It was the suggestion of an abortion (just the suggestion, because Pat Bond didn't go through with it) and a case of statutory rape that did it (because the church is only interested in covering its backside against potential lawsuits). It's another example of self-serving behavior. The Catholic church really needs to be called out in a public forum every time we find reports like this.

(Did the Bible ever mandate celibacy for priests? Or is it just a cockamamie human idea? Because we're getting proof every day that it doesn't work.)

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