Those of you who read Deborah's Gyapong's article on the SCCB have been 'introduced' to the subject of my trepidation regarding Sylvia's Site.
Initially I hesitated whether to list it or not. It took a few weeks for me to move. Finally I added it. It has been on for a few weeks now. Today I finally got what might not be correctly characterized as a 'complaint', but rather as a 'concern', a 'misgiving'. The person who made his/her concern noted is someone that I know to be virtuous and a lover of the Church. I trust the opinion of people like this. His/her main concern is that of libel, 'misdirection,' swaying public opinion unjustifiably. That's a big thing. I live and work in a small town, at a small school. Reputation is everything. One stray, unmeasured word can do so much damage. This I know.
Now, on the one hand, I'm not directly responsible for what any of you write, really. I'm not talking about the law of man; I'm talking about the law of God - what really matters. On the other hand, as I was also quoted as saying in Gyapong's article something like: I am a theologian for you, more or less. My status implies responsibilities. I know it does. I know I have responsibilities at least equal to all of yours. Would you knowingly propagate falsehoods, heresy? I wouldn't. Do I have a duty to expose every error? Of course not.
I think at this point my feeling is this: let's keep talking about it. I am all ears.
I have read some of Sylvia's postings fairly closely. The key issue here is the presumption of guilt. I don't think she actually presumes guilt. I think she sometimes gives the impression of guilt, but an impression is not an out and out statement. Further, I don't think Sylvia makes the reader aware that there are all sorts of legal and ecclesiastical 'middle grounds' between innocence and pedophilia. I actually know of some people who exist in that middle ground. I have no doubt that pedophilia is a virtually incurable destructive disease of the mind, but pedophilia is not the only reason why a priest would ever be moved. I have been very closely connected to two priest who have had to move. One was absolutely falsely accused of misconduct by a disturbed woman. His bishop moved him to another parish for sake of his sanity. I tend to think the other was truthfully accused, but I have absolutely no proof of it.
Here's a little known fact: when I was a young man, somewhere between 18 and 21, a priest put his hand on my leg when I was sitting next to him in the context of spiritual direction. It was above the knee, but not very far above it. What was this? Yes, it made me uncomfortable, and it was at least a venial sin of imprudence, but was it more than that? Should I have phoned the bishop? In hindsight I am thinking that I should have. But making a call to a bishop is not the same as posting on a public blog.
Maybe I am biased: I know a lot of victims of abuse and more than a few young men and priests with some sexual dysfunction. I have a great deal of compassion for people who suffer honestly, but very little for those who sin egregiously and hide in the shadows, preying on the weak and innocent. It yet bothers me that when a priest is accused of a crime there is a presumption of guilt today and his story makes the front page, but for everyone else it is the back pages of the paper. Does Sylvia do this? I am thinking not. But again, I am all ears.
I suppose we owe her a fair reading too, a reading under the presumption of innocence.