On Thursday I heard Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea speak in Naples at a VOTF series.  She is a clinical psychologist specializing in trauma and had spoken to the bishops 2002 at the Dallas conference.

She focused on what she saw as the roots of the sexual abuse crisis. She had left the Catholic Church some time ago and has become a liberal Protestant, and her position was that the Catholic Church should adopt the ethos of liberal Protestantism to rid itself itself clerical narcissism that had enabled the abuse.

Unfortunately her theology is so different from Catholicism that most Catholics, especially those in the hierarchy, will dismiss her immediately, although she had some excellent suggestions. Among them was the reinstitution of the sacred penitentiary (although she did not use that term).

She said that bishops sought the easy way out of the accusations: pay off the victims and laicize the abusive priests. But this turned abusers loose with no control or supervision. She suggested offering such priests a residence in the country, where they could work, say mass, pray, and stay away from children. They would have no internet access or cell phone, and would be accompanied whenever they left the residence.

She described the process of mourning that victims had to go through for the life they had lost and Catholics had to go through for the image of the Church they had lost, an image that never corresponded to reality.

The clerical attitudes that she found intolerable and a betray of Christ were exemplified by an article that a Canadian referred me to: “Parent of Abuse Compliant Raps Plourde” (Ottawa Citizen, June 4, 1986).

The mother of one of the three boys allegedly abused by a Nepean priest lashed out Tuesday at Archbishop Joseph-Aurèle Plourde for his “unchristian” response to parent’s complaints.

On Monday, Plourde issued a statement criticizing parents for going outside the church with their allegations instead of “placing their trust in their own pastors, priests, and bishops.”


The woman…said she had tried to get satisfaction within the church without result. After she had relayed her accusations on separate occasions to two priests a bishop, and a member of her parish council she was scolded by the bishop for gossiping, she said.

She said Plourde phoned her at her home in early May to say “she mustn’t go to the police and mustn’t go to the media and mustn’t bring shame upon the Church.

He said it wasn’t my concern and was in danger of a grave sin of scandal,” she said.

“Not once did any of these men ask about my son and his condition, not once.”

(The accused priest, Dale Crampton, later pleaded guilty.)

I really do not think that this attitude has changed – bishops have been told by their lawyers that they have to do certain things and have to pretend to be human beings and express concern for the victims, but my strong suspicions that it is all show, and there has been no conversion of heart. Liberals like Weakland and conservatives like Egan were equally hard-hearted.

Leave a Comment