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Published: Thursday, 12/12/2002

Don't blame messenger for the mess

Arriving in my e-mail the other day was something from one of my occasional correspondents, who this time had a few things to say about the crisis facing the Catholic church. Well, here - read for yourself some of his views:

Roberta,

It seemed rather bizarre to place three days of headlines on the subject matter on the front pages. I think if one looked carefully, one could find serious abuses in all of our faiths and religions.

I'm not by any means belittling the problem. There are some serious allegations and, likely, some serious problems to those few abused. However, I see hungry lawyers circling for a feeding frenzy, and people [coming] out of the woodwork for a pricey settlement.

Some of these allegations date back 20 or 30 years - give me a break! The other 99.99 percent of the Catholic priests are fine, upstanding ministers of the faith. I think your paper has done untold damage to a very large segment of ... Catholicism. Your paper should also give equal time and front page headlines to the good, godly Catholics in the area.

Philip A. Sanford, Perrysburg

Dear Phil,

As always, nice hearing from you. Thanks for the e-mail. I gather you're not too happy with the newspaper's recent series, which detailed allegations against various area priests and summarized diocesan reaction and policy.

You found it “bizarre'' that front-page attention was given to this subject, and challenged us to produce front-page stories about the great majority of priests who carry out their duties with love, and not harm.

Well, you'll get no argument from me about the “good, godly Catholics in the area.'' In fact, I don't think anyone is quarreling with that notion.

But the thing is, that's not what any of this is about.

Let me ask you something, Phil. When you read stories about, oh, I don't know, let's say house fires, which more closely resembles your reaction:

1). Gee, too bad about that family over on Such-and-So Road whose house burned down, or;

2). Hey, wait a minute! How come we never hear about the houses that DON'T catch fire?

Please don't misunderstand me, Phil: I fully appreciate that religion is something very personal to many people. I'm not trying to downplay the sorrow that many feel in the seemingly never-ending scandal.

And you're right, I'm sure, that serious abuses no doubt occur in other faiths.

But I doubt, for example, that it's the Boston or even the national media who are responsible for Cardinal Law's recent flight to the Vatican and the protesters who want him out.

This ain't just happening in Toledo, Phil - and by reporting such incidents, the media can hardly be accused of causing “untold damage.”

No, “untold damage” is what happens when abuse victims can't bring themselves to tell anyone about molestations that occurred, yes, sometimes as many as 30 years ago.

Your e-mail made it clear that you're troubled by the allegations against some priests, and by the ensuing media coverage.

Know what? In a way, that makes two of us - which is to say, the world be much better if this had not happened.



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