The low standing of women in the Catholic Church is the most significant reason for the feeling of alienation towards it in Ireland today, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.
“Next would be the ongoing effect of the scandals of child sexual abuse,” he said in an address on Thursday.
“I believe, in particular, that people have underestimated the effect of the scandals on young people.”
He added that young people’s “disgust at what happened is deep-rooted”.
Dr Martin said one of the most disappointing documents that he had read since becoming archbishop concerned a recent survey of young people in Dublin, conducted in preparation for the Synod of Bishops on Young People in Rome next year.
“Young people felt unwelcome in parishes,” he said of the survey’s results.
This reflected “on our system of faith education, which is overly school-centred” and “does not bring young people into better communication with the parish”.
Looking at the current Government, he said he was struck by “the fact that there are more members of the current Cabinet under 45 than there are of priests of that age in the [Dublin] diocese. The same applies to leadership cadres in many other sectors of society”.
He said 57 per cent of priests in the Dublin archdiocese were aged over 60 and this was projected to rise to 75 per cent by 2030.
He said that leadership in “many aspects of our culture belongs to one generation and leadership and the mainstream membership of the church belongs to another”.
“How do you bridge that gap?” he asked.
Dr Martin said he was “happy to see a new generation of young politicians who are inspired by a politics of changing Irish society for the good rather than just fixing problems”.
However, the archbishop said some people might interpret what he was saying as that he was “happy to see politicians who support same-sex unions or wider access to abortion”.
“Let me be very clear. The church will never change its teaching on marriage and on the right to life.”
The archbishop was speaking on Thursday in a talk titled “The church in Dublin: where will it be in 10 years’ time?” at St Mary’s Church, Haddington Road, as part of its Patrick Finn lecture series.
Over the past 25 years, a university professor named Jaime Lara built an illustrious career in the academic world of sacred art history. He was a professor at Yale University for more than a decade, wrote five books and won more than a dozen prestigious awards and fellowships. Since 2013, he has been a professor of medieval and renaissance studies at Arizona State University.
But through his rise, Mr. Lara has kept a secret. On Thursday, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn revealed that 25 years ago, Mr. Lara, then known as the Rev. James Lara, was laicized by the Vatican for sexually abusing children.
The Brooklyn diocese hid Father Lara’s secret from the public, but quietly posted Mr. Lara’s name on its website on Thursday morning, confirming that he had been laicized, or defrocked, for the abuse. Later in the day, the diocese posted the names of seven more former priests who were defrocked for child sexual abuse offenses, in an effort to protect children who might come into contact with them.
The public posting was meant to partly answer victims and their advocates who have pleaded for decades for the publication of all of the names of priests credibly accused or defrocked for child sexual abuse, to prevent the abuse of additional children. About 15 dioceses around the country have published partial lists.
“When the diocese launched the I.R.C.P. back in June, Bishop DiMarzio said that he would never stop working toward reform and he reaffirmed his commitment to the protection of children,” said Carolyn Erstad, a spokeswoman for the diocese, referring to Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio, the leader of the diocese. “I think what we are seeing here are those words in action.”
The other priests listed were Joseph P. Byrns, who served from 1969 to 2002; William E. Finger, who served from 1962 to 1980; Stephen Placa, who served from 1995 to 2002; Thomas O. Morrow, who served from 1971 until 1987; Romano J. Ferraro, who served from 1960 to 1988; Charles M. Mangini, who served from 1968 to 1993; and Christopher Lee Coleman, who served from 1994 to 2011.
Mr. Mangini declined to comment; the other six could not be reached.
Those seven priests represent a fraction of the Brooklyn and Queens clergy implicated in the 233 claims before the compensation program, which is awarding settlements to victims who agree to drop further action against the diocese. A website that tracks abuse allegations against priests, Bishopaccountablity.org, list 55 priests as accused abusers in the diocese since the 1930s, but the total number is unknown.
Victims of Father Lara, who served in Brooklyn for 19 years, and victim advocates said on Thursday that while they were glad that his name was being publicized, they felt it was too little too late.
“There is no excuse for a supposedly moral institution to wait 25 years to release a pedophile priest’s name,” said Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer portrayed in the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight,” about clergy sexual abuse. He is representing three people who claim they were abused by Mr. Lara between the ages of 9 and 11. “Because of the church’s immoral behavior, dozens, if not hundreds, of children have probably been sexually abused by Father Lara, and their lives have been destroyed and their families’ lives have been destroyed.”
Mr. Lara did not respond to a request for comment.
Thursday’s disclosure appears to be the first time the diocese has formally acknowledged the names of priests laicized for child sexual abuse. At least five people who say they were abused by Father Lara have applied for compensation.
Ricardo Gonzalez, 48, who has received compensation, said in an interview on Thursday that he was around 11 years old when Father Lara began to abuse him.
He met Father Lara, he recalled, at a summer program at Public School 321 in Park Slope. Father Lara seemed to always be hanging around the gym, and when he offered to take him and his younger brother and sister to the movies and for ice cream, they were thrilled.
But little by little, in a process common to child sexual abusers known as grooming, Father Lara became intimate with Mr. Gonzalez. “He wanted me to kiss him, he would get on top of me, he would say you can do better than that,” he said, remembering the terror he felt when invited to the rectory. “He would make me touch him in his private parts.”
As the abuse continued, Mr. Gonzalez, who is now a hairdresser, dropped out of high school and at one point attempted suicide, he said. As an adult, he has tried to track down Mr. Lara, and called institutions that had hired him to tell his story. But he felt he was never believed.
“I want everyone to know who he is,” he said. “I want him to lose his job, I want him to not have a drink of water. He ruined the little belief that I have. He is a very, very horrible person.”
Another victim, who asked to be referred to by his middle name, Armando, to protect his identity, noted that Mr. Lara favored Hispanic boys. He recalled how Father Lara seemed to always be around at St. Francis Xavier in Park Slope, as chaplain of the Boy Scouts and head of the altar boys.
He said he was abused from age 11 until he started college. Once, Father Lara bought him a sweatshirt from a trip to Scotland, he recalled, and asked him to strip naked before allowing him to put it on.
“I spent my life, not remembering,” Armando, 52, said. “I thought, I’m lucky, it didn’t impact me, God must have blessed me.” But three years ago, he said, the memories caught up with him, and his life began to fall apart. “I was just able to hold off a little longer,” he said.
Victims and their advocates had been tailing Mr. Lara for years. Robert M. Hoatson, a former priest who helps victims, said that he wrote to the University of Notre Dame around 2012 to warn it about Mr. Lara, who was a visiting professor at the time.
But then he went to at Arizona State University in Tempe as a research professor in the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He continued to publish articles and books, and serve on the board of directors of the Society for the Arts in Religious and Theological Studies.
On Thursday, Arizona State University said that in response to the diocese’s revelation, it had asked Mr. Lara for his resignation and that he had given it.
November 1 was All Saints Day, a day on the church calendar when we pay homage to exceptional followers of Christ. The day before — October 31 — marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s declaration of opposition to what he considered a corrupt papacy that tolerated the selling of indulgences.
When he got wind of what Luther was doing, the Pope excommunicated him. But what a difference a few centuries makes. I can remember a time not so long ago when we Catholics called the Protestant Reformation the Protestant Revolt.
But now, the Vatican has issued a commemorative stamp depicting Luther kneeling at the foot of the cross. The stamp is part of an effort encouraging rapprochement between Catholics and Lutherans.
Perhaps this is a good day to remember that the church does rethink issues, even if it often takes a very long time to do so.
I’m not sure it will come in my lifetime, but at some point, the Vatican might even issue a stamp marking the ordination of the first woman priest.
That would certainly be a departure from the way the institutional church currently treats women priests. If a woman dares to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood, the church declares her to be excommunicated.
Excommunication is the worst thing that the church can do to its members. It bans the individual from receiving all sacraments and from the Catholic community.
So you would think that the ordination of women priests was either so morally sinful or so damaging to the church, that this type of punishment was warranted.
But it is difficult to view Catholic women who pursue a vocation to the priesthood as reprobates out to damage the church.
Indeed, they’re not even outliers among Catholic faithful. Overall, about six in ten U.S. Catholics support women’s ordination. Even among Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly, 45 percent believe that women should have access to the priesthood.
In 1994, Pope John Paul II claimed that women should be excluded because Christ only called twelve men to be His apostles, and the church has always done it this way. That seems like an awfully lame excuse for centuries of misogyny. After all, the apostles all were Jews, too. And it would have been difficult for Jesus, living in that culture and at that point in Jewish history, to have elevated women to leadership positions, although He certainly paid far more attention to women than was customary at the time.
At a time when women have made great strides in the workplace, proving themselves just as capable to head businesses, excel in the arts and sciences, and lead countries, when Anglican and Episcopal churches have ordained women to serve both as priests and bishops, it appears that the Catholic hierarchy is fighting a battle that becomes less and less intellectually defensible.
The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests claims that since a validly ordained Catholic bishop ordained the first women bishops, the ordinations that follow are all valid and within the Catholic apostolic line of succession. They also make clear that they see themselves as reformers within their “beloved church,” not antagonists. Both Women Priests and the Women’s Ordination Conference offer a reasoned and respectful rebuttal to the church’s arguments.
But even if we assume that the institutional church is absolutely right about its embrace of an all-male priesthood, why does it feel so threatened by those few brave women who follow their consciences and choose to be women priests?
They know they will not get the chance to serve in any Catholic parishes or hospitals. They accept lives with little economic or professional security, and none of the perks male priests receive. But surely, they do not threaten the viability of the church.
And tell me this: Isn’t pedophilia a real threat to the institutional church? After all, we are talking about millions of Catholics losing faith in their pastors and bishops, and dioceses saddled with multi-million-dollar lawsuits. Parishes have been closed due to the financial burden of this abuse.
Yet there is no similar papal decree that states that any priest found guilty of sexually molesting minors should be automatically excommunicated.
Indeed it appears that many priest molesters get off easy. In 2014, the Vatican reported that over ten years, it had defrocked 848 priests, and given lighter punishments to 2572 others. The Vatican did not report how many priests it reported to law enforcement, or what happened to them. (In defending how it treated errant priests, the Vatican official had the temerity to state that “the Holy See condemns torture, that includes torture inflicted on the unborn.”)
Interestingly, the decree excommunicating women priests came out in 2007, the same year that the Los Angeles archdiocese paid $660 million in damages to resolve lawsuits filed by abuse victims.
It was just three years after a study commissioned by U.S. bishops revealed that more than 4,000 priests and deacons had been the targets of more than 10,000 complaints of abuse.
Or course, the greater irony is that women who seek ordination do so not to do evil, but to do good. They are not predators. They want to give more to the church, inspired by their faith to live out the gospels as fully as possible. They have not cost the U.S. church the $2.5 billion in damages caused by abusive priests.
I’m not aware of women priests storming parish churches, demanding to say Mass. They are not breaking into rectories, asking for room and board. They are attending schools of theology, but they have not attempted to secure for themselves the benefits that their male colleagues – seminarians – take for granted.
Aspiring priest Lisa Cathelyn must pay $50,000 in tuition to earn her graduate degree in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara in Berkeley, CA. She is on Medicaid because she can’t afford to buy the school’s health insurance. She’s living in a group home to save on rent. She faces an uncertain future, but one in which service to others is her lodestar.
It is the Jesuits who take a vow of poverty who live in relative comfort, while Polovick and other women who study for the priesthood do not need the vow: They are living the real thing.