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posted: 2/17/2013 5:00 AM

Abuse by clergy indefensible

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As we all wish a fond farewell to Pope Benedict, there will be countless questions bandied about as to why he chose to retire. Of course, "health" was blamed (as it always is), but some of my "doubting Thomas"-type friends have raised an eyebrow.

Last night, a group of us watched the new HBO documentary: "Maxima Mea Culpa." It catalogs some very specific and horrifying child abuse by a Father Murphy at St. John's School for the Deaf in Wisconsin, which went on for several years. Some kids looked for help from church authorities, some from their parents, and years later from the police. The answer was always the same: Father Murphy is a good man, and he says he didn't do it. Case closed. Some found it hard to watch, but I found refuge in knowing that this must be part of His plan.

Just like my canned defense -- "but that's the Old Testament!" -- when Biblical atrocities are mentioned, I reassured my friends about this scandal: "That was years ago!" But as the film went on, the documents and actions uncovered became so recent, specific and high level (yes, that high) as to leave me very little wiggle room for a defense. I know Penn State was a big deal because it involved a man who had the trust of kids and their parents, and whose institution had an almost religious following in the state college community. This is totally different (worldwide organization; abuse has been going on for centuries; institution constantly led concerted effort to hide "transgressions"; and both abuses and cover up include countless members at every level of the organization) -- this is my religion! Don't mess with it.

Colin Barr

Arlington Heights

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