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The Laity Out There In the Peanut Gallery

It’s been said of certain Catholic writers that they’ve never had an unpublished thought. We’ve heard that said of Fr. Andrew Greeley and Fr. Richard McBrien.

It must be cool never to have had an unpublished thought. Publishers would, if you’d consent, probably jump at the chance to publish your grocery list, even paying you for the privilege.

On the other hand, maybe it isn’t so cool. When you shoot from the hip you can shoot yourself in the foot. Consider this reckless thought: “Dorothy Rabinowitz…has done a great service in recent years by exposing the hysteria that seizes whole communities when someone accuses a teacher or nursery school of sexual abuse. Here and there all over the country, like witch hunts of old, the madness suddenly breaks out and hundreds of people are harassed, arrested, and sometimes jailed for years on the flimsiest of evidence. It is frightening, and, of course, many lives have been ruined…. From the peanut gallery: Well yes, but what about the abused kids whose lives are ruined? A good question. We dare not belittle the seriousness of the sexual abuse of children. At the same time, sexual abuse is subject to wildly different definitions, and there is something terribly wrong when…adults are afraid of the legal repercussions in the most innocent gestures of affection. So why do I mention this? (Warning: Now it gets controversial.) In recent months I have received or been shown letters from a number of clergy, Protestant and Catholic, who are in jail for sexually abusing minors, male and female. Not surprisingly, some claim they were railroaded, and the studies of Rabinowitz and others make that all too believable.”

So who wrote that? Sorry to disappoint, but it wasn’t the pugnacious Fr. Greeley. Nor was it Fr. McBrien, whose fatuous opinions make such a fat target. Actually, it was the equally ubiquitous Fr. Richard John Neuhaus who wrote that (in “The Public Square” section of First Things, Nov. 1997). And he wrote it after the homosexual assaults of the infamous Fr. Rudy Kos of Dallas had hit the fan, to which Neuhaus makes reference, describing Kos’s heinous acts — for which he is now serving a life sentence — as “interfering with young boys.”

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