In the wake of recent reports that the Roman Catholic Church covered up several cases of sexual abuse of children by priests, the Catholic community at Yale has reacted with sadness, and some have said they hope the controversy will not shake the faith of their fellow Catholics.
“It’s been a real shock for me, I think it’s been a shock for a lot of people,” Daniel Kruger ’04 said. “It’s very difficult to come to grips with when someone in a position of authority abuses a position of authority for their own gain.”
Yale’s Catholic chaplain, Robert Beloin, who gave a homily at St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel on Sunday addressing the issue, said the priests involved behaved abhorrently.
“I think the cases are very sad,”‘ Beloin said. “It’s very sad to see some priests contribute to undermining the trust people have in their priest. It has a way of overshadowing the far majority of priests who are doing great works every day.”
But Beloin also stressed that the scandal should not prompt Catholics to leave the church. He also mentioned that the percentage of priests who are pedophiles is far smaller than the percentage of pedophiles in the general population.
Gary Fernando ’03 agreed that the controversy should not affect people’s faith.
“People do stop and let it reflect on their faith and I don’t think it should be taken to that level,” he said. “It’s making a lot of people think negatively about their faith.”
Kruger said one factor contributing to the problem has been a lack of lay control over the clergy.
“Before the 1840s, laypeople in the church actually had the power to hire or fire a priest,” Kruger said. “But after the 1940s the bishops assumed that control and accountability was taken away. I would like to see that given back to the people, have lay council and priests should answer to them and perhaps make it less likely that bishops and other people in the church would be able to cover this up.”
Beloin said he did not agree with those who think celibacy is one of the causes of pedophilia and said that eliminating the celibacy policy would not solve any problems.
“I think the comments of people who lump celibacy as a cause of pedophilia aren’t going to hold up in the long run, not as proved by the data,” Beloin said. “I don’t think there’s a connection between celibacy and pedophilia because those who are involved in pedophilia are ordinarily married men.”
Kruger said he thinks the controversy provides an opportunity to revisit the policies of the Catholic Church and that some good can come out of this situation.
“Good comes out of everything and I think that the good that will come out of this is people will look at how the church is run,” Kruger said. “I think the hierarchy has too much power and it’s a real shame that bishops and cardinals covered this up.”
Matthew Hansen ’03, co-chairman of the undergraduate council at St. Thomas More, said there are no current plans for forums or discussions on the state of the Catholic Church, but the group has not met since the story broke because of Spring Break.
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