At any rate, after a long silence, the Vatican finally has finally grown tired of the attacks. The director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Father Federico Lombardi, issued the following statement:
The Diocese of Tucson contacted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding the case, because it regarded the canonical crime of solicitation in the confessional. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took an active interest in the case throughout the 1990’s, in order to guarantee that the Church trial underway in the Diocese of Tucson was properly completed. The trial was completed in 1997. The cleric in question was found guilty and laicized. The evidence clearly and certainly shows this… It must not be forgotten that even when appeals are pending and the sentence is suspended, precautionary measures are imposed by the bishop on the accused. Indeed, Teta had been suspended from the exercise of priestly ministry in 1990.
It was appropriate to protect potential victims by suspending the person accused of these crimes pending completion of the investigation. Thus, even though he had not yet been defrocked, the priest in question was suspended from "any duty, right or benefit granted to a priest" pending the outcome of the trial.
Did the process take too long? Perhaps so, but when an individual’s good name and livelihood are at stake, care must be taken to minimize the risk of a wrongful conviction.
Some have suggested that sexual abuse of children is committed more frequently by teachers or Scout leaders or clergy of other faiths. They say this as if to mitigate or minimize the evil that was done. But even if it could be proven that a higher percentage of teachers commit such acts, that doesn’t excuse priests who sexually abused.
Some online sources estimate that there are some half a million Catholic priests, and only a small fraction of that number have been accused of these heinous acts. According to Dr. Thomas Plante in an article found here, "4% of priests during the past half century (and mostly in the 1960s and 1970s) have had a sexual experience with a minor". Again, this doesn’t excuse the actions of even a single priest. Even one instance is too many.
As a Catholic, I’m appalled by instances of sexual abuse by priests. There is no excuse for it, and I offer no excuses. But neither will I excuse the publication of distorted versions of the truth.
On the other hand, here is a disturbing thought: we may need to shoulder some of the blame for the media's feeding frenzy over this and other tragic events.
Think about it.
How many of us spent countless hours glued to sensational coverage of O.J. Simpson eluding police in a low-speed “chase” on the L.A. freeway? Or watching the Twin Towers be struck again and again by evil men? Or craving the latest foibles of Tiger Woods?
Do we seek factual and balanced reporting of the stories of the day? Or do we dive for the dirt?
When presented with reporting that seems far more sensational that factual, do we speak out in favor of honesty, or do we pass up the opportunity to call the news media to a higher standard?
By our actions, do we condone or encourage the publication of stories jam-packed with lurid details? Is it time for us to reevaluate whether we have an appetite for news or a thirst for scandal?
Do you want to offer encouragement and support to a priest whose ministry has touched your life? On Father's Day 2010, an organization called Catholics Come Home will be launching an interactive website which will offer several different ways to do so. Interested in learning more about it? Go to this site.