Reuters is reporting that a top Vatican official has kept silent for months about a high profile Catholic priest’s fathering a child.
Will Catholic officials ever start being more honest and prompt about clergy sex crimes and misdeeds?
The Vatican official is Spanish Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, who was appointed two years ago by Pope Benedict to oversee the Legion of Christ. Yesterday, the Legion’s most prominent priest, Fr. Thomas D. Williams, admitted he had an “affair” and fathered a child which neither he nor his Legion supervisors are financially supporting.
It's important to remember that Fr. Williams is also accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with
--college students in Rome, and
--the daughter of a prominent US Catholic figure.
(see John Allen's article in the National Catholic Reporter)
And it's important to remember that the Legion
--has a long, sordid history of secrecy about clergy sex crimes and misdeeds, and
-- claims a recent "investigation" found that seven Legion priests are accused of molesting kids.
(We strongly suspect that’s a lie. We believe it’s very likely that most of these allegations were reported directly to Legion officials, not discovered through some “investigation.” And we suspect that, like with Fr. Williams, top Legion staffers have known for months or years about many of these accusations but have kept them hidden.)
Finally, Fr. Williams’ own comments on this scandal bear mentioning.
He apologizes for the news getting out - “I am truly sorry to everyone who is hurt by this revelation” – but not for the harm he’s caused to his child (who’s growing up with apparently no emotional support – or at least honesty – from his or her father and no financial support from his or her father or the wealthy Catholic institution that pay him).
And Fr. Williams still refuses to accept responsibility for the child, writing about “respect for the privacy of the woman and her child.”
In short, the Legion is – and has long been - perhaps the most secretive and corrupt Catholic religious order in the world. It’s officials should publicly discipline Fr. Williams. And those who have seen, suspected and suffered clergy sexual misconduct by current and former Legion employees should step forward, get help, call police, expose wrongdoing, protect others and start healing.