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Keeping the Faith: The Catholic Church

April 18, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


SPENCER MICHELS: Thank you all very much for being here. Giselle Jiles, maybe you can start by telling us how this scandal has affected you and your participation in the Church, and your faith in the Church.

GISELLE JILES: Well, I was raised as a Catholic. I was educated from kindergarten through up to 12th Grade in a Catholic parochial school. And when I first heard the first story that hit the news, I did not believe it.

My faith had me believing that whatever a priest told you, you could take it to the bank; it was the Bible. My faith has been, it has deteriorated. I’m still going to Church, but there is this disbelief that, who do you trust now? So it has kind of torn down some walls.

MARIA LOPEZ-KNOWLES: You know, ironically, it’s strengthened my faith. I was raised in a, I’m a cradle Catholic. I was a Catholic all my life. I didn’t have a choice. I was educated by Jesuit priests.

My mother, who was Cuban, elevated all of our male priest friends on a threshold, and my dad, who’s a Spaniard, brought them back to reality. So I had a very real perspective of a priest was an individual first, who was a human first, and who was a sinner first.

It’s shameful what the Church has done in… in harboring these priests, it really is. But at the same time I think this is an opportunity, and it’ll strengthen the church down the road.

SPENCER MICHELS: How does it strengthen your faith?

MARIA LOPEZ-KNOWLES: My faith isn’t really that tied into the Church. It just, it transcends that, so I think the Church has survived 2,000 years. It will survive this.

And it will strengthen it because it will force the Church and the hierarchy to look at it. You can’t close the door anymore. You can’t live in the closet anymore. It’s like, get out there and face it and deal with it, because future generations. The hope is the future generations of Catholics.

SPENCER MICHELS: Vivian Dudro, you’re a mother of several children, very active in the Church. Has this hurt your faith at all?

VIVIAN DUDRO: No, it hasn’t hurt my faith because I know that the Church is made of up human beings. The starting point for any Catholic is that we’re all sinners.

Of course, for a person with spiritual authority to stoop to this level of behavior is… is hurtful, it’s disappointing, it’s scandalous. But for me, the betrayal is far worse on the part of the Bishops in protecting and harboring. And they’re complicit in this, and the fact that they could turn the other way when this is going on, that to me is almost worse.

SPENCER MICHELS: George Fruehan, you’ve been active in the Oakland Diocese. How do you attack this problem? How do you deal with if from your perspective?

GEORGE FRUEHAN: Well, actually, I myself am a survivor of clergy sexual abuse years ago when I was a child, and I just know personally, I mean, that’s a very difficult thing to deal with, and the problem is the shame that the victim or the survivor takes rather than the perpetrator.

But partly that’s aided and abetted when the institutional Church then treats it as a secret and, you know, Bishops who are on record as having shuttled pedophiles from parish to parish.

But this kind of molestation happens– psychiatrists sexually molest patients, all religions have actually about the same incidence of their ministers molesting parishioners. And certainly I agree with the other people that the cover-up of the Bishops… I mean, that to me is the scandal.

GISELLE JILES: I have a question for George. Are you a survivor that’s thriving, you know?

GEORGE FRUEHAN: Yeah, I mean, I’m still a practicing Catholic and I haven’t really dealt personally with all of the issues of surviving. I mean, here I am a competent adult in all these other fields, but that’s something that’s still being worked on.

But I’m using part of my energy to work structurally with the Oakland Diocese and influence policies and get out and educate seminarians.

SPENCER MICHELS: Mark Brumley, you deal with some of these issues, I assume, in the courses you teach in theology at various levels. What do you recommend? What are you personally doing because of this scandal?

MARK BRUMLEY: Well, on the one hand we have to say, the Church is a Church of sinners. I couldn’t belong if it weren’t, okay. They’d have to kick me out, because I’m a sinner, and we recognize that.

It’s like a hospital. A hospital is full of sick people. I’m a sick person, that’s why I’m there. So we recognize that this is just part of the human condition. One of the reasons Christ came was to… to try to redeem us from that.

But on the other hand, that… the fact that this is a human community with sinners, it can’t be used as an excuse to tolerate the abuse, especially, of children — by people in leadership positions but, you know, for me, when a priest molests a child, when a Bishop scuttles around somebody who has abused a child, that’s an attack on the Church, as well.

SPENCER MICHELS: Layel, Layel Carlson, you work in this Church.


SPENCER MICHELS: From your experience, has this started a dialogue going on on many of the issues facing the Church, the issues not just of pedophilia, but of celibacy, of married priests, of various other issues? Are you talking about these things more than you had been before?

LAYEL CARLSON: Oh. Oh, yes, but I think people… you know, certainly here I think there’s always been a feeling that women should be in a position of coming to the table, you know, and also, I think… I personally feel that priests should be allowed to marry. I… that’s my personal feeling.

SPENCER MICHELS: Vivian Dudro, is it time for the Church to start talking about these things and the lay people in the Church, or are some subjects off limits because the Pope has said, “We are not going to have married priests and we are going to have celibacy”?

VIVIAN DUDRO: Well, subjects are never off limits for reasonable exploration and discourse. But if anything, this scandal, I think, only goes to prove the truth of the Church’s teaching on the meaning and purpose of human sexuality… I mean, we’re living in a society where there’s been a lot of permissiveness.

I mean, we’re dealing with a lot of sexual disorder and confusion, and if anything, the Church’s clear teaching that the meaning and purpose of sex is marriage, is family, to me it’s only vindicated when we see people with disordered sexual passions exploiting other people.

MARIA LOPEZ-KNOWLES: I think I have a more liberal view. I think I’m just not that caught up in the whole, you know, their sexual preferences, should they be married, should they not be married. Pedophiliacs are a different breed, as far as I’m concerned, regardless of whether they wear a collar or not.

SPENCER MICHELS: Adrian, you talk to a lot of young people in your classes at school. What do they think?

ADRIAN FULAY: Well, as a religion teacher I get… I’m kind of like the… I’m really the first face of the Church for a lot of our students who are Catholic but might not be practicing.

One big issue that I think is, is important for adolescence is this whole notion of hypocrisy. If any of you have any worked with or have adolescents, they’re the first ones to judge, and they’re the first ones who do not want to be judged.

And then when an issue like this where moral leadership or those in authority are — those are the ones that are committing the crime, the red flag goes up for them, you know, “hypocrites.”

So unfortunately, for a lot of my students, that’s another excuse to throw out the whole Church, throw out faith, throw out belief.

SPENCER MICHELS: What does a parent tell his or her child about this situation?

VIVIAN DUDRO: Well, I’ve told my kids, If anyone violates your personal space, let them have it, and whether that’s a priest, or a police officer or a teacher, a neighbor — you know, the young are very vulnerable, and there are a lot of predators out there.

And I think parents have a duty to teach their children to listen to their instincts and protect themselves. And it’s unfortunate that we have to do that, but that’s what we have to do.

SPENCER MICHELS: You have two boys who are altar boys.

VIVIAN DUDRO: I do. I have two sons who are altar boys.

SPENCER MICHELS: Does that give you pause at all these days?

VIVIAN DUDRO: No, it really doesn’t, because I think I’ve equipped them with common sense, and I’ve always told them, listen to their instincts.

But also, we know a lot of very wonderful priests and I want to emphasize that as well, but there are a lot of selfless, heroic men out there who’ve given up the good of marriage in order to serve the Church in this selfless way, and we know many of them.

SPENCER MICHELS: Layel, you’ve got a couple of kids, one not quite old enough to get involved in this.


SPENCER MICHELS: But what do you tell your eight-year-old?

LAYEL CARLSON: Daughter, yes. You know, I tried to talk to her about it the other day, and it was really… it was a very tough conversation. And she sort of just looked at me and was like, “what?”

And I tried just, you know, and sort of euphemistically tell her what happened, and she… and really she just in a way cut off. She just couldn’t take it, you know, and I figure, “well, okay, we’ll approach it again at another time.” But I could tell that was enough. That’s all I’m going to hear. You know, let’s move on.

SPENCER MICHELS: Tell me what you think laypeople in the Catholic Church can do right now about this problem, this scandal?

ADRIAN FULAY: The biggest role that I could play as a layperson, I would encourage every Catholic to do, is to be a good Catholic. So show the world, show our neighborhoods that our… that the Catholic Church has something beautiful, something powerful to offer to the world.

GISELLE JILES: And it’s the laypeople that expose this. You know, we have to take credit that we brought this to light so we can actually fix it.

VIVIAN DUDRO: The Church is like a family. And when you’ve got a member of the family that’s in need of help, sometimes you’ve got to do an intervention. And that’s what a loving family does. You know, to just sweep it under the rug and let a person self-destruct and take others with him is not loving that member of the family any more than it’s not loving the rest of the family.

SPENCER MICHELS: With all of this background, the Pope and the Vatican called the American cardinals to Rome to talk about this. What would you like to see come out of that meeting in Rome? Go ahead.

MARK BRUMLEY: I’d like to see the attitude of Daniel who was exiled, you know, in Babylon, who confessed, “We have sinned.” He hadn’t sinned personally, but he took responsibility for his people, and I’d like to see the Cardinal leadership of the Church in the United States say, “we have sinned. We, as leaders, have failed. We repent and we’re going to do whatever we need to do to make this right– to the victims, to the rest of the Church, to the mission of the Church.”

LAYEL CARLSON: How about, “we’re sorry”? How about an apology? I haven’t heard that yet.

MARIA LOPEZ-KNOWLES: This is not just a U.S. issue, first of all. I think if the church is going to recognize it as an issue, recognizing it at global level.

It’s not just U.S. and secondly, I think, my God, you know, it’s been 40 years since the Vatican Council. Maybe this ultimately would lead to a third Vatican Council and really make some changes in the Church.

SPENCER MICHELS: And Vivian… Vivian, what do you think about the meeting in Rome? What do you expect to come out of it?

VIVIAN DUDRO: Well, I’m sorry I don’t have high expectations, but that’s because there does seem to be a precedent for a lot of talk and writing documents. And I would, I hope more comes out of it than just talk.

GISELLE JILES: They have to restore the faith in the Church, I think. And I think if they would just do the simple things and prosecute the people as if they weren’t priests and make sure, you know, confirm that it won’t happen again.

SPENCER MICHELS: So there is obviously a lot more to talk about, but I want to thank you all for being with us today.