From a reader:
I just found out my home diocese has spent around the same amount annually on sexual abuse fees as it has for vocations. I am so discouraged. How can I continue to see to the material needs of the Church when the money I give is being spent on protecting a few wicked priests?
Yes, it is deeply frustrating that so much money, that could be better applied elsewhere, has to be expended in that way because of the wicked and the sick.
However, I am not going to admit your premise. I don’t think that anywhere money is being spent to “protect wicked priests”. There is no line item in the budget that says “for the protection of wicked priests”.
But I think you are talking about expenditures of money to victims of abuse by priests.
Even though mere monetary compensation can’t heal the damage that was done to victims, it is something that is done with a measure of our imperfect human justice. There is no perfect justice here. Only in heaven is there perfect justice. But it is at least something, one of the components along with expressions of regret and concrete steps to make sure that men inclined to do that sort of thing are never ordained, etc.
Also, it could be that, figured into that budget, there is money being spent so that men who are falsely accused are receiving legal defense.
Furthermore, a diocese has also to take prudent steps to protect and be good stewards of the assets of the diocese so that the works of religion can go on in the local Church. The bishop of the diocese has a spiritual responsibility to keep as many people out of hell as possible and also a fiduciary responsibility in regard to the material wealth of the local Church. When wolves come, shepherds protect the flock and that “flock” has also to include the terrain, the pasture, that is, the assets of the diocese. Otherwise, what sort of bishops are they?
There is no lack of wolves, surrounding the Church waiting for a moment of exposure. There are wolves inside the Church as well. There always have been. There always will be. But, thank God, a certain kind of wolf is now nearing extinction.
Bishops are, therefore, in a very difficult position regarding justice to priests, victims, and all the people of the diocese in regard to their spiritual welfare and the material stewardship of the Church’s goods. When it comes to a priest or bishop or religious putting the Church at risk because of this damaging behavior… that places the bishop in a very difficult dilemma.
There are many projects, some more appealing and some less, for which diocesan money must be spent. But we take the bad with the good in this world.