According to the Vatican, 848 priests were defrocked in the past decade for raping or molesting children, and another 2,572 were cited for "lesser penalties." ("Vatican says 848 priests defrocked for abuse since 2004," Tribune, May 7)
Now, I know at first glance this seems like a lot of lecherous behavior, but in the context of the Catholic Church’s history, it’s not terribly surprising.
For example, in his meticulously researched history of the Middle Ages, "A World Lit Only by Fire," William Manchester quotes English Archbishop John Morton, who accuses the country’s monks in the early 16th century of leading "a life of lasciviousness ... nay, of defiling the holy places, even the very churches of God, by infamous intercourse with nuns, and making a neighborhood priory "a public brothel." One Abbot Johannes Trithemius condemns his own monks of spending the day "in filthy talk; their whole day given to play and gluttony." And the papal emissary Guy Jouenneau in 1503 described the monks in France as "foul-mouthed gamblers and lechers."
So, while more than 3,000 cases of clerical abuse may seem a tad excessive, and the harm to young children unconscionable, I suppose we could actually congratulate the church for its moral progress over the past 500 years.
Salt Lake City
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