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Maclean’s magazine this week (Novembember 27/09) had a special report, “The Truth About Priests. Decades of scandal and public scorn” was the banner front page cover.

When I wrote for the Londoner I was concerned about the abuse of Father Stalone who was found guilty of charges of sexual abuse of young boys. It is hard to fathom why someone who is a disciple of God would knowingly harm a child.

In order that we don’t paint all of the priests with one tainted brush I contacted a long time friend who is Roman Catholic priest.

I promised him anonymity. Father Anonymous speaks for himself and his views are not church doctrine.

The public perception of priests over the past decade has changed. The image of the perfect priest like that portrayed in the movies starring Bing Crosby singing - and - dancing was more Hollywood then reality.

Father Sylvester was probably ordained in the late 1940's when little was known of sexuality. There was no forum to discuss the concerns of young men. Many who were sexually confused felt that if they entered a safe vocation the question of sexual orientation would disappear.

Sylvester without his priestly collar would most probably have abused his position of authority. His position gave him access to children and unwavering, unquestionable trust from parents. Children can be trusting/ gullible while adults are supposed to be more discerning.

Often times the most vulnerable of our children are from troubled homes and can be easily victimized. Of the forty-seven women who were sexually exploited a small handful whose parents believed in them were able to live a productive life free from shame.

In the past the role of priest was an exalted prestigious persona who automatically commanded obedience. They wielded great moral political power which has evaporated over time. Respect for priests in the past was a given. Parishioners now give due diligence to those who have earned it.

To-day the church spends a lot of time/resources to ascertain that candidates for the seminary are socially, psychologically comfortable with the vows of the priesthood.

When there is suspected abuse that is reported to the diocese the priest is now immediately removed from his post. Where warranted all information is passed on to the police/ Children’s Aid Society.

Paul Ledroit, lawyer for many of the plaintiffs informed me that in the last decade the London Diocese’s compliment of 216-300 priests we had eight priests convicted of sexual abuse of minors. There is no evidence that being a priest (gay or straight) puts you at risk of being a sex offender.

I asked Father Anonymous if celibacy was the raison d’etre for some priests offending. The problem with the vow of celibacy is loneliness not sexually acting out against minors he told me.

Father Anonymous is deeply ashamed & saddened by the abuse of Father Sylvester. He reminded us that there are lots of good, hardworking, genuine priests who want to sincerely help people and serve God.

The stats show us that 4% of priests in Canada have been charged with sexual exploitation of young people. Every occupation has issues of sexual abuse. Few have the ability to try and conceal it like the church did in the past.

Society no longer tries to protect those who hold positions of authority. Men of the cloth such as Fathers Glendening/Sylvester and most recently Bishop Lahey can not hide behind their cries of mia capa. If you commit the crime you have to be willing to do the time.

Here is some free advice to keep your youngsters from harms way. Never hand over your responsibility as a parent to others. Teachers/clergy, coaches should never be given carte blanche authority to make decisions for your son/daughter.

The vast majority of people are hard working individuals worthy of our trust; then there are the bad seeds who take away our children’s trust and future.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com