In response to “overblown” media coverage of cases of sexual abuse by the clergy, Archbishop Victor Manuel Lopez Forero of Bucaramanga (Colombia) said this week such episodes are “the exception” and he chided the media for defaming the Church with the support of discredited individuals.
In an article published by the Colombian daily “El Frente,” Archbishop Lopez criticized the media for giving a voice to “morally bankrupt” people “unqualified to speak about this issue.”
“An atheist or resentful layman, a priest motivated by feelings of hatred and vengeance or a priest who has resigned his ministry over serious failings in the area of celibacy and chastity, or a seminarian who for similar reasons has been excluded from the Seminary, are the least qualified to speak about priestly fidelity. Neither can we consider as sound doctrine the whimsical opinion of an article or television show that is seeking celebrity and sells itself by denigrating others, especially the clergy and the Church,” the archbishop said.
“Priests are not hermits,” he continued, “but men who inevitably live in the world that is increasingly eroticized, in which the notions and values of sex have been turned on their head, and whose effects are just beginning to be seen. That is not to say that therefore priests are asking for the faults to be overlooked. But they do expect the facts to be judged with a bit more logic and common sense,” Archbishop Lopez stated. He also chided public officials and members of the media who suggest exaggerated and inhumane punishments for cases of sexual abuse, including “castration and public humiliation.”
He noted that the Church experiences great pain over cases of clergy abuse. However, he noted the tendency in some members of the media to take pleasure in the suffering of others. “To those to whom the Church is simply an object of their aversion, and sometimes their hatred, we simply say that we will not respond in kind: because we are Christians and Christians forgive and do not repay evil with evil.”
The archbishop stressed that the bishops continue to have great confidence in the vast majority of priests, who are “mature and virtuous men.” He noted that the Church reserves strict punishment, including removal from the clerical state, for those who are guilty of “shameful acts,” but that such sanctions cannot be applied without taking into account natural and canonical law, which “establishes appropriate procedures for these cases.”
“For every priest who fails there are many, many more who wake up each morning with the intention of offering their entire lives in service to the Church as witnesses of Jesus,” Archbishop Lopez said.