I have to admit I had a moment of schadenfreude when I read that former Catholic priest Ben Rodriguez accused current Catholic priest, Gordon Pillon of molesting him . Of course, sexual abuse is no laughing matter – especially when the abuser uses both his worldly and divine authority to force someone into unwanted sex – but Rodriguez knew at an early age the snake pit he was crawling into… and he went in anyway.
The schadenfreude I felt comes from the fact that the Catholic Church, its management, its priests, and its parishioners just don’t seem to learn .
Giving celibate men jobs-for-life and exposing them to scores of vulnerable and uncritical young believers is a recipe for abuse – especially when you stir in a see-no-evil church hierarchy, and a laity who refuses to believe the worst about their clergy despite overwhelming evidence oft repeated .
That’s a lot of chutzpah… a priest nailing – I mean accusing – another priest. But is it true? Here’s what the defendant had to say:
"He made an accusation against me at the Diocese of Peoria. That was sent to Rome. That case was not proven true," Pillon said. "It’s still in Rome. It just shocks me that he would take it to a civil court."
Whoa! Where’s the "I didn’t do it" or the outrage at being falsely accused? He focuses on how and where the accusation is made and whether it was proven or not. Smells fishy to me…
Where do these priests get their nerve? Are there still black-collared molesters stalking the local cathedrals? Can this still be happening after all the law suits that rocked the Los Angeles and Boston dioceses in the mid-1990s? Apparently so.
Former L.A. Times Religion reporter William Lobdell sheds some light on priests’ relative immunity in his book, Losing My Religion (p. 99) :
"…I was taught that priests were people set aside by God and endowed with special powers that allowed them alone to dispense the sacraments of the church… Only a priest had those powers. This separation between the clergy and laity served to emphasize the dependence, deference, and loyalty expected of the parishioners to their ‘Fathers’."
Well, there it is. If you believe a priest has a special relationship with God, pointing a finger at him becomes a lot harder to do. If God and his earthly representative have ordained that this dirty little secret should be so, who is anyone to challenge it, especially when such an accusation might destroy a (popular?) priest’s life?
This kind of blind faith and loyalty allows these child molesters to go unpunished – and even un-accused. This kind of blind faith and loyalty also cons people into flocking to the guilty priests and turning the accusers into pariahs. Lobdell witnessed parishioners rallying behind an accused priest while shunning the victim. There’s one more reason for preyed upon to keep quiet.
Still, Ben Rodriguez entered the priesthood after (allegedly) being abused by Gordon Pillon.
How brainwashed does a person have to be to enter into an institution that professes divine morality – after a member of that same institution commits a felony against him?
I wish I could feel sorrier for Ben Rodriguez. No one deserves to be molested like he says he was. He lost his job, his career – his calling, some would say – after going public with his accusation.
But he should have known that a church that could tolerate the kind of evil hypocrisy that hurt him as a teen could someday harm him again.