Bishop Robert Cunningham of the diocese of Syracuse, NY doesn’t think priests should take all of the blame for decades, if not centuries, of sexual abuse against young boys. According to Cunningham, the “age of reason” in the Catholic church is seven, so those boys are culpable for their actions.
The shocking statement came during testimony that was recently released from a deposition for a federal lawsuit. Charles Bailey, a survivor of a priest’s abuse, asked then-Bishop James Moynihan whether the church held children victims partly responsible for sexual abuse from priests . “(Bishop) Moynihan said that right to my face – ‘The age of reason is 7, so if you’re at least 7 you’re culpable for your actions.’ That kind of floored me,” said Bailey.
The “age of reason” may be seven years old, but that in no way makes it the “age it’s the kid’s fault he was raped.” According to church doctrine, seven is the age a child should understand the difference between right and wrong. It’s also the age a child is eligible for communion.
A spokesman for the diocese has been trying to defend the bishop, saying that his statements in a deposition don’t mean he believes children are responsible for being raped and that it was “unfair to use the deposition to characterize his position otherwise.”
“Unfair may not quite cut it where this man is concerned. When pressed on the issue, he said it wasn’t his place to know how much guilt was on the victim’s hands. The simple answer, “none,” became another distorted version of reality that somehow makes it at least partially a child’s fault when a priest abuses him.
“Well, I mean, without knowing the circumstances completely, did the boy encourage, go along with (it) in any way?” Cunningham asked. The lawyer asked Cunningham if he could imagine any circumstance in which a 14- or 15-year-old boy could be held responsible in the eyes of the church when a priest asks him to engage in sex.
“Obviously, what the priest did was wrong,” Cunningham said. “You’re asking me if the young man had any culpability, and I can’t judge that.”
Actually, you can judge that. Anyone can judge that. What happened is priests used their influence and position as “messengers of God” to force children to comply with their perverted sexual desires. In the very least they were forced to make adult decisions they didn’t have the capacity to make. This bishop and all the priests he defended with this mindless argument betrayed the trust of the parishioners and especially the children of the Diocese of Syracuse.
Charles Bailey has circulated a petition he intends to present to Pope Francis in Philadelphia during his visit to remove Bishop Cunningham as the head of the church there.
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