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Doing 'Penance' For The Church's Sins

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Doing 'Penance' For The Church's Sins

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Doing 'Penance' For The Church's Sins

Doing 'Penance' For The Church's Sins

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Host Scott Simon speaks with Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest, about the ongoing sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church. Father Martin argues some of the causes associated with sexual abuse in the church have nothing to do with the problem.

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

Father Martin, thanks very much for being back with us.

F: Good to be with you.

SIMON: When the pope says the church needs to do penance, how do you translate that?

F: Well, I think it's entirely appropriate. I think one of the things that's been missing in this whole conversation is the notion of penance for not only priests - you know, those who have done criminal actions belong in jail - but also for bishops who moved them from parish to parish. And I think in terms of the sacrament of reconciliation, which is our model in this thing, part of that is doing penance, doing real penance, and showing people that you are truly sorry for your actions.

SIMON: You didn't like it when, I guess over the past week or 10 days, church officials have characterized homosexuality as being at the root of priestly abuse.

F: And so to conflate homosexuality with pedophilia not only flies in the face of psychiatrists and psychologists but also the lived experience of thousands of healthy, productive, dedicated, and in many cases wholly celibate gay priests.

SIMON: You - as I don't have to tell you, Father James, there are millions of people who believe that celibacy has to be at the root of the problem. How do you handle that one?

F: So you could say that, you know, the sort of all-male, closed, celibate clergy, you know, created a culture in which the institution was privileged over the needs of the most vulnerable. So I think we really need to distinguish between celibacy per se and clerical culture.

SIMON: If it's not about celibacy, if it's not about homosexuality, what is this? What is at the root of this crisis, do you think?

F: So that's what I think it's about. And that's what we need to address, you know, boldly and, I think, quickly. I think the United States bishops have done a good job in terms of their zero-tolerance policy, and I think that's what's needed in the universal church.

SIMON: Well, Father James, always good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

F: My pleasure.

SIMON: Father James Martin, editor at America magazine and the author of several books, including his most recent, "The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything."

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