Excerpt from Kenneth L. Woodward article in News Week
Bing Crosby Had It Right
Once upon a time, Catholics trusted and respected their parish priests. Are those days gone forever?
I stare at the lengthening list of priests accused of pedophilia and notice something others might overlook: most of these men are my age. Like me, they grew up in another era, before the so-called sexual revolution, and shared a Roman Catholic boyhood that was in many ways ideal for pubescent youngsters — the age group they are accused of abusing.
The parishes we knew back in the 40's and 50's were more than merely places for Sunday worship. Each one centered a welcoming universe where Catholic kids went to school together, played sports together, got into trouble together. .... And yes, Virginia, there was a Father O’Malley — lots of them — like the young curate Bing Crosby played in that most Catholic of films, “Going My Way.” ....
Now, though, the age of easy camaraderie of priests and children seems beyond retrieval. The alliteration of “priest” and “pedophile” has been so firmly yoked in the public mind that would-be O’Malleys are always on their guard around the parish youth. Grandmothers who used to pray that at least one son would become a priest now warm their grandchildren never to be alone with the men we still call Father. This is not the Catholic way. Catholicism is a communitarian way of life. The tragedy is that in their efforts to deflect scandal from the church, many bishops have alienated the very families they are called to serve. As for myself, I’m too rooted in a receding Catholic culture to treat priests with automatic suspicion; I know too many good ones and grieve for the guilt they suffer by association. But respect has to be earned, as my children — now parents themselves — like to remind me. Along the way, I like to think, my children’s children will still be able to find their own O’Malleys.