Shameful ovations

It was painful to watch 600 Catholics emotionally applaud a priest who bashed his peers, all the while holding himself up as the example of an ideal priest.

Father James Scahill of Springfield accepted the Voice of the Faithful’s “Priest of Integrity” award at the organization’s conference held Nov. 13 in Worcester. In his acceptance speech, Father Scahill lashed out at priests and bishops alike.

"It is regrettable that you should have to establish an award to give to a priest for integrity. Integrity is something that should be expected from us. Yet, inexplicably, the vast majority of clergy has been silent. In their complicit silence they have betrayed truth and turned their backs on children and minors. By and large, the clerics have been myopic company puppets instead of being men," he said, receiving a standing ovation from the audience.

Those were but a few of the harsh words heard throughout the day. Other conference speakers set a similar tone.

References to the “monarchical Church,” the need to fight for a democratic American Church and an outright mockery of the U.S. bishops’ position on pro-abortion politicians were all part of the morning session.

Some notable exceptions were the powerful personal accounts of survivors of clergy sexual abuse. Representatives from several organizations of abuse survivors were more moderate than other speakers. They shared their pain and the pain of those they have tried to help.

The path VOTF has chosen to follow is that of spreading cynicism about Church leaders and fomenting division. Their rhetoric against bishops has gone beyond questioning the appropriateness of particular decisions or actions to simply maligning their character. If the applause for Father Scahill’s remarks is any indication, even priests are not immune from these attacks.

Another speaker, Sue Archibald, president of The Linkup, an organization for survivors of clergy sexual abuse, spoke of her organization’s creation of The Farm, a Kentucky healing facility for abuse survivors. Archibald told the gathering that, so far, over 30 bishops have donated to the facility. In fact, one cardinal gave over $10,000 and about 50 orders of religious men have either contributed or paid for victims to spend time at the facility.

Her remarks were met with a telling silence.