Sunday, January 11, 2004

Should an Admitted Pedophile be Honored at a High School?

Amy graduated from this high school in Knoxville. Look for her to offer a more personal commentary upon this. The article is from the Palm Beach Post where O'Connell was bishop when the allegations were made public. He was the founding bishop of the Knoxville diocese and its a little harder to wipe him off the slates in a Stalinist style. But he doesn't have to be enshrined either...

From Place of honor for a pedophile:

"Leaders of the Knoxville diocese are choosing to ignore the disgraceful part of O'Connell's past and focus instead on the positive things he did as bishop there from 1988 to 1999. So they proudly display his pictures, keep his name alive and send him 'prayer bouquets' from church services. Months after his public confession, church leaders are doing much to rehabilitate his reputation.

Susan Vance thinks this is appalling. A former Dominican nun and parishioner at St. Mary's, Ms. Vance led the campaign to remove O'Connell's name from the life center building. She prevailed, but only after a yearlong struggle that brought her hate mail, nasty phone calls, scornful looks at Mass and the disdain of the new bishop, Joseph Kurtz.

'Only the church would allow a building to be named after a pedophile,' she says. 'You tell someone who's not Catholic this happened and they look at you as if you're kidding.'

Ms. Vance, whose son attends the high school, believes it is wrong to memorialize O'Connell's image. Her supporters include victims of sexual abuse and their advocates, as well as SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests), which she has joined. The diocese's reasoning for keeping the pictures is that people should forgive, not cast the first stone, and remember the good.

'They do not understand the tremendous pain he caused his victims,' Ms. Vance said. 'Remembering him like this is another way to keep victims powerless. It is hurtful.'

A church that has used symbolic messages for centuries should recognize the consequences of enshrining pedophiles in the presence of children. The issue is less about forgiveness than it is about prevention. A young victim of abuse who looks at O'Connell's heroic portrait will wonder what good it would do to come forward and report crimes when criminals are revered. Who would listen?"

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