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Redemption?

posted by awelborn

A Globe profile of a former IRA terrorist who’s now in seminary..

The last time we had gone for a long walk together, a decade earlier, I was covering the conflict in Northern Ireland for the Globe, and he was a married man six years removed from prison. Before his arrest, he’d become the most wanted man in Britain, a hero for the Irish Republican Army whose letter-bomb campaign had maimed a dozen people and terrorized all of London. We had walked the streets of Derry, his hometown. At that time, we paused at the rooming house for British soldiers where he had planted his first bomb in 1970, when he was 15. We passed the spot in the Bogside where Barney McGuigan’s brains spilled out onto the pavement on Bloody Sunday in 1972, when British paratroopers shot and killed 14 civil rights demonstrators. We walked by the apartment in Crawford Square that O’Doherty used as a bomb factory, the one that blew up, killing Ethel Lynch, his 22-year-old assistant.

He was given his middle name because he was born on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, who was a zealous killer of Christians before his own conversion on the road to Damascus. But O’Doherty’s story is not about a miraculous religious conversion as much as a gradual spiritual evolution. He had a tug of war with God, and God won. His odyssey, from teenage revolutionary to middle-age seminarian, is a story of redemption.

"Hell," he says, shrugging. "If I can be saved, anyone can."



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Bill

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:43 am


I hope O’Doherty is still working on his autobiography, as the article mentioned he was doing at Trinity College. It would be interesting to read the evolution of his thinking about just war. Great moment comparing liturgists and terrorists. And having sent a letter bomb to a bishop — perfect. It was strange, though, that O’Doherty seemed to equate marriage, prison and homosexuality, when he made his comment, “Who am I to judge?” towards the end of the article. Perhaps the writer or the Globe editors garbled the context.



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Septimus

posted August 7, 2005 at 9:09 am


Oh, I can’t wait to read the comments on THIS one…



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Jason

posted August 7, 2005 at 9:44 am


TBN interviewed a former Muslim terrorist a few weeks ago. It’s good to know the most hardened zealots aren’t beyond redemption.



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Anna

posted August 7, 2005 at 9:49 am


Wow. What a wonderful story. I agree with Gemma King:
“he knows the power of repentance, of forgiveness, of redemption, of God’s love, not as abstract concepts but as real life. What better qualities could you have for a priest?”



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Cornelius

posted August 7, 2005 at 11:03 am


What’s the difference between a terrorist and a liturgist? You can negotiate with a terrorist.
ROFLOL!!!



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Meggan

posted August 7, 2005 at 11:46 am


I’m so sick of that liturgist – terrorist joke.
When I try to help people understand things within the mass (particularly “changes” they are upset about) they call me a liturgist and haul that old joke out. Our former pastor told it from the pulpit once and got great laughs when he was supposed to be explaining why we should bow before receiving the Body of Christ at Communion.
After mass several people commented on how mad I looked. So funny I forgot to laugh.



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mike iwanowicz

posted August 7, 2005 at 11:51 am


The author of this story and the Boston Globe spotlight team,writing in 2002, brought to the fore the excruciating stories about priests abusing the young children under their pastoral care.
A major issue was recidivism. Why were priests sent for therapy and reassigned?
Zero tolerance became the watchword… and continues… an allegation results in suspension.
What is the difference in this story? Repentance and forgivenes are surely part of the mix. But …. this is more than a ‘wounded healer’..
Very complicate indeed.
Mike Iwanwoicz



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Boniface McInnes

posted August 7, 2005 at 1:21 pm


Bill,
It was strange, but not nearly so troublesome, to me, as the episode that led tot he statement. I want to know what the other seminarians were thinking. Of the three labels, religious, prostitute and homosexual, surely the prostitute and homosexual need the support of clergy far more than the religious. (There are extenuating circumstances in individual cases, to be sure, but when all you are given is vague labels…)



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted August 7, 2005 at 3:11 pm


Oh, I can’t wait to read the comments on THIS one…
Septimus, if O’Doherty dedicates his life to serving the victims of murder — the “poor” whom the Church conveniently forgets — he will have made fitting use of his ordination. Of course, it depends whether his superiors allow him to do this. If they fail to do so, that merely reveals their own moral failing, not his.



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Donna

posted August 7, 2005 at 4:11 pm


One thing that struck me in the beginning of the story: O’Doherty, like many of the Muslim terrorists of today and for, that matter, like the members of the Weather Underground in this country in the 1960′s, came from a comfortable middle-class background. Hunger and poverty didn’t drive his decision to become a terrorist. Like the ’60′s radicals and Islamic terrorists, he wanted to live for a cause larger than himself; something that secular middle-class existence couldn’t provide. He still wants that, but now he’s on the right path. :-)
I really like this story. I think O’Doherty will be a powerful witness against nihilism and the Culture of Death.



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Bill

posted August 7, 2005 at 4:19 pm


Meggan,
It’s an old joke and, alas, one that conveys a lot of truth. As the history of the liturgy over the past 35 years amply demonstrates, liturgists have not been especially interested in negotiating when it came to implementing their destructive proclivities. Hence the knowing laughter of Catholics when the comparison is made. But to have made this joke in the presence of a literal, mail-bombing terrorist, how great is that? In the movie version of Fr. O’Doherty’s life, it will be almost to ironic to be believable.



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Bill

posted August 7, 2005 at 4:29 pm


Boniface,
I’m well aware that Ireland is no longer a bastion of the faith. I don’t know one way or the other, but I certainly don’t assume that the formation to be had at Maynooth is necessarily very good. The entire role playing exercise, as described, seemed strange. However, unless there is evidence to the contrary, I’ll chalk up the entire episode to a misconception by the author or editors. I don’t think that is being too Pollyannaish. I just don’t want to ruin an otherwise great story. (Personal connection: My grandfather spent a year in Wormwood Scrubs in 1920 for a violation of the Defence of the Realm Act. I don’t believe he underwent any religious conversion there, however.)



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RC

posted August 7, 2005 at 4:43 pm


“I had rejected the Church’s doctrine of a just war”, he says. If he really thinks it’s OK to reject a doctrine of the Church, that’s a problem. However, it does explain why the Globe and its dissenter friends like him.
Redemption, from their point of view, requires that one adopt the proper liberated attitudes. First among these is that Catholic moral teaching can and should be discounted.
O’Doherty’s “non-judgmental” stance and his preferential option for homosexuals are P.C. shibboleths — at least they’re last year’s shibboleths — but the prostitute needs support more: he or she is more likely to be poor, abused, and endangered.
Furthermore, if he got an annulment, it had to be justified on some grounds. If there was a psychological issue, for example, that made him unable to make wedding vows validly, is he now so well cured as to make valid priestly vows?
The experience of the past five years has taught us that red flags about candidates for the priesthood should be respected.



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Bill

posted August 7, 2005 at 5:01 pm


RC,
As they used to say of IRA gunmen, you’re a hard man. I don’t believe that O’Doherty says that is okay to reject Church teaching, but only that he did reject it back in his mail bombing days. The fact that he underwent a conversion in this regard seemed to me to be the point of the story.



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Patrick Rothwell

posted August 7, 2005 at 5:25 pm


I, for one, found it to be an inspiring story, and I have been someone who has long despised the IRA, and all its pomps, works, and vanities. I sure am glad that this seminarian’s detractors weren’t around during the time of Ambrose, since they surely would have gotten on his case about a certain scandalous ex-guru that he had taken a shine towards, one who clearly was a psychologically screwed-up “wounded healer” type that raised all sorts of “red flags.”
And, RC, you have no way of knowing the basis for which the Church granted the annulment. There are a whole host of reasons why a terrorist only loosely associated with the Church might have contracted an invalid marriage. And, even he had the incapacity to assume the obligations of marriage at the time he made the vows as a young man, does not mean that he lacks the capacity to assume the obligations of a priest today.
Sometimes, I really wonder if many of the self-styled “orthodox” in their heart of hearts simply do not believe in the possibility of conversion, contrition, or redemption.



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Caroline

posted August 7, 2005 at 5:42 pm


I wonder if he was responsible for the making of any widows and orphans, and if so, what he has been doing about them.



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Chris Sullivan

posted August 7, 2005 at 5:49 pm


RC,
The “Just War” isn’t a doctrine of the Church because it’s never been formally defined by a Pope or Ecumenical Council.
God Bless



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Kelly Clark

posted August 7, 2005 at 6:08 pm


I blogged on this story earlier…I read it after doing the Globe crossword puzzle. I’ve got a couple of comments and a question on the feature, but I think it’s important to have the whole story from the Globe’s aspect. Here’s what you won’t read online, but it’s in the hard copy of the magazine:
When Globe reporter Kevin Cullen tracked down former terrorist Shane Paul O’Doherty at Ireland’s last Catholic seminary, he wasn’t sure the school would let him in. But when the silver-haired Cullen (below, at left, with O’Doherty), in his customary black pants and windbreaker, approached a guard, the man nodded and called him “Father.” The mistake was a stroke of luck, because this week’s cover story is one the church is not anxious to talk about and declined to cooperate with.



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Donna

posted August 7, 2005 at 6:33 pm


Caroline:
O’Doherty then did what no other IRA member ever had: apologize to his victims. He never heard back from them, though one, the security guard who had lost an eye and a hand, told British newspapers he opposed the prospect of O’Doherty being released from prison. O’Doherty said he didn’t expect or need to be forgiven. The point was his being able to apologize and admit he was wrong
The article goes on to state the good works O’Doherty has done. Now, I absolutely desist terrorism and have never had the slightest bit of patience for those who would romanticize the IRA. But the man has certainly shown he’s repented. What else can he do for the victims? He can’t restore their sight or their limbs. All he can do is what he’s doing now.
St. Paul was involved in the making of a few widows and orphans prior to his conversion and I don’t know that he ran around issuing personal apologies to everyone. Instead, he redeemed himself by becoming a powerful witness to Christ’s Love – which is what O’Doherty is trying to do.
Abortionist and NARAL co-founder Bernard Nathanson (guilty of many thousands of deaths – he performed the abortion of his own son) was received into the Church in 2000. He can’t bring any of those babies back. He can try to be the best Catholic he can be by devoting himself to the pro-life cause (which he certainly has done).
Sometimes, I really wonder if many of the self-styled “orthodox” in their heart of hearts simply do not believe in the possibility of conversion, contrition, or redemption.
Well, as someone who wants to be “orthodox,” I passionately do. If God and the Church won’t forgive a O’Doherty or a Nathanson, why should I expect them to forgive my sins? Christ didn’t say, “I’ll forgive you if you repent, but only if your sins aren’t, you know, really big ones.”



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Septimus

posted August 7, 2005 at 7:43 pm


I’m not against this guy; I don’t claim he won’t be a good priest.
But — I can’t help wondering…if the people, whose lives he wrecked with BOMBS, had been wrecked instead by SEXUAL MISCONDUCT…
would the reaction be the same?
Or does redemption come easier, depending on HOW you violate and abuse people?



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mike iwanowicz

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:05 pm


Folks,
It is almost too romantic to bask in the aura of one converted from a life of violence to a life of caring for the children of God.
We do not live apart from our history. We are who we are. Did Kevin Cullen interview priests who were implicated in an alleged incident of abuse and await (years later)a finding … while their ministry is curtailed?
Zero tolerance is abrogated for murder not for sexual abuse. Curious indeed.
MIke iwanowicz



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Patrick Rothwell

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:07 pm


“Well, as someone who wants to be “orthodox,” I passionately do. If God and the Church won’t forgive a O’Doherty or a Nathanson, why should I expect them to forgive my sins?”
Which is exactly what the attitude of the “orthodox” should be. I’m picking on the self-styled “crusading” orthodox because – at least on St. Blog’s – they tend to be the worst disbelieving in the possibility of conversion or redemption in practice. The so-called liberals and progressives are often just as bad, depending on the issue (they often cheerfully forgive murderers, but not sexual harrassers or practitioners of one or another “ism”) but they aren’t many such persons around St. Blog’s as you know.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:08 pm


Septimus,
Perhaps the answer is that sexual misconduct tends to indicate a problem dealing with sexual temptation, which problem might arise again in the future. People are concerned about sexual conduct not because they do not want to forgive a past sin but because they are worried about future acts–especially given the male-oriented culture at seminaries and the close contact with adolescent male parishioners (if the misconduct was homosexual). There is not much worry, I take it, that this individual will start sending letter bombs as a priest.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:10 pm


An additional point:
Refusing a man priesthood is not a refusal of ‘redemption.’ Not everyone who is redeemed is a good candidate for priesthood.



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Patrick Rothwell

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:14 pm


“Zero tolerance is abrogated for murder not for sexual abuse. Curious indeed.”
You’ve haven’t been here long enough. The predominant attitude in these parts is “zero tolerance” for anything and everything. In general, I don’t believe in “zero tolerance” policies.



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Boniface McInnes

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:22 pm


Septimus,
I think most people would say that it depends on the type of sexual misconduct.
Right or wrong, most people are under the impression that pedophiles are in a special class of recidivism. (Not interested in arguments and psycho-babble; they are or they aren’t and I’m not taking a public position one way or another.)
As Donna said earlier, “[H]e wanted to live for a cause larger than himself… He still wants that, but now he’s on the right path.” He hasn’t so much turned away from his desire, which is good, but has found a way to fulfill this desire which is matched in its goodness.
I suppose a serial philanderer could, in taking on the vows of marriage post-conversion, do this same thing (redirecting his desire to love toward a condition worthy of love.) However, the desires of the pedophile are flawed from the beginning, it seems. This makes such a redirection difficult if not impossible.
All that said (and poorly, I apologise), any abuser-preist who could be as open and honest about the damage he has done, who can express contrition as O’Doherty has over time, has my utmost respect, regardless of the damage he has done in the past. I’ve done my share of damage also, and, Deo Gratias, God forgives us with infinite mercy should we cooperate!



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Septimus

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:29 pm


reluctant:
Well, that may be a correct way to approach it, who knows? But two thoughts…
Many of the comments I’ve heard about the problem of sexual misconduct has focused on the justice question — the problem of the victims who have suffered so terribly, and that man should be removed to right the wrong.
By that measure, I do wonder; insofar as I have neither been violated sexually, nor have I ever had a bomb blow up in my face, I honestly don’t know, nor will I dare to suggest, which is “worse.”
As to your second point…
I think the issue wouldn’t be sending letter bombs, but a proneness to violence in general.
I guess what I’d ask is, are we saying that a man is more easily delivered from, or spiritually “inocuated against” WRATH, than from LUST? On what basis do we arrive at such confidence.
Again: I am not denigrating the man.



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Dorian Speed

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:47 pm


Septimus, I see what you’re saying. Perhaps the issue is that our current culture is lust-saturated but not sex-saturated? As in, there’s sex everywhere you look, but there aren’t tempting “Letterbombs that get their attention!” articles staring at you from the cover of magazines in the supermarket aisle.
Of course, if he’s going into prison ministry, he’ll certainly be back in a wrath-intensive environment, so perhaps this theory is not so useful.



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Dorian Speed

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:48 pm


Er…I meant, “lust-saturated but not wrath-saturated.”
Perhaps a glass of wine is not a proper accompaniment to blog commentary.



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Septimus

posted August 7, 2005 at 8:57 pm


Dorian: LOL! I think, on balance, wine (or beer, or liquor for that matter) is a very good accompaniment to blogging! After all, it might mellow us all out; or it might give rise to hilarious malapropisms.



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Donna

posted August 7, 2005 at 9:14 pm


Refusing a man priesthood is not a refusal of ‘redemption.’ Not everyone who is redeemed is a good candidate for priesthood.
That is true. But none of us know this man. I don’t think you can make a judgment, based on this article alone, that he is not a good candidate for priesthood.
Septimus, Boniface wrote:
He hasn’t so much turned away from his desire, which is good, but has found a way to fulfill this desire which is matched in its goodness.
O’Doherty wrongly thought when he was young that terrorism was a way of making the world better. (I don’t know if every terrorist thinks like that; I would bet that some of them are purely nihilistic and sadistic. Causing pain and suffering is an end in itself to them.) His basic desire was to do good; the means he used were evil and perverted. He now realizes that.
It is difficult to imagine how anybody can think molesting a child will make the world a better place. Oh, I sure these men rationalize that “it won’t really hurt these kids, in fact, they’ll enjoy it” but the bottom line is that the motive behind sexual abuse is purely selfish. And, judging from the recidivism rates among child molesters, the temptation to treat a child as a thing to be used for one’s pleasure is diabolically difficult to overcome.
I guess what I’d ask is, are we saying that a man is more easily delivered from, or spiritually “inocuated against” WRATH, than from LUST?
Well, has he physically attacked or threatened or screamed at anybody since his release from prison? As a person who constantly struggles with her own short temper, I know from experience that WRATH, unlike lust, is a pretty difficult vice to hide:-)



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Marion (Mael Muire)

posted August 7, 2005 at 9:23 pm


There are no crimes that can’t be forgiven. There are no criminals who can’t be redeemed.
There are certain patterns of behavior, that are what psychologists call *compulsive*, that seem to have ingrained themselves, even in the forgiven, redeemed individual, so that the forgiven individual finds himself going back and back, almost against his will, so to speak, repeating the same sin over and over and over. Thank God there are not too many patterns like this. The compulsive use of narcotics is one such pattern. Some cases of compulsive sexual acting out are other such patterns.
Adults (it is hoped) have the wisdom, sophistication, experience, and self-confidence necessary to handle themselves when they find themselves in a situation where another adult is acting out sexually. Children and adolsecents generally lack these self-protective tools, and thus are easily victimized by adult sexual predators. Being victimized by a sexual predator, especially one whom one has been trained to trust and respect, such as a priest, is profoundly devastating to the psyche of the child or adolescent invloved. It is not a joke, and it is not trivial, and it is not the young person’s fault when it happens. It is the fault of the adult, and even more so, of any other adults who knew that the problem existed, and did nothing to see to it that children were kept out of harm’s way.
The Church must not harbor in its ranks persons who, having gained the trust and respect of families, may be under compulsion to prey on children or adolscents. We simply cannot have this. Such people must not have the level of access to children and adolescents that a church position provides.
This does not imply lack of forgiveness or lack of hope for redemption. It simply acknowledges the reality of sexual compulsion and the need to protect children and adolescents from sexual predators.
It is not commonly found that an individual is under psychological compulsion to make and detonate bombs. If O’Doherty is ever found to be using his privileged position as a Catholic priest to commit acts of terrorism, then, the Church should re-think having him in the priesthood, too.



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Septimus

posted August 7, 2005 at 9:46 pm


Let me say I agree with Marion’s post.
Let us stipulate that if the issue is sexual misconduct AGAINST CHILDREN, it should be exactly as Marion proposes.
Having said that, my original question concerned “sexual misconduct” generally; and a good bit of what has drawn outrage has been sexual misconduct by priests, involving adults only. So, my question remains valid, in that instance.
On this very blog, there have been threads in which, as I saw it, such sexual misconduct was taken as flatly disqualifying. So my question is not hypothetical.
The only part of Marion’s post I would question further is the item about compulsion to make bombs. Granting the point, I’d still say it’s a little facile; because the issue I’d raise is wrath in general; and I think it’s numbered among the seven deadly sins for a good reason. There are many destructive ways to be wrathful, well short of making bombs. (And, for all I know, Mr. O’Doherty is truly a changed man.)
Let me offer another way to get at the point: the article linked did not, as far as I recall, include any comments from Mr. O’Doherty’s victims about whether he ought to be ordained. Yet we so often hear, in the context of priest sexual misconduct (involving both children and adults) that we need to pay more heed to the victims’ pain and experience. Well: what do people who had their bodies violated by bombs say about him being a priest?



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Donna

posted August 7, 2005 at 11:03 pm


what do people who had their bodies violated by bombs say about him being a priest?
Septimus, that is a very good question.
I think that one reason we might be “going easier” on O’Doherty is that his crimes were committed long before he ever thought of taking vows, while the priests involved in the the sex scandals were already ordained. (An exception: the case of Fr. Uribe, who had an affair and got a woman pregnant while preparing to become a priest.)
The most sickening aspect of the scandal was the sheer hypocrisy of priests leading double lives – going from holding the Consecrated Hosts in their hands on Sunday morning to holding – well, I don’t need to draw a picture – later on, and apparently justifying their betrayal of their vows to themselves. I’m not talking about a good priest who had one slip with a woman, maybe under the influence of liquor, and repented. I’m thinking of those who lived lives of hypocrisy and deceit for years.
If a priest engaged in violence and terrorist activities after his ordination, I would certainly say he’s unfit for the priesthood, even though he could still repent and obtain forgiveness from the Church.
But the questions you pose are very good and thought-provoking ones.
Goodnight!



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reluctant penitent

posted August 8, 2005 at 12:46 am


Septimus,
I think that the reason that sexual misconduct is talked about so much as a disqualifier from priesthood–even when the misconduct involved adults only–is that there is so much news about priests getting caught soliciting sex in parx, bathrooms, from male prostitutes, etc., and that most people find such news deeply troubling, even if no child has been raped. If every case of sexual misconduct in the church over the past 40 years had been a case of a priest sending a letter bomb and killing someone, I’m sure we’d have different priorities in our discussions of who should and shouldn’t be a priest. Furthermore, people are very sceptical about claims about redemption and healing when it comes to sexual misconduct because so many repeat abusers had gone for treatment, confessed, and assured everyone around them that they were cured and repentant, only to abuse again. It’s just realistic to suppose that some people cannot handle the stress,demands and responsibilites of the priesthood, and they ought to be excluded for their good and for the good of the church.
Having said that, I am deeply troubled by the fact that this person has been accepted into the priesthood, not because I believe that he is likely to reoffend but–and I think that this was your point–because of what this says to the victims of the man’s crimes.
In effect the Church is making not only the basic Christian claim that this man, like everyone else, has a chance at reconciliation with God. Rather it’s also making the much more dramatic and questionable claim that this man is a fitting representative of the Catholic Church.
Since it’s likely that the man’s victims were Protestants, it’s not going to do very much for Catholic-Protestant relations. (Can you imagine a former Nazi concentration camp guard who repents and is accepted into the priesthood. What would that say to Jews about the seriousness of the man’s crimes?)
If the man has won over the victims’ families and received forgiveness from every single one of them, that might change matters, but I wonder whether that was ever done.
It’s one thing to say that a man is redeemed, it’s another to say that his former acts no longer have any bearing on whether he is suited to a job or a vocation.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 8, 2005 at 12:48 am


correction…
‘parks’ and not ‘parx’; ‘past acts’ and not ‘former acts’



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reluctant penitent

posted August 8, 2005 at 12:58 am


‘He went back to Derry to fight on the home front and knelt in a confessional at St. Eugene’s Cathedral, where he had been a choirboy a few years and a whole lifetime before. He told the priest he was in the IRA and wanted to talk about the morality of violence in a liberation struggle. But the priest was in no mood to debate. “Murder and violence are always wrong,” the cleric told him. O’Doherty left that church a more tormented 19-year-old than when he entered but continued fighting.’
Good for the priest!



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Simon

posted August 8, 2005 at 9:55 am


Beautiful story, dramatizing very powerfully what Christianity is all about.
I also agree with Patrick Rothwell that a few of the comments objecting to the idea of a former terrorist being ordained suggest a dispiriting, crimped, and almost soul-less “Christianity.” As if we’d never heard of St. Paul, St. Matthew, or Zacchaeus.
Regarding why an ex-terrorist can be a better priest than an ex-sex abuser, I think it comes down to the patent sincerity of O’Doherty’s conversion and the redemptive witness of his story. It’s not as if O’Doherty is denying what he was or what he did. He seems fully aware of what he did to his victims. He has apologized to them (what else can he do?) and he is trying to use the rest of his life to give witness to God’s love and redemption.
Oh, and the local hierarchy aren’t trying to cover up the fact that he is a former letter bomber.
Zero tolerance generally is neither a Christian nor an intelligent approach to justice. I think most American Catholics who support it do so out of a sense that (a) clerical abusers may or may not have stopped their abuse, but in either case they rarely show any real repentance for what they have done, and (b) the bishops can not be trusted to take action against the unrepetent or continuing abusers. Thus, the crude zero tolerance policy is unfortunately necessary to achieve at least rough justice. Those factors aren’t present in the case of this former IRA man.



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Septimus

posted August 8, 2005 at 10:26 am


Just to be clear; I’m not against this fellow.
As to Simon’s point: I guess my question might be, do we have a climate in which someone like Mr. Doherty would feel as free to confess and acknowledge his sordid past if it was in any way sexual? I’m a little doubtful about that.
It may be true that one deadly sin — lust — gives rise to worse problems for the priesthood than the others. Or, could it be it gives rise to more tangible victims, more concrete negative publicity, and more lawsuits?
I was never sexually violated by a priest; but we did have a priest, in our parish, who was a terror to the kids. He hit us. For reasons that made no sense to a kid.
I remember coming up to the priest, telling him I’d gotten my hair cut (which he had suggested in a barking way a few days before). He drew back his forearm and whammed me across the chest (that was how he hit kids). I was in 5th or 6th grade; he was at least 225 lbs.
I remember another time, when I called him “Sir” (I was brought up that way; I called my father “Sir” as long as he lived). That earned another wham — because “I’m not ‘Sir,’ I’m ‘FATHER.’”
Now, in my case, that’s pretty small beer. But what is noteworthy — and incredibly sad! — is that this particular priest is remembered, far and wide, for this sort of behavior.
My brother was one of his victims; as my brother tells it, Fr. ___ would inflict similar punishments, in class, at high school, on those who answered wrong. Only he didn’t always do it himself; he deputed a class thug to do it for him.
My brother does not practice his faith. At all.
I didn’t go to that Catholic high school. Father Thug was my reason #1.
I think, if we wrack our brains, we can come up with stories of priests who caused injury without so much as a leer.
Which is easier? To stand up and say, I used to belong to a terrorist organization, or to say, I used to sleep around a lot?
Not knowing Mr. Doherty, I have no opinion about his case. I only wish to highlight a possible inconsistency. I concede many have offered reasonable explanations.
And yet…my intuition makes me wonder if it still isn’t true that sexual sins are a little “radioactive” for us, such that a priest could, I think, publicly admit minor infractions almost everywhere except there — and perhaps with money, too.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 8, 2005 at 11:00 am


Septimus,
I think that most people would say that the rape of a child is ‘radioactive’ with good reason and that being raped by a priest is much worse than the kind of abuse that you describe. In fact, corporal punishment was legal and accepted practice in the past and was thought to be good for those punished.
However, I agree with you–and I think that most people would agree with you–that a man with an explosive temper who is inclined to be physically abusive is not a good candidate for the priesthood. It’s not talked about because it’s not a problem in the Church today. We are not getting weekly reports of priests being arrested in bar brawls. We are getting weekly reports of priests getting arrested soliciting sex in parks, public toilets, etc.–conduct that, I am sure you would agree, is not becoming of a priest.
In the case of Mr. O’Dougherty, there is nothing to suggest that he has an explosive temper and that he is likely to beat up parishioners.



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Septimus

posted August 8, 2005 at 11:33 am


reluctant:
Fair enough. But, lest I be misunderstood, I did try, in that closing paragraph, to stress the radioactivity of a priest confessing even “minor infractions” against chastity; and in no way would I consider the examples, with which you replied, “rape of a child,” as “minor infractions,” as I know you would agree.
So I’ll ask: how would you react (other than “yuck!”) if a priest acknowledged, openly, that he struggled with solitary vice, or images in TV, or the internet; or, simply, if he acknowledged same-sex attraction?
I think a priest could far more easily acknowledge drinking too much, destructive anger, sloth, pride, etc. And I think that’s healthy. The point is often made about the unhealthiness of secrecy around such things. Am I wrong in saying we don’t want priests to be candid about all their struggles?



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Der Tommissar

posted August 8, 2005 at 12:07 pm


Good for the priest!
I’m allergic to “being pastoral” but I think the priest could have done a better job. That is, unless he thought the IRA guy in the confessional was making a mockery of the sacrament.
He could have gone over the Church’s teachings of just war, and the command to love our enemies.
Heck, even if he had said, “I understand you call it a ‘liberational struggle’ but what you’re doing is murder.” That would have been better off, I think.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go run the Church. What would the Pope do without me?



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Seamus

posted August 8, 2005 at 1:14 pm


“Good for the priest!”
Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. He was right to say that murder is always wrong. But there are times when violence is justified, including instances where it’s used in self-defense or defense of others, in just war, and in the administration of capital punishment (under the proper circumstances). Doherty would have a hard time, however, fitting his letter-bomb campaign into any of those categories.



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JonathanR.

posted August 8, 2005 at 1:19 pm


“The “Just War” isn’t a doctrine of the Church because it’s never been formally defined by a Pope or Ecumenical Council.”
Neither was “all war is unjust”….
Sorry, had to quibble.



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reluctant penitent

posted August 8, 2005 at 3:19 pm


“Well, up to a point”
Agreed. I just meant that it’s good to hear that a priest was not hesitant to tell the man that his acts were evil. If the priest did indeed suggest that no wars are just, then bad for him.
Contrast this with the quote from O’Doherty:
“Hey, I was in prison. I was married. I have a gay brother. Who am I to judge anyone?”
Lord Copper, AKA Reluctant Penitent.



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Donie

posted August 8, 2005 at 3:22 pm


Reluctant Penitent: “Murder and violence are always wrong,” the cleric told him. O’Doherty left that church a more tormented 19-year-old than when he entered but continued fighting.’
Good for the priest!

Unfortunately my friend things weren’t always so cut and dry. Wonder if the good cleric was as strident in chiding the Catholic SAS men!! I’d say not but then again who cares if the decision made is just as long as its “prudential”



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Septimus

posted August 8, 2005 at 3:39 pm


What the priest is supposed to have said to O’Doherty is all in the latter’s telling of the story, after all; who knows what the priest actually said?
It’s clear enough O’Doherty was emphasizing how the priest “got” to O’Doherty, planted a seed of grace that worked on him, all that time. I think we can all identify with that. Assuming that was the point of O’Doherty telling this story, it’s not even that big a deal if he got the priest’s actual words right, is it?
Even if the priest said more or less what he’s quoted as saying, we’re not allowing for how the way a thing can be said, makes its meaning clear.
Could we call this “over-analyzing”?



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reluctant penitent

posted August 8, 2005 at 3:45 pm


Septimus says:
“how would you react (other than “yuck!”) if a priest acknowledged, openly, that he struggled with solitary vice, or images in TV, or the internet; or, simply, if he acknowledged same-sex attraction?”
If the man has not had a past of visiting brothels, strip clubs, trolling for sex in parks and public toilets; if there is no indication that he believes same-sex relations to be ‘unitive’ and that it’s just a matter of time before the Church recognizes that, then I would have no trouble with the man being a priest, unless there is evidence that suggests that such men have trouble coping with the stresses of the priesthood.
I think that we ought to distinguish unnatural attraction on the one hand and perversion and compulsion on the other. There are all sorts of people who experience unnatural attraction but who have never acted out on the attraction and are not likely to do so in the future. They are not tortured or prevented from functioning in a morally healthy manner by their unnatural attraction. In a perverted character, on the other hand, unnatural attraction has affected belief. Someone who argues that polyamorous, sadomasochistic, or homosexual relationships are morally good has a perverted character. A compulsive individual has self-control problems. He might have the right beliefs and regret the things he does but has trouble stopping himself from doing them. Neither the perverted character nor the compulsive character ought, in my view, ever be allowed into the priesthood.
Lord Copper/Reluctant Penitent



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Chris Sullivan

posted August 8, 2005 at 4:16 pm


He told the priest he was in the IRA and wanted to talk about the morality of violence in a liberation struggle. But the priest was in no mood to debate. “Murder and violence are always wrong,” the cleric told him.
Maybe this planted the seed which eventually lead O’Doherty out of the IRA by seeing that killing is always wrong ?
But if the priest had said, “Well you might be right. Perhaps you are fighting a just war. Sometimes violence is OK” then it’s hard to see how that would have led to his repentance.
I’m sure if Pope John Paul II had heard his confession, he also would have said “Murder and violence are always wrong” because that’s what he said in Ireland :-
Violence is never a proper response. With the conviction of her faith in Christ and with the awareness of her mission, the Church proclaims “that violence is evil, that violence is unacceptable as a solution to problems, that violence is unworthy of man. Violence is a lie because it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what is claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings” JPII, Address at Drogheda, Ireland, 29Sep1979 quoted in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church section 496.
God Bless



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Septimus

posted August 9, 2005 at 12:11 am


Now that I’ve fully explored the question that intrigued me…I’ll unveil my own thoughts: I think Mr. Doherty will be a good priest. Of course, I don’t have much to go on. But since my many comments might be taken as being “hard on him,” I thought I’d add this.



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Shane

posted August 9, 2005 at 7:21 pm


Thanks for all your comments about me!!!
It was interesting to follow them…
Who knows the future but God???
/Shane



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Anne

posted September 2, 2005 at 3:02 pm


Don’t argue with someone who is never wrong !



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Esther

posted January 27, 2006 at 5:42 am


Perhaps the man will become a Priest – who knows and who cares ! We are all in this together, we all have to face God and we are all going to be judged individually for what we alone have done or not done to and for others. God says love one another, treat your neighbour as you yourself would like to be treated..God has forgiven us our sins and they are washed clean once we repent of them..and we are all sinners. I only hope we all can live up to our Christian calling which is badly needed in a world which is starving for real witnesses to the Truth. I cannot change anyone else but only myself and I cannot answer to God for anyone else when I die except myself. Let us entrust this man to God and let us get on with living the life ourselves that God has asked of us.



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