Some insights from Ed Koch

As most of you probably know, Mayor Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City, having served three terms during the 1970′s and 1980′s.  After my appointment to New York last year, I quickly learned that Mayor Koch is not merely one of the most respected and influential New Yorkers, he is one of the most loved and admired as well.

I thought you might want to read his recent column on how the Church has been treated in the media.  With his permission, I reprint it below.

April 6, 2010

He [Or She] That Is Without Sin Among You, Let Him [Or Her] Cast The Next Stone…  Enough Already

I believe the continuing attacks by the media on the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI have become manifestations of anti-Catholicism.  The procession of articles on the same events are, in my opinion, no longer intended to inform, but simply to castigate.

The sexual molestation of children, principally boys, is horrendous.  This is agreed to by everyone, Catholics, the Church itself, as well as non-Catholics and the media.  The Pope has on a number of occasions on behalf of the Church admitted fault and asked for forgiveness.  For example, The New York Times reported on April 18, 2008 that the Pope, “came face to face with a scandal that has left lasting wounds on the American church Thursday, holding a surprise meeting with several victims of sexual abuse by priests in the Boston area….‘No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse,’ the Pope said in his homily.  ‘It is important that those who have suffered be given loving pastoral attention.’”

On March 20, 2010, The Times reported that in his eight page pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, the Pope wrote, “You have suffered grievously, and I am truly sorry…Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated.”  The Pope also “criticized Ireland’s bishops for ‘grave errors of judgment and failures of leadership.’”

The primary explanation for the abuse that happened — not to excuse the retention of priests in positions that enabled them to continue to harm children — was the belief that the priests could be cured by psychotherapy, a theory now long discarded by the medical profession.  Regrettably, it is also likely that years ago the abuse of children was not taken as seriously as today.  Thank God we’ve progressed on that issue.

Many of those in the media who are pounding on the Church and the Pope today clearly do it with delight and some with malice.  The reason I believe for the constant assaults is that there are many in the media and some Catholics as well as many in the public who object to and are incensed by positions the Church holds, including opposition to all abortions, opposition to gay sex and same-sex marriage, retention of celibacy rules for priests, exclusion of women from the clergy, opposition to birth control measures involving condoms and prescription drugs and opposition to civil divorce.  My good friend, John Cardinal O’Connor, once said, “The Church is not a salad bar, from which to pick and choose what pleases you.”  The Church has the right to demand fulfillment of all of its religious demands by its parishioners, and indeed a right to espouse its beliefs generally.

I disagree with the Church on all of these positions.  Nevertheless, it has a right to hold these views in accordance with its religious beliefs.  I disagree with many tenets of Orthodox Judaism – the religion of my birth — and have chosen to follow the tenets of Conservative Judaism, while I attend an Orthodox synagogue.  Orthodox Jews, like the Roman Catholic Church, can demand absolute obedience to religious rules.  Those declining to adhere are free to leave.

I believe the Roman Catholic Church is a force for good in the world, not evil.  Moreover, the existence of one billion, 130 million Catholics worldwide is important to the peace and prosperity of the planet.

Of course, the media should report to the public any new facts bearing upon the issue of child molestation, but its objectivity and credibility are damaged when The New York Times declines to publish an op-ed offered by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan on the issue of anti-Catholicism and to offer instead to publish a letter to the editor, which is much shorter and less prominent than an op-ed.

I am appalled that, according to The New York Times of April 6, 2010, “Last week, the center-left daily newspaper La Repubblica wrote, without attribution that ‘certain Catholic circles’ believed the criticism of the Church stemmed from ‘a New York Jewish lobby.’”  The Pope should know that some of his fellow priests can be thoughtless or worse in their efforts to help him.  If the “certain Catholic circles” were referring to The New York Times, the Pope should know that the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., is Episcopalian, having taken the religion of his mother, and its executive editor, Bill Keller, is also a Christian.

Enough is enough.  Yes, terrible acts were committed by members of the Catholic clergy.  The Church has paid billions to victims in the U.S. and will pay millions, perhaps billions, more to other such victims around the world.  It is trying desperately to atone for its past by its admissions and changes in procedures for dealing with pedophile priests.  I will close with a paraphrase of the words of Jesus as set forth in John 8:7:  “He [or she] that is without sin among you, let him [or her] cast the next stone…”

- Edward I. Koch

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7 Responses to “Some insights from Ed Koch”

  1. Helen Hawkins says:

    I want to thank Mayor Koch for this article.

    Also, to emphasize that this is not just a Catholic problem, here is a link to a US Study on child abuse in the school system.

    http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/research/pubs/misconductreview/report.pdf

    All institutions need to be aware of the problem and work, as the Catholic Church has, to to rid society of this terrible problem.

  2. Ralph says:

    Thank you, Archbishop Dolan, for highlighting Mayor Koch’s column.

    Mayor Koch, thank you. Your piece is a much-needed (both inside and outside the Church) model of both candor and civility. We seem to have arrived at an era where differences in beliefs or opinions, even for matters less weighty than basic religious precepts, are assumed to preclude the possibility of constructive, honest dialogue. It is refreshing to encounter your obvious respect for the Church and her authority over her flock, even as you acknowledge both the gravity of the sexual abuse issue she is trying to address and your own disagreement with many of her fundamental teachings.

    It also occurs to me that you were not obligated to comment and may take some grief for having publicly expressed yourself. Thank you for your willingness to do that.

  3. Bill says:

    Yet another “but others do it, too” and “the only people who still care about the bishops’ coverups are LIBERAL Catholics, not ‘real’ Catholics” attempt to redirect our attention away from the crimes committed by both predator priests, and the bishops who protected them for years. This simply will not do, Archbishop. The bishops’ coverup is and should be of concern to all Catholics, worldwide.

    I still have faith in my parish priest and fellow Catholics around the world, but I have lost all faith in our leadership, which continues a policy of stonewalling, denying, and attempting to derail all discussions of the failure of our bishops to protect the faithful, by dragging in the red herrings you feature in Ed Koch’s statement. They are merely attempts to derail the public discussion of the real crime: the bishops’ global, decades-long practice of protecting pedophilic priests from exposure.

    From today’s issue of the respected British newspaper, the “Independent”:

    “The Vatican was hit by another embarrassing revelation late on Thursday when a website posted a letter by a senior Curia cardinal heartily congratulating a French bishop in 2001 for not denouncing a self-confessed abusive priest to the police.

    Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who at the time headed the Vatican department in charge of priests around the world, told Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux-Lisieux he was a model for all bishops for his behaviour in the case that shocked France.

    The priest, Rev Rene Bissey, was sentenced to 18 years in jail for sexually abusing 11 boys, and Pican got a suspended three-month sentence for not reporting the crimes.

    ‘I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration,’ Castrillon Hoyos wrote.

    Barbara Dorris of SNAP, a US-based support group for clerical sex abuse victims, described the letter as ‘one of the most telling and troubling’ among many internal church documents now being published to expose the extent of the abuse crisis.

    ‘In what other institution on this planet does a top official praise a colleague for hiding a criminal from the police?’ she asked in a statement.”

    This crime, committed by a French bishop, took place in 2001, and NOT decades ago, Archbishop. And he was congratulated for concealing a pedophile by a senior Vatican cardinal!

    There are no words. Really, almost anything one can say is inadequate.

    I still love my Church and am sure that God is with lay Catholics, most priests, and nuns around the globe. But our bishops, cardinals, and top leadership are simply deaf to the cries of the faithful and have utterly failed in following God’s mandate to them, to protect the people.

    I respectfully suggest that you consider apologizing for being part of this campaign of denial, derailing discussion, and evasion, Archbishop.

  4. Marie says:

    Mayor Koch,

    May God richly bless you for your compassionate, objective comments.

    Bill’s post above, on the other hand, is a total non-sequitur. There is no evidence nor reason to accuse Archbishop Dolan. The post was an attack just looking for a venue.

    It is you, sir, who owe Archbishop Dolan an apology. This particular post was neither the place nor the time. That all Catholics are suffering from this crisis is clear. We don’t need a fellow Catholic telling us what we already know.

  5. Marie says:

    @Marie:

    “This particular post was neither the place nor the time. That all Catholics are suffering from this crisis is clear. We don’t need a fellow Catholic telling us what we already know…”

    Marie, darling, you don’t probably understand the depth of the systematic problem that the church is carrying out. I write church with small c to differentiate the institutional/political/hierarchical group from the Church of Christ made of all priests and followers that do good on a daily basis.

    I am sympathetic to all those who will face judgment because of the sins of others (easy to hear people unjustly and illogically say that “one priest pedophile, all priests pedophiles”. But if you consider that centuries have carried out like this and we have only found some documents regarding the last few decades, then you should brace yourself and take a stronger stance on such issues rather than just criticizing someone who is showing the brutal truth because such truth has been hidden for too long.

    Then, rather that accusing someone of attaching someone else using an imperative, a command, anattack yourself (“It is you, sir, who owe Archbishop Dolan an apology”) and help solve this issue.

  6. Fr. Rick Stansberry says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan:
    I am always edified by your comments, I remember them well from when I was a student at the Casa Santa Maria in Rome. I thank you for standing up for the Church and the Holy Father especially since The Times and other media outlets seem to only report on the bad. Yes, we must admit mistakes but like Mayor Koch says and you have said much of it beyond reporting facts and is no more than Anti-Catholicism, which like Phillip Jenkins says in his book is the last acceptable predjudice. If anyone can represent the Church well in New York, it is you and you are doing an outstanding job. God bless you.
    Fr. Rick Stansberry
    Christ the King Parish Oklahoma City OK

  7. Evelyn Gates says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan,
    I would like to thank you and Mayor Koch for bringing clarifications on how pedophile priests were taken care of. In addition, many thanks to Helen Hawkins for sharing the research report by the US Department of Education. This is report is so informative and alarming but at the same time it’s evident that child abuse is not just a problem in the Church. I would like to extend an invitation to everyone interested in child abuse to read this study.