Saturday, December 30, 2006

Priest Reinstated

Fr. Jim Kiffmeyer was reinstated to the priesthood yesterday after publication of a decree from the Vatican.

While I have only met Fr. Kiffmeyer occasionally, I know his legacy from when he was teaching at Elder, as I followed him there, with Fr. Anthony Brausch actually in between. Many of the students who had him in class respected him and spoke highly of him, so my hope is that he can pick up where he left off in his ministry as a priest. As much as I know that he enjoyed teaching High School, which I did as well, I do not think it would be appropriate to re-assign him to a High School, especially considering the directive from the Vatican.

One thing that tends to get lost in all of the talk around the issue of clerical sex abuse is forgiveness. There are some who would like to see any priest who committed such a crime hung right next to Saddam. I do not think that holding on to such anger is good, spiritually or psychologically. Now, I am not saying that a priest who has a credible allegation of child abuse should be allowed to do anything he wants as a priest, and with the current environment, they have to be removed from the priesthood. One thing that needs to be included is a dimension of forgiveness for these men. We are all on our journey to salvation, these men have made a horrible mistake, yes. But we all make mistakes, let's not forget that.


Anonymous said...

Dear Father,

The "current environment" has been earned due to bishops actions and inactions that protected the church rather than children.

Forgiveness should not be a right but should be earned by these priest who have "made mistakes." If they have received offender specific therapy and sincerely continue in their psychological and spiritual work that keeps them facing their mistakes (crimes) and practice the boundaries they need to put in place, then I am prepared to forgive.

But we must never forget...the harm that is caused when one of God's priests abuses their power and position and violates the innocence of a child or vulnerable adult.

And we must always continue to watch the hierarchy of the church who have proven over and over again that they care more for the institution than God's people.

Rich Leonardi said...

A couple of points came to mind reading the previous comment:

(1) Most of these victims are not "children" in the sense understood by most people. The overwhelming majority of them are teenage boys and young men.

(2) We've had "offender-specific therapy" for decades and it has been found wanting.

(3) No one, thank God, "earns" forgiveness.

(4) Whenever I see someone focus all of the blame on the bishops instead of allocating much of it to the abusing priests themselves, it makes me wonder whether there's more to the writer's story.

Father Kyle said...

Dear Anon,

Thank you for the challenge to what I posted, one of the (many) sources is that I think the heirarchy felt themselves to be above criticism. While I do not like it (who does?), I certainly try to accept it.

That being said, there are a couple of grey areas that remain between what I said and your comments. First off, I said forgive, not forget. One of the great tragedies of this whole thing is that the bishops tended to forget that we are all fallible, and that we tend to fall back in to the same sins we have committed. I hear it enough in the confessional to know that it is tough to break out of a habit of sin, be it big or little.

I also have to take issue with your last paragraph. It is worth something, however small it may be, to note that Archbishop Pilarczyk is one of the few (if only) bishops to face an allegation of cover up and admit to the charges with a plea of 'no contest.' He has admitted that the Archdiocese has made mistakes in the past, hence we must also be able to make mistakes in the present (and in the future.) Is he completely above suspicion, unfortunately I do not think so. However, no bishop of the time is. I think it is also to be noted that the scandal is actually much less severe here than in many other locations. Yes, we have had priests accused and found guilty, some of whom I consider friends. However, the number is fairly small when considering the size of the diocese.

One final point, the Archdiocese was one of the first (I think) to establish a child protection decree. (First established in 1993 as the Decree on Child Abuse.) It was in response, unfortunately, to abuse committed by (at least) one priest in the 1980's, who was tried and convicted in the 1990's. The Archdiocese did not just bow under pressure, but has had an active policy of protection in place for close to fifteen years now.