Catholicism’s Corruption



                  By Kenneth Bagnell


      Every day is seems to get worse. And don’t tell me it’s not my business – when thousands of young boys are sexually abused it’s everybody’s concern. I may well have mentioned my late professor of psychiatry, Fraser Nicholson, in Halifax, warning us, more than once, that if it happens to a boy just once that boy is wrecked for life. Hence how many boys have lost a future because a self-serving Catholic priest has pounced on them and horrified them. Life is never the same. And this is Christian conduct and character? Why oh why, are Catholic priests so prone to exploiting and thereby wrecking — yes wrecking! — the life of an innocent boy of say 12 years old, and then of course deserting him. Where oh where, for God’s sake, is the Christian stewardship in this horror of Catholic practice.

       Those of you who live east or west, will probably have missed the recent, extensive reportage on a priest named Charles Sylvester, now deceased, whose perverted activity was carried out in Ontario over 20 years, where his choice was not boys but girls, 47 of them in forty years, according to The Toronto Star. Virtually every response that the church made in this debacle was to hide and run. As The Toronto Star out it:  “The Diocese of London, consistent with the policies and practices of the Roman Catholic Church more broadly, engaged in a practice of child sexual abuse by members of the diocese’s clergy, and then assigning the priests in question to different parishes in the Diocese, thereby providing the priests with further opportunity to commit sexual assaults upon children within the ‘new’ parish….” And such abuse goes on and on and on. (The Star reported that it was happening not just in London, Ontario but apparently, nine other dioceses. What is driving this?

    The man has to be outed as a real odd case, surrounded by more odd cases. Among other characteristics, Father Sylvester – who died in prison at age 84 – was so mischievous with the young, he himself confessed to having dealt with — not boys — but girls of this and that parish.  The governance of the Catholic communities kept moving him here and then moving him there. Oh yes, there was something else rather than girls. In October 1989, he was sent off to a town in Michigan. No, not for priestly work and not for getting a haircut. It was to take lessons in quitting the booze.

     Nobody knows for sure what makes a secretive bisexual aggressor. But there are psychiatrists who do their questionable best in analyzing the cause. It’s now about 40 years since a Catholic psychiatrist, did a research study on 1,500 or so priests who’d been in trouble. For whatever reason, carelessness perhaps, it was tossed.  Then came an effort by a professional named Thomas Plante of a major university, whose view was expressed this way: “Almost all the cases coming to light today are from 30 to 40 years ago. We did not know much about paedophilia…” So that trailed off. Then a prominent lawyer in Washington came up with a view that included a rather discouraging view:  “too much faith in psychiatrists.” Not much success there.

    In this case, it was the Bishop who was said to have been the villain over the youth. But Pope Francis said no, it is not the Bishop. If so Karadima has been told, in the past, he was a wrong doer. The reliable Religious News Service had reported earlier that he actually was: “Francis insisted that to date no one had provided him with evidence that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in keeping quiet about the perversions of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, the charismatic Chilean priest who was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011 for molesting and fondling minors in his Santiago parish….”

      Nonetheless Karadima was removed from the priesthood and sentenced by the Vatican in 2011 to dreadful sentence: a lifetime of penance and prayer based on the testimony of his victims who said they were all molested by him in the swank parish he headed in the El Bosque area of Santiago. A Chilean judge also found the victims to be credible, saying that while she had to drop charges against Karadima because too much time had passed, proof of his crimes wasn’t lacking. The victims have said for years that Barros, one of Karadima’s proteges, witnessed the abuse and did nothing to stop it…” Still Francis would not agree. As the reporters put it referring to Pope Francis: “The best thing for those who believe this is to bring the evidence forward… In this moment I don’t think it’s that way, because I don’t have it, but I have an open heart to receive them…” So it goes. But it is strange. The men on the ground say yes, the man from St. Peter’s says no. Who knows best?

     Whoever is right or whoever is wrong is a matter on a separate chapter of this long ugly issue of child abuse. Francis has been insisting all along that he has what he likes to call “zero tolerance” for abuse and if you happen to be a bishop you will be held to the last detail. There are several well known cases where Francis and the Vatican cure have sided with the accused over the victims. In turn this inevitably calls into question whether Francis and the Vatican staff, side with the accused over the victim, bringing to question whether he goes by the guidance that puts victims first and the Catholic leaders second. If so it’s not exactly the highest and purest of moral standards. I should ask Religion News Service what they think. I can tell you they think wisely, clearly and well.




This is Black History Month and the 50th year since Martin Luther King was assassinated . Many churches are taking special notice of this special man’s life. Below is evidence of one of my presentations.  Early in my career as a young minister/journalist, I was privileged to meet and interview MLK, an opportunity provided me by the then Rabbi of Holy Blossom Synagogue, Gunther Plaut.  This picture was taken in Ssmithville, Ontario.  I have another presentation this coming Sunday Feb. 25th in Oshawa where two congregations will gather to, as the sign says, “share memories”.






  1. E Karabanow
    Mar 7, 2018

    Thanks, Ken, for this Commentary which needless to say is most disturbing. Very nice photo of you in front of the United Church – Rabbi Plaut would be very grateful to you for your sermons about MLK

  2. J Hickman
    Mar 7, 2018

    What’s a priest say when he falls overboard? “Throw me a buoy!.”
    Seriously though, in your commentary, you ask what’s driving this. Studies show that predators go into career fields where, in a position of power, they may carry out their misdemeanors with impunity. Look at hockey coaches and those working at arenas; gymnastics teachers (and even a sports doctor for the young girls); Big Brothers and Scouts; junior and high-school teachers; and, of course Catholic priests.
    I don’t know if Christian values ever enter the minds of priests and bishops accused of these terrible perversions.

  3. J Vereshack
    Mar 7, 2018

    Just a brief word of appreciation. Your blogs are well thought out . In my language, what this means, that you “really know what you are talking about.

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