May 15, 2005

Surviving the Scandals


By Dennis O'Connor
For The Sunday Challenger

COVINGTON - In 2001, not long after the St. Mary's Cathedral renovation was completed, Covington diocese Bishop Robert Muench returned to Louisiana, where he is now Bishop of Baton Rouge. He left just before the priest sex abuse scandal broke throughout the country.

Covington had its own experience early on with a wayward priest in Earl Beerman, former pastor and head of the Marydale Retreat Center who was convicted of child sexual abuse. Jerry Enderle, editor of the diocese's newspaper throughout that period, noted that the Beerman case was emblematic of the problems that Catholic bishops throughout the United States were dealing with at the time.

"A lot of the problems (of clergy sexual abuse) began in the 1950s and 1960s. At least that we know of. You can only imagine what went on before that. But in the case of a guy like Beerman, Bishop Hughes sought the best advice he could get at the time, and he followed that advice. The 'rulebook' at the time said that you should forgive. Offer treatment and forgive. The bishops were told that when you sent these priests to treatment programs, they were cured of their problems, and they believed what they were told. But it didn't turn out to be true. So, then, they started to listen to their lawyers, which I really think is what has gotten the bishops into the predicament they are into today."

Dioceses throughout the country have enacted new rules to protect children, inform law enforcement about any violations and offer treatment as much as possible for victims. For many, though, it is "too little, too late."

Posted by kshaw at May 15, 2005 08:06 AM