Accusations against priests don’t define Church

By , Opinions Editor  |  Wednesday, October 30, 2013 11:30 PM

If one mayor in the United States is accused of taking money from the town treasury, would you then assume that every mayor is going to steal money?

I’d hope not, but a similar situation is happening within the Catholic Church.

When the first reports of alleged sexual abuse came out against priests from the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis, specifically against St. Thomas professor and priest the Rev. Michael Keating, many of my friends and acquaintances approached me, asking what I thought about the whole situation.

I’m not a Catholic Studies major or minor, but I consider myself a member of the Catholic community on campus. To be honest, I didn’t know what to say at first. My initial response was that it must all be lies, that all of the accusations were false.

Over the next couple of days, I took a step back. Instead of expressing my opinion, I listened to what others had to say. I was taken aback to hear many of my classmates saying this was just another example of why they don’t agree with the church, or saying they weren’t surprised by the situation. CC_COLUMN_GRAPHIC

I challenged a couple of them, asking if they’d ever met Keating. They couldn’t recall, but remembered seeing him in passing one or two times.

What I gathered was that people were using the lawsuit as their reasoning behind why they don’t trust the Catholic Church.

The church is not perfect. In fact, the Catholic Catechism teaches that we are a “Church of sinners.” While priests lead their parishes, they too are human. Like all people, they sin. Contrary to what some might think, priests are not perfect.

Surely, these accusations are troubling. As a child, we look up to parents and siblings, thinking they can do no wrong. The first time we witness an older sibling sneaking out or find out that our parents had some wild nights in college, we feel confused and disappointed with the people we held to a higher standard and trusted.

Like many others in the church, I look to priests and their lifestyle of faith and devotion for an example. As we grow up and grow in faith, priests become role models. When they do something that doesn’t fit the high expectations we hold them to, it can be disconcerting.

Yes, we are troubled by the terrible crimes some priests are accused or guilty of, but our faith is not in priests directly. Priests are human representatives of something much bigger than any of us. The core of what Catholics believe isn’t crashing down; the same God and same values of doing good, caring for others and seeking truth still guide us. We can still hope that despite priests’ human weakness and vices, that they can guide us through the difficulties of life.

For now, we just have to wait for a conclusion and hopefully, closure. We can keep those involved in our thoughts and prayers. Like St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan said in an email to the St. Thomas community, these people include the woman, her family and Keating.

Caroline Rode can be reached at

This item was posted in Opinions and has 7 comments so far.


  1. Patrick Fisher
    Oct. 31, 2013 2:24 PM

    Yes! Thank you for approaching such a difficult topic with an honest, yet critical perspective. I hope people who read this do seriously consider what their attitude towards the Catholic Church is based on: is it facts, or speculation and personal judgments? Scandal doesn’t define anyone or anything, especially the Church!

  2. Michael Becker
    Oct. 31, 2013 5:10 PM

    It is so refreshing to read a thoughtful and respectful piece of journalism, especially in light of this difficult situation. Thank you for writing this piece!

  3. Michael Blissenbach ’09
    Nov. 1, 2013 7:41 AM

    Ms. Rode, thank you so much for writing this article. I agree in full with what you say. God bless you!

  4. Megan Thompson
    Nov. 1, 2013 10:27 AM

    This is such a disturbing article. “They’re humans too! We all make mistakes!” Like sexually abusing a child? Yeah, okay. If this happened ONCE, like your comparison to the “one” mayor… it would be a different story. If you think sexual abuse in the church has happened only once, and not many, many times, then you are very confused and obviously have a distorted view of reality.

  5. Leah Miller
    Nov. 2, 2013 2:12 PM

    Thanks C-Dot, I understand that this article is not meant to explain every little bit of this accusation and story, but it does put it all in perspective of how little we know as individuals about the case, as Patrick said, we should strive for an “honest, yet critical perspective.” There is a large and mostly shaded view of the Catholic Church that needs to be acknowledged.

    And I also appreciated Dr. Sullivan’s email as well.

  6. Elissandra De Brito
    Nov. 3, 2013 3:16 PM

    I just want to share my thoughts against your argument, I am not against you as a person, but ONLY your argument in this article. I d like to say that I can not understand your comparison between a corrupt mayor to an abuser priest. Because, people are not assuming that all priests are going to be children molesters. People are assuming that the catholic church is not doing enough to hold in accountability priests who are child abusers. The church is swiping the dirtiness under the carpet, instead of cleaning the dirt. Also, I d like to point out that not only the church authorities are swiping the dirt but all of us who are catholics. We are guilty by association, we are guilty for not standing up against the church authorities and demanding for changes. I agree with you when you say priests abusers do not define the catholic church, yet the omission of the catholic church about this whole situation defines the church. This omission defines all of us too, because we are part of the church. We are all sinners, even priests, I can not deny that, however, just because we are sinners doesn’t mean I can not ask for better priests. I am a sinner yet, I am not a child molester thats why I can ask for non abusers priests. We are still able to ask the best from each other, even tho we are all sinners. The core of what catholic believes will crash down if we continue to omit the wrong acts in the world, because the catholic church by doing nothing to change is also contributing. 

  7. Paul Hedman
    Nov. 4, 2013 3:24 PM

    “Because, people are not assuming that all priests are going to be children molesters”

    Elissandra, the problem is people DO define all priests as child molesters.  I worked with someone who honestly thought all priests were homosexuals.  Stereotypes like these do exist.

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