Q. My husband was brought up a Catholic and has always been very committed to the church. I am a convert, and we are raising all of our kids in the Catholic faith. Two of my sons (who are now young adults) and my husband have watched the Netflix series “The Keepers,” and I am deeply worried about the effect this may have on their faith.
My sons have started making negative comments about the church, and even my husband has said that the series’ portrayal of how the church systematically covered up abuse has made him not want to go to Mass. (Luckily, he further commented that the most important things are God and the sacraments, and so he will continue to attend.)
I hear a lot of other people talking about the series, too. How do I convince my children that they should still be proud to be Catholics? (Newport News, Virginia)
A. Since 2002, the Catholic Church in the United States has had a universal zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse of minors — meaning that any priest credibly accused of such an act can never again be permitted to serve in public ministry.
“The Keepers,” to which the question refers, is a seven-part 2017 Netflix series based on the still-unsolved 1969 murder of a Catholic nun in Baltimore. The series examines the theory that Sister Catherine Cesnik was killed because she knew that the chaplain at her school, Father Joseph Maskell, had sexually abused students — and that civil and church authorities interfered with the criminal investigation in order to cover up that connection.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore has issued a response entitled “Frequently Asked Questions Based on ‘The Keepers'”; that document is available online at www.archbalt.org, and I recommend it to interested readers. It indicates that the archdiocese had no knowledge of any accusation against Father Maskell until 1992 when an alleged victim came forward.
That person was encouraged to file a report with civil authorities, offered counseling assistance, and Father Maskell was removed from ministry and referred for evaluation and treatment. When the archdiocese was unable to corroborate the allegation, Father Maskell was returned to ministry the following year, but when additional accusers stepped forward in 1994, the priest was permanently prohibited from public ministry.
Undeniably, there were priests who abused children. Those actions, as Pope Francis has said, were “crimes” and “sins,” and this represents a sad and regrettable chapter in the church’s history. But because certain individuals were unfaithful to their vows, I would not deprive myself of the strength of the sacraments, and it pleases me that your husband is able to make that distinction.
As regards being proud to be Catholic, it matters a lot to me that one-sixth of all acute-care hospital beds in the U.S. are under Catholic auspices — and that each year millions of poor and vulnerable people in America are helped by Catholic Charities.
Q. The beauty, timelessness and universality of the Roman Catholic Mass stem from its consistent form, enriched by the seasonal variety of scriptural content. Recently, though, I noticed that two different priests added their own words to the standard prayers and instructions to the congregation.
One priest even inserted, several times during the Mass, the phrase “God is good, all the time” — and invited the congregation to respond, “All the time, God is good.” One priest asked the congregation to join hands at the Our Father, when that is not in the Mass rubrics.
One of them focused a large part of his homily (which lasted more than 20 minutes) on his own personal experience. I agree that personal stories can be a powerful way to illustrate God’s word — but when that dominates the homily, it can crowd out the Gospel message.
Please confirm for me that a priest is not to “personalize” the Mass and put his own “stamp” on it. A priest’s true “personal” mark on the celebration of the Mass should be his spirit, reverence, singing and energy — together with an effective homily — not any attempt to add, take away or otherwise “customize” this central sacramental celebration. (Indiana)
A. Best, I think, if I respond to each of your examples separately.
As for the priest who kept saying, “God is good, all the time,” that is just silly and sophomoric — in addition to being disallowed — and I’m surprised that the congregation would even respond.
On the invitation to join hands at the Our Father, you’re right — there is no such suggestion in the liturgical instructions. Some people feel uncomfortable holding hands; so why make the Mass an awkward experience when you don’t have to?
And finally, on the homily: I have no problem with a priest using personal experiences to illustrate the scriptural message, but 20 minutes seems to me about twice as long as a Sunday homily needs to be.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at email@example.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.
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Just finished watching “The Keepers”. If a laymen is accused of this they are prosecuted! Period………Individuals who are involved or have knowledge of a cover up are prosecuted! Period…….Not relocated, not promoted…..prosecuted. I will still have my relationship with our God but will be dragging my feet when it comes to attending Mass or writing that weekly check. I believe I will send my $$$ to other Catholic Charities where it might go to a better cause.
The Keepers greatly disturbed me and I was very angry at the blatant cover-up and collaboration between the police and the church in denying that this took place. Our Lady when she appeared in Garanbandal in the 1960’s told Conchita, one of the visionaries, that “Before the cup was being filled, but now it is overflowing. Many priests are walking through the path of perdition and taking with them many souls. Less and less importance is given to the Eucharist. You should prevent God’s anger upon you with your efforts. If you ask forgiveness with sincerity, He will forgive you. I, your Mother, through the intercession of the Archangel Michael, want to tell you to amend your lives. You are in the last warning. I love you very much and don’t want your condemnation; ask and you will receive. You should do more sacrifice; think more in the passion of Jesus.” It is clear in this message that not hearing or obeying the messages of Our Lady have serious consequences. She insists that the cup is overflowing and “the priests are walking on the path of perdition taking with them many souls.” I had to pray very strongly to our Blessed Mother for help in getting over my anger. Then I saw the pastor of my church at Mass that Sunday. He is a priest very much devoted to Our Blessed Mother and our Lord and he does much to keep us close to the Blessed Sacrament and the Eucharist. He will often ask us to pray for him. A good man who works hard and I wondered how are the good priests accepted by the Higher Ups in the church. Are they supported in what they are trying to do? The final message that I was able to walk away with is that we need to pray for our priests and for our church. We are in the end times and Satan is doing all he can to attack our church, bring down our priests and to discourage and bring down the rest of us. We need to be consistent and pray the rosary, go to monthly confession and receive and reverence the Eucharist as the Body of Christ. We need to pray for ourselves, our families and our young people. Is Satan using the media and shows like the Keepers? I don’t know. It brought out truth and cover-up but it also brought out the evil and the need for more prayer in our lives…and the ongoing battle for our souls.
As a life long Catholic, educated in Catholic schools and whose children attended Catholic schools, I am so disturbed by The Keepers that I may leave the church permanently. This latest report of abuse was covered up by the church which still obfuscates the truth and refuses to admit their complicity. Every parish I have belonged to in the last 30 years has had molestation scandals, one had one of the worst scandals in the country. Yet, instead of embracing the victims and helping them heal, the church with the worst history bullied a wonderful priest out of the pastor role because he was an advocate for the victims. I was already appalled and weary of the constant drum of widespread abuse of children throughout the Church. Now we add the murder of a young nun who vocalized her support for victims and desire to make it stop. This is beyond outrageous. If the Catholic Church does not want to be utterly destroyed by this horrendous history:
– STOP making excuses and fully admit this was very widespread, covered up and is inexcusable
– ATONE by acknowledging and welcoming survivors into the fold
– Immediately FIRE all leadership that had a part in covering this up
– Reinforce inclusion and respect for WOMEN AS LEADERS in the church – the male hierarchy has more than proven themselves incapable of protecting our children!
Do this or risk continued and severe decline in your membership in the US.
I completely agree with you….I have 4 brothers who were sexually abused by a priest here in Colorado. It has destroyed their lives. I support what you said 100%
Well, and how do you explain the fact that back in 2015 the archidiocese paid lawyers to argue against the extention of the statute of limitations in cases of child abuse in the testimonies leading up to the vote in the Maryland General Assembly?! How does that fit the zero tolerance policy narrative?
Exactly! They Catholic Church still couldn’t care less about right and wrong–only about their own image and wallets. I grew up Catholic and still consider myself Catholic but I can’t bring myself to put a penny in the church that won’t own up to the evil it has sanctioned.
“The Archdiocese of Baltimore has issued a response entitled “Frequently Asked Questions Based on ‘The Keepers’”; that document is available online at http://www.archbalt.org, and I recommend it to interested readers. It indicates that the archdiocese had no knowledge of any accusation against Father Maskell until 1992 when an alleged victim came forward.”
-This is discredited in the documentary which shows a dentist whose mother made claims of abuse in the late 60’s causing his relocation to Keough where the abuse detailed in The Keepers occurred.
“That person was encouraged to file a report with civil authorities, offered counseling assistance, and Father Maskell was removed from ministry and referred for evaluation and treatment. When the archdiocese was unable to corroborate the allegation, Father Maskell was returned to ministry the following year, but when additional accusers stepped forward in 1994, the priest was permanently prohibited from public ministry.”
-It had, again, been corroborated by the dentist I mentioned before.
I can swallow a “since 2002 we have changed” line, assuming you have. But here, again, you demonstrate the Catholic Church’s tendency to say one thing and act differently. You are disputing the claim of a man that RESULTED IN MASKELL’S RELOCATION and defending this new Church’s new ways, after the Church has refused to hand over the file of Maskell… Either you are too naive to understand the implication of guilt that all of the aspects of this case imply, or you are so cynical that you choose to ignore them.
The spurious claims in this propaganda piece are a continuation of mistruths easily and repeatedly debunked in “The Keepers” show. That the archdiocese continues to spread this misinformation and attempted cover-up appears to this reader to only further implicate them in the matter. It is apparent that the author need heed his own advice and “remain in the sacraments.”
Amen, Dubious Reader. The changes of abuse filed today against a top tier Vatican official in Australia underscore the Catholic chuch’s depth of disgrace.