On Monday, August 20, 2018, a Catholic priest was physically attacked while he was praying in the sacristy of St Michaels Byzantine Catholic Church in Merrillville, Indiana. According to the Merrillville police chief, Joseph Petruch, the attacker grabbed Fr. Basil John Hutsko by the neck and “threw him down on the floor and immediately started slamming his head against the floor, both sides, front and back.”
During the assault, the attacker shouted, “This is for all the little kids.” Fr. Hutsko lost consciousness while he was being beaten and was later rushed to the hospital. When he regained consciousness, he was unable to provide any specific details about his attacker. Fr. Hutsko was released from the hospital after he was treated for bruises to his head.
A fellow priest, Fr. Thomas Loya, told a local reporter that Fr. Hutsko had never been accused of sex abuse. Fr. Loya added, “He’s a very dedicated priest and hardworking and in good standing. It’s just a random act upon an innocent priest.”
The attack was apparently related to an 886-page grand jury report that was released on Tuesday, August 14, 2018. The report revealed that more than 300 priests in six of eight Pennsylvania dioceses had sexually assaulted more than 1,000 children over a period of several decades.
Many of the priests who were named in the report are either dead or cannot be charged with crimes because of the expiration of the statute of limitations. A majority of the crimes took place more than 20 years ago. One of the most shocking disclosures in the report was that after the occurrence of the alleged incidents, active measures were taken by church officials to permanently cover up the crimes.Massive sex abuse scandal hidden
I read through some of the crimes that were committed by the priests and the abuse that the victims were subjected to was horrifying. I literally got sick to my stomach when I read what the victims were forced to endure.
I have some thoughts about the continuous reporting of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, but before I tell you what I’m thinking, I want to make it clear that I believe that any priest who is guilty of sexual abuse of a minor child should be put in prison for the rest of his life. I can think of more barbaric forms of punishment, but because we live in a civilized society, the punishments I have in mind would not be allowed, so I won’t bother mentioning them.
The media would like for us to believe that sexual abuse against minors is strictly a Catholic problem. We’re led to believe that these types of crimes are not committed in other religions. This is not the case.
In 2007, an article in the Insurance Journal stated that the three companies that insure the majority of Protestant churches in America reported that they receive upward of 260 reports each year of minor children being sexually abused by clergy, common staff, volunteers, or congregation members. The report stated that Protestant numbers are harder to come by because the Protestant denominations are less centralized than the Catholic Church. Because the congregations are independent, it’s much more difficult to gather data on the abusive behavior within those organizations.
Sexual Abuse of minors is not only limited to Christian religions. Recent reports have indicated that such abuse is also a problem in the Jewish community, as well as among members of the Muslim and Buddhist religions.
The epidemic of sexual abuse goes far beyond religious institutions. A U.S. Department of Education study from 2004 reported that one in 10 public school students is a victim of sexual abuse by an educator.
A recent year-long investigation that was conducted by the Associated Press found that over a four-year period, from fall 2011 to spring 2015, there were roughly 17,000 official reports of sex assaults by students in the United States. The report of the investigation stated that the findings did not fully capture the problem “because such attacks are greatly underreported, some states don’t track them, and those that do vary widely in how they classify and catalog sexual violence.”
In addition to the churches and educational institutions, sexual assault is common in the sports world, the military, police departments, and in the medical industry where there are frequent reports of physicians abusing their patients. The #MeToo movement has exposed the rampant sexual abuse that occurs in Hollywood, Congress, and in large media corporations.
Let’s face it. Sexual abuse is rampant in our society.
None of this excuses the behavior of the Catholic priests and the bishops who looked the other way.
So here’s my question for you: What do all the predators in these churches and organizations have in common? The answer is, they were all truly evil. As a society, we always seem to be surprised by the behavior of someone who is truly evil. Unfortunately, we don’t really have any predictable ways of recognizing and dealing with individuals before it becomes obvious that they are evil.
I don’t know about other cultures, but in America, most people have trouble recognizing evil in others. I think the reason for this is, in part, because of our deeply rooted Judeo-Christian values. We are taught and conditioned to believe that “there is good in everyone.” As a consequence, we are constantly on the lookout for the “good in others.” Despite what should be obvious signs that some people may be evil, we come up with reasons that excuse their behavior. We blame the environment they grew up in, the difficulties they faced in their lives, or the specific circumstances that led to them behaving in a certain way.
Most of us would agree that there is good in everyone. What we really don’t think about — or avoid thinking about — is that as a consequence of original sin, we were all born with an inclination toward evil. We are all capable of becoming truly evil.
So what makes a person evil? From a Catholic perspective, a person becomes evil when he (1) allows himself to be consumed by one or more of the seven capital sins, or (2) intentionally chooses to engage in and embrace one or more of the seven capital sins. (As a reminder, the seven capital sins are pride, lust, anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, and sloth.)
When a person voluntarily engages in gravely sinful behavior, he becomes an agent of the devil. It is at this point when evil metastasizes inside the person’s soul and begins to spread like cancer. And like cancer, the evil does not usually reveal itself until it has destroyed the soul and conscience of the person.
As Catholics, we have an advantage over other individuals when it comes to resisting and overcoming evil. We have, among other things, prayer and the sacraments (baptism, confirmation, confession, Holy Communion, matrimony, holy orders, and anointing of the sick). Through daily prayer and the sacraments, we have the ability to remain in the state of grace at all times. When we are in the state of grace, we are agents of the Holy Spirit.
If we assume we can avoid evil without daily prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments, we are surrendering to pride, by believing we can resist the temptation of evil on our own. We live in a world in which we are surrounded by evil. In order to always remain in the state of grace, we need to make sure we pray a daily rosary, attend Mass and receive Holy Communion on a regular basis, and regularly go to confession. Of course, there’s more that we should be doing, but that’s a good place to start.
I’m furious about how a small percentage of truly evil men destroyed the lives of innocent children and trashed the reputation of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church that was founded by our Risen Savior.
The Pennsylvania report ripped open an old wound that may never heal. How long will it take for the Catholic Church to regain its authority, respect, and stature among the people of the world? It could take 100 or more years.
One last thing. Each of us should say at least one prayer every day for our Pope, the bishop of our diocese, and our parish priest. That’s three more prayers each day. They need our prayers and support.