<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Criminal sexual abuse or "agreeable sex" ARCC
ARCC Banner
Home Join ARCC Donate Facebook Table of Contents
DHTML JavaScript Menu By Milonic.com

Who we are

What we do

Contact us



Criminal sexual abuse or "agreeable sex": Leonard Swidler vs. Emmett Fitzpatrick (Sat Oct 15, 2005  5:37 pm)

On October 9, ARCC President Leonard Swidler and former Philadelphia District Attorney Emmett Fitzpatrick were interviewed by Marc Howard on Newsmakers, CBS, Channel 3, Philadelphia, and asked their opinions concerning the Philadelphia Grand Jury Report on abusive Catholic priests.

As I listened to the videotaped interview on my computer I began to wonder whether I had accidentally tumbled into the Twilight Zone or a Catholic version of Orwell's Oceania where history is rewritten to fit Big Brother's official party line. Where else might one find a devout Catholic layman, a former district attorney, a man who is supposed to uphold the law, dismiss the entire scandal as people having "agreeable sex with each other," and insist that no crimes could have taken place because if the priests' actions had been illegal the bishops would have reported them at the time.

Here are some of the high (or low) points of the interview that can be viewed (as long as CBS keeps it in the archive) at http://kyw.com/video/?id=16968@kyw.dayport.com (I posted the entire transcript in the ARCC Net site at http://www.arcc-catholic-rights.net/newsmakers.htm ).

Fitzpatrick: Well, I really don't think there is that much crime involved in what you are talking about here. You are talking about people having sex, and people who have sex together -- almost everybody does it -- aren't committing crimes. . . . [B]ut the younger children never made any complaint about it at the time, never said it was a crime, never said it was anything. And now, in some instances they try to say that, after about twenty years when the statute of limitations has already run out, and that doesn't do anything for anybody. So all that they are really doing is making some sort of a bad, bad reputation for Catholic priests and I do not believe that is something the district attorney ought to do. . . .

Howard: Dr. Swidler, the report, in your opinion, was a good thing, regardless how it got out. Correct?

Swidler: Absolutely. I mean these were horrible, horrible things first of all that priests and sometimes lay people were doing all these years and I would say, and not I alone, even more horrible is the mismanagement on the part of the leadership that just shuffled them around from place to place. The fact that this wasn't uncovered until it was too late to do anything about it legally is shame on our laws, not shame on the district attorney. She has done in my judgment a real service to this community and unfortunately it turns out that this is a pattern that's repeating itself not only around the United States but around the world and not only in the twenty-first century or the twentieth century but for a long, long time. We need to know, so we can do something about it, and it's our responsibility, and I am speaking now as a Catholic theologian, it's our responsibility as Catholics to do something about it. . . .

Fitzpatrick: . . . You are looking for people that had sex twenty years ago. Now, why is it that you are looking for people that had sex twenty years ago, even with younger children, if the children agreed to it at those times, and apparently the children did not feel that they were being forced to it, they didn't say, wait a minute I have been abused by someone because if they had there would have been an arrest and everything would have been taken place at that time. . . . And when you get a situation like that why is it that the district attorney is interested in the fact that well, somebody had sex and maybe they didn't want to or maybe they did and we don't know but we'll arrest the guy that did it. I mean, it's just a little bit ridiculous to start putting people in jail for having sex, unless they have gone out and really forced someone into something. . . . What they are talking about is they had sex . . . Yes, underage. when you have someone seventeen, eighteen years of age, or just under eighteen, that wants to have sex with you, and you get an agreement with them, and you do it, and some of the people were young at that age too, I mean what's the big problem as far as anything. Two people have sex and away they go. It's not a crime.

Swidler: Frankly, I am amazed to hear this. I mean, I find this really stunning. These were young children and the priests were in a sort of demi-god kind of situation. This was the attitude that has been drilled into us, especially is this true not only in Catholicism in general but particularly in Philadelphia ever since the time of Cardinal Dougherty. . . . I mean about "don't ask questions if the Father, if Father says something you go with it." Everybody was drilled that way. The children, the parents, and everybody else. . . . Do you mean to suggest they did these horrible things and they shouldn't have a bad reputation because of that?

Fitzpatrick: I mean to suggest that they didn't do horrible things. If someone twenty-five years of age is a police officer, or pardon me, is a priest, and he gets connected with a lady who is seventeen or even a boy who is seventeen, and they have some sex that both of them like I do not regard that as some sort of a potential crime. . . . Swidler: [T]he real injustice was on the part of the leaders who simply shuffled them around and let them go on and on and on. . . . . . . Fitzpatrick: And it's a relatively minor charge as far as that's concerned. There are a great many other problems today with crimes that have not to do necessarily with agreeable sex with each other. . . . Howard: Do you agree that the bishops were wrong in moving people around when they knew they had this problem?

Fitzpatrick: No, I don't necessarily think that they were wrong. If they had known that it was some sort of a crime I think they certainly would have reported it to the police and that would have been the end of it. If they just reported a bad activity between some people that's something else that can't be a crime. . . . They are not charged with the position that they have to send people into jail or that to have them arrested or anything like that when they do something that disagrees with the particular letter of the law.

Swidler: Archbishop Bevilacqua was and is a civil attorney as well as a canon lawyer. He knew what was wrong. He did nothing about it. Shame on him.

Other voices

Another Voice

Questions From a Ewe

Challenges Facing Catholicism
(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in converation with Dr Ingrid Shafer)

Home ] Up ]
Locations of visitors to this page

Contact Information

, D.P.A., President
(406) 544-5527
Postal address
P.O. Box 6512
Helena, MT 59604-6512


Website design and maintenance:
Ingrid Shafer &
Copyright © 2003-2010,
Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church
DHTML JavaScript Menu By Milonic.com