Prayer, comfort needed in wake of sex charges: Bishop

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The Western Star (Corner Brook, Newfoundland)

Paul  Hutchings
Published on December 17, 2011 
Paul Hutchings  RSS Feed 

 CORNER BROOK Rocked by another sex scandal for incidents that allegedly took place over two decades up to 1989, a Roman Catholic Church official said the church is just as angry as everyone else, and trying to make changes.

But don’t look for sweeping policy changes, especially where celibacy is concerned.

Bishop Peter Hundt of the Diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador said incidents of sexual abuse within the church have nothing to do with celibacy.

“It’s about people not dealing with their sexuality properly,” he said. “That can be about a married man or a bachelor.”

He defended the church saying despite the tragic situations that he agreed were historical fact, the church “is possibly still the safest place for a child to be.”

“I think a lot of this, when something goes wrong, you say, what’s different with this picture, and if (something else) was different would that change the picture,” he said. “You end up looking at things like celibacy but from everything that I’ve seen when you look at the facts and the statistics, that’s not the issue.”

Rev. George Smith, currently living in Truro, N.S. according to court documents, is accused of sexually abusing young boys, in incidents allegedly taking place between 1969 and 1989 at several churches up the Northern Peninsula and as far south as St. Fintan’s.

Hundt sympathized with the accusers, but said it is not just an issue for the Catholic church.

“It’s tragic when that happens, but the boy scouts have had to deal with it, and minor hockey is dealing with it,” he said. “This is something that not just the Catholic church, but society as a whole has been working on.”

Hundt doesn’t shy away from media coverage; he paraphrased another church official, saying it would be a sad day when stories like this latest sex scandal don’t make the front page of a newspaper. Hundt said the church deals with these scandals the way a family would: by listening, offering comfort and a shoulder to cry on.

“Priests are supposed to be a source of protection, how can he be an abuser?” Hundt asked. “I’d like healing for all the people that have been hurt by it, healing and that we might have the grace that we can live up to what God is calling us to, whether it’s priests or volunteers working in different organizations.”

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