Maggie Gallagher
This is not so much a column as a cri d'coeur. A good Catholic is supposed to trust the church 's authority. And if you mean the church over time, shepherded by the holy spirit and making known God's presence in the sacraments, I do.

But I have two sons. As I sat in the pews last Sunday, obediently praying for an increase in religious vocations, the thought occurred: If one of my sons wanted to dedicate himself to a life of chastity, poverty and obedience, forsaking marriage (and my grandchildren!) for God's sake, would I trust my child to the care of people now running American Catholic seminaries? Should I? Should any mother?

This is the question raised in many staunch Catholic hearts by the series of revelations of priestly sexual abuse of teen-agers. Teen-age boys, to be exact. One of the big, obvious questions on everybody's mind that nobody in the American church hierarchy seems to be willing to address is this: Why, suddenly, is it only boys, boys, boys?

The same old church critics are using these scandals to target clerical celibacy as the problem and married priests as the solution. Right. As if wives are the answer to the sexual urges of men who get their kicks from adolescent boys.

The last straw was the resignation last week of the bishop of Palm Beach, Fla., after he admitted having sex with a 13-year-old seminary student in Missouri in the 1970s. It gets worse. Christopher Dixon was a student at the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Hannibal, Mo. He had been sexually used by his parish priest (and head of the Catholic elementary school he had attended) and also by the dean of students at the seminary. "I was confused. I was upset and didn't know what to do," Dixon describes the time period. "O'Connell said he was trying to help me come to terms with myself, with adolescence, confusion about my sexuality. And in order to try to help me come to terms with my own body, he ultimately took me to bed with him."

A 13-year-old kid, seeking a life of chastity and service to God, finds not one but two priests who turn him to their own sexual use instead. And instead of helping him, Anthony J. O'Connell, then the head of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, says, Hey, here is a chance to get my jollies, too!

More bad news: How do you suppose Bishop O'Connell got appointed to his post? The previous Palm Beach bishop had stepped down because of his habit of molesting boys. And yet more than 100 local priests have apparently signed a petition urging the Vatican to refuse to accept Bishop O'Connell's resignation.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.