Bishop Goedert ‘did what he could’ to rid archdiocese of abuser priests

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Bishop Raymond Goedert at Holy Name Cathedral in March 2013. | Sun-Times

I read with distress the recent article about Rev. Raymond Goedert (“Bishop who didn’t alert police on abuser priests is living in cardinal’s mansion,” Sept. 7)  and the archdiocese’s history of sexual abuse.  And now you have piled on with editorial comment. The Archdiocese itself has understandable difficulty responding to these historical condemnations. I do not. For many years, I served as one of the outside lawyers for the Archdiocese in these matters and became closely familiar with the institutional records — thousands of archival pages that have now been published — and with the people who had been responding to the sexual abuse crisis for the past generation.

Your editorial notes the commendable work of the Archdiocese “in the last decade.” So very wrong. The heavy lifting to corral and remove abusive priests was done in the mid-’80s and ’90s. By the year 2000, when Boston was just waking up to the fact of clerical sexual abuse, Chicago had already removed from active ministry the large majority of abusive priests. One of the central figures who undertook that utterly thankless mission was Raymond Goedert. He could have refused that role and gone off to a happy parish life. He did not. As the “Vicar for Priests,” he took on the problem and shepherded the departures of dozens of priests. He was part of the solution, not the problem.

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Did Goedert call 911? No. From the high moral ground of 2018, we now condemn sexual abuse histories — all the 911 calls never made — from Hollywood to the Chicago Public Schools. But think for a moment what you might have done 30 years ago, working within a self-protective institution like the Catholic Church, which describes most institutions of that time or any other.

Did Goedert do everything right? No. He made mistakes, he delayed and compromised, he acquiesced to institutional pressures. In other words, he was a man in the arena of life, like any of us. Under the circumstances, he did better than most of us would have.

Is Goedert an unsung hero? That is hard to say. But he did not flee the arena. He stayed and did what he could. If that falls short of your latter-day moral standard, he will have to live with that.

But the public record should be fair. Rev. Raymond Goedert was a major player in a quiet effort that substantially cleaned up the Archdiocese of Chicago before the public was even aware of the problem. That should be his legacy, not an editorial calculated to humiliate him and, so meanly, to roust an elderly priest out of the cardinal’s house.

Jay R. Franke, Hyde Park

Prisoners fighting wildfires

I’m really tired of reading about the so-called “mistreatment of criminals.” The latest version (“Who’s fighting those California wildfires? Prisoners — for a dollar an hour,” Sept. 14) has columnists Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan crying about paying prisoners only $1 an hour to help fight wildfires in the West. The authors did mention that the prisoners get two days off of their sentence for every day of fire-fighting. However, they failed to mention that the prisoners get all meals, full health care (including dental), education, and free legal care at the taxpayers’ largess. The prisoners are not “forced” to do any firefighting. They are all volunteers.

Too bad the the authors didn’t bother asking the prisoners about the crimes that put them behind bars. I wonder if the victims of those crimes would consider these prisoners and their rights “abused.” Getting a chance to reduce your sentence and get paid anything at all to fight fires seems more than fair to me.

Tom Sharp, Edgewater

No sympathy for Uber, Lyft

It’s so interesting to hear Uber and Lyft drivers complain that they are not being paid a living wage, but never once do they think of the hundreds of taxi drivers they put on the unemployment line. No sympathy here.

Lawrence Woss, Wicker Park

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