Letters to the Editor

Week of June 4, 2003

Is That a Crucifix in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Give accused priests the benefit of the doubt, for Chrissakes: The good long article by Ron Russell on Archbishop Levada was marred by a spirit that the accused are guilty until proved innocent ["See No Evil," May 21]. The American way is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Levada has been one of the few Roman Catholic bishops in this country attempting to weed out sexual perpetrators and also protect the civil rights of accused priests.

Father Daniel Carter is a case in point. The allegation against him stems from an event that may have taken place 26 years ago. There is enough doubt in it to make it appropriate that a priest with a clean record for 26 years is innocent until proven guilty and restored to active ministry.

Robert Warren Cromey
San Francisco

The bad apples are few:As a Roman Catholic, I'm always looking for different views of the abuse scandal. Russell's article takes a side that has been totally ignored in that he covers the story of Father Conley, who turned in a pervert in the ranks (I can't call them priests).

It may strike readers as strange that Conley's case is not the only one that has been largely uncovered. There have been stories (like on Court TV) about other priests who have done this. What is also left out of most stories about this subject is that there are priests who have been getting cleared of abuse charges, in Boston and elsewhere, that no one ever hears about.

In fact, a recent New York Times study estimated that less than 2 percent of the 46,000 priests in the U.S. have ever been accused of this crime, which does not whitewash the issue at all, but shows that all the stereotyping against the Catholic priesthood has ignored the innocent clergy who have been falsely accused, as well as those never accused.

Russell's article makes a bad move in the beginning, when it speaks of the "watered-down" zero tolerance policy of the bishops in Dallas. In fact, it is because the Vatican got involved in that policy that it was as strict as it is. It states, tell me if I'm wrong, that one accusation against a clergyman that is proven true merits immediate expulsion from the priesthood. Maybe this is why Bishop McGrath, as soon as he arrived from Dallas last year, immediately kicked two abusers from the priesthood -- doesn't sound like a "watered-down" policy to me, and cheers to McGrath for doing what he did.

Most of the accusations against priests are from people who allegedly experienced these events years ago -- some dead priests have even been accused. What also needs to be looked into is the fact that so many of these cases involve not children, but teenaged boys, like the Conley case. So it needs to be asked how many teenaged boys, in this time and place, would let another man touch them in a solicitous manner? Are these relationships consensual? If so, is there an equal burden of guilt here?

This doesn't ignore the true victims of abuse, but it makes questionable many other cases of accusers, who seem to be going for the big bucks, regardless of who they have to sue -- in this case every man, woman, and child of whatever Catholic diocese these alleged crimes take place in.

Guy Sudano
Sunnyvale

Ride, She Said

If you don't pedal with us, shut your pie hole:Matt Smith just doesn't get it, does he ["Critical Masturbation," May 14]? When's the last time he rode in Critical Mass? Like anything else, a few rowdies can give a lot of people a bad reputation. The majority of Critical Mass riders are polite. And recently, they have included many members of Bikes Not Bombs. With peace placards and anti-war signs, they are hardly lawless. And writing about Critical Mass along with Bike to Work Week makes Smith just as ignorant as those folks who think the San Francisco Bike Coalition and Critical Mass are one and the same. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other.

Smith writes about Critical Mass as though it is a monolithic institution. Nothing could be further from the truth as the riders change all the time, and that is precisely the point -- it's sponsored by no one, and led by no one, every month on the last Friday.

Has Smith checked out the Web site, www.critical-mass.org? He'll notice that Critical Mass, which started in San Francisco in 1992, is now a worldwide phenomena in hundreds of cities all over the world, including all of the cities he mentions in his column. He should check it out, and then check out the next Critical Mass ride. Then he'll understand the euphoria of bikes taking over a street normally filled with cars, and why this is so popular worldwide.

San Francisco will never forget about Critical Mass. But maybe, just maybe, we can forget about Matt Smith.

Marcia Weisbrot
Duboce Triangle

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