I hope no one reading this has had a close friend or family member attempt suicide. But if you can imagine having the responsibility to try to help a person who seems inexorably drawn to self-destructive behavior, you might also imagine that you would hesitate to rat that person out to police if you found out he had child pornography on his computer, especially if the guy had attempted suicide within hours of that devastating discovery.
The question isn’t whether the Catholic Church has a great track record in dealing with pedophilia, it’s whether we as a society have the capacity both to protect children and to provide counsel and rehabilitation to people with abnormal sexual desires. It’s not obvious that we are prepared to temper justice with compassion in cases of nonviolent sexual offenders. I hope we are, but I don’t know.
If I were the bishop, I wouldn’t have turned this priest in to civil authorities until it was clear he couldn’t keep out of temptation’s way. I might have thought sending him to a convent was a good start. Instead, Missouri might very well send him to prison, for taking weird photos for his own viewing. Maybe that won’t be necessary, and there will be a just resolution that isn’t vindictive. I wouldn’t count on it, though.