The head pastor of Waterford’s largest Catholic church is “delighted” with the choice of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the next pope, but said he has a challenge facing a “world that is becoming immoral in a lot ways.”
On Wednesday, Fr. Joseph Whittel, the head pastor of Waterford's St. Paul's Church, said he was happy with the new selection for pope, but said Bergoglio will have to deal with a world population that is getting away from its morals. Specifically, Whittel said the thousands of abortions that are happening every day are cheapening life, and they are paving the way for the shootouts that have been highlighting the news.
“Human life is not valued,” he said. “How can you explain what is happening in Colorado, or Newtown… How can you shoot 20 children? It shows there is no value for life.”
Whittel said Bergoglio needs to help change that immoral world by going out and spreading God's word, which Bergoglio has done in the past. That said, Whittel is confident Bergoglio will not stray from the church’s longstanding values, including not recognizing a marriage between homosexuals and being opposed to abortion.
Child Abuse Scandal
Whittel has something in-common with Bergoglio – both are left answering questions about child abuse scandals that have come to label the Catholic Church, albeit on different scales. Bergoglio has to do it on a macro-level, trying to recover from both the child-abuse scandal and the Catholic Church’s cover-up of it. Whittel, meanwhile, took over as head pastor of St. Paul’s Church after former head pastor Fr. Dennis Carey was arrested in June for possession of child pornography.
Whittel said the key for both Bergoglio and himself to overcome those incidents is to “be as transparent as possible.” However, he said that the media has unfairly targeted Catholic priests, and there is “an element of unfairness” about the scandal.
“When a priest is arrested for something like this, it is on page one… above the fold,” he said. “If somebody else is arrested for it, it is on page three.”
Whittel said that the percentage of Catholic priests who committed sex crimes against children is far lower than the percentage of people in other professions. He said that Bergoglio can help get the church over that problem by being transparent and defrocking priests who are caught, as in the case with Carey.
Whittel did say though that the rule that a priest could get married could change, which some suggest who help fix the problem. However, he said Catholic priests live active lives as they are always on call, and wouldn't necessarily make good husbands.
"That could change," Whittel said. "But I'd pity the poor lady who is married to a Catholic priest... Catholics have very high demands on their priests."