Pharyngula

John Fiala is a bad man, and he’s also a Catholic priest. I’ve got a flood of email telling me I ought to highlight the case because he’s a priest who forced a boy to have sex with him at gunpoint, and later tried to hire a hit man to kill him. What he has done has been awful and evil, but, you know, it’s not an indictment of religious belief.

Fiala is simply nuts.

If his religious order did cover up his crimes (and that is one of the charges here), then it is evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the Catholic church, but that’s still an open question — from the accounts I’ve seen, he was removed from the active ministry when his predilections were discovered, and transferred to administration. I don’t know how openly crazy he was; if it was known that he favored sodomy at gunpoint, then yes, that the church only tried to hide him in the attic for a few years is bad news for religion. But psychopaths can mask their nastiness fairly well.

But otherwise, I have to ask, if this guy had been an atheist, would I consider it a sign of problems in the atheist philosophy? And I have to say no. Emotionally disturbed individuals and psychopaths and just plain bad people can crop up as individuals anywhere, and the issue is whether the institutions towards which they gravitate ought to be held accountable for sheltering or promoting or enabling their behavior. This is a case where the wretchedness of John Fiala is obvious now, but is religion responsible? I don’t see a case for that.

Of course, you can make the case that being in the presence of the Lord and being nestled in a holy sanctuary every single day didn’t seem to miraculously cure Fiala’s sickness, but we don’t believe in magic miracle cures anyway.