There are so many ambiguities surrounding the alleged sexual misconduct of Monsignor J. Peter Crynes. These uncertainties have been heightened by the terminology used by individuals expressing their uniformed point of view in local media.
In a recent letter to the editor entitled, “Unchaste behavior same as sex abuse,” Mr. David Clohessy, National Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, responded to Bishop Joseph Martino’s letter to the parishioners of St. Therese’s Church which stated that, “Monsignor Crynes admitted to the Diocese of Scranton that he had engaged in unchaste behavior in the past with high school girls.” Mr. Clohessy stated, “Any normal human would call this child sex abuse.” He also references a quote attributed to Dave Janoski, a Times Leader staff writer, “Monsignor admits sex with teens,” to support his agenda. Mr. Clohessy concludes his article by stating, “How can church officials pretend they’re even interested in fixing the problem if they can’t label it properly?
This is not a labeling problem but rather an issue of meaning. How do we define “unchaste?” Many sources can be used for defining the term, ranging from dictionary definitions to church interpretations and the implications these have for priests. Most of us select a meaning that parallels our own limited mental and emotional knowledge of the event. As a consequence, our selections or perceptions are often short-sighted or inaccurate. When we express these perceptions publicly we are imposing our misinterpretations and inaccuracies on the decision-making process and helping to create public opinion. Until the term “unchaste” is defined in the context of Monsignor Crynes’ case, we should be guarded when expressing our opinions publicly.