One cannot help but wonder what is going through the mind of a priest such as John Geoghan as he is sexually abusing over 130 children during the last 30 years.

It is also difficult to understand what goes through the mind of a man like Cardinal Bernard Law as he quietly shifted pedophile priests from one location to another when problems arose.

And how does a man like Geoghan rationalize his own behaviour while standing on the pulpit preaching hell and damnation to those who dare to commit far lesser sins?

The recent scandals rocking the Catholic church in America are only beginning to highlight a pattern of sexual indiscretions by priests that has existed for some time now. As it was for children in orphanages such as Mount Cashel in Newfoundland, the Duplessis Orphans, and for Native children who attended church-run residential schools.

A recent report in the Kansas City Star also points to hundreds of priests who have died from HTV and AIDS-related illnesses across the United States as well as those who are living with the virus.

Some churches in the U.S. are now going so far as to require applicants for the priesthood to take an HTV test before their ordination.

For members of a church that requires its priests to be celibate and one that considers homosexuality to be an abomination these guys would seem to be a rather homy bunch.

But for most of the 800 priests who responded to a survey conducted by the Kansas City Star, the recent problems point to a failure on the part of the Catholic church to adequately address issues related to human sexuality.

The common themes are celibacy, sex education, homosexuality, loneliness and relationships.

There are those who are of the opinion that the 12th century doctrine of celibacy is no longer adequate or realistic and that perhaps Catholic priests should be allowed to get married.

Others point to the lack of sex education for priests who were sometimes as young as 14 years old when they entered the priesthood.

Most of the priests who responded to the survey felt that sexuality either was not addressed or it was not discussed adequately while in seminary training. Some were simply told that if you say mass and the rosary everyday the rest would take care of itself.

The result is a group of men who are largely uneducated about sexual matters and who are ill-prepared for the reality of a sexual world and its temptations.

And there are yet those who are of the opinion that the Catholic church’s seemingly rigid position on homosexuality and relationships (as a way of relieving loneliness) is the driving force behind the number of priests who are remaining silent about their sexuality or otherwise expressing it in unhealthy ways.

Perhaps the current troubles for the Catholic church has to do with some or all of the above reasons. But whatever the source of the problem it is imperative that all children remain safe from sexual predators.

This should be particularly true for priests because of then-chosen vocation to uphold high moral standards and because the church should be a place where one finds sanctity and peace and not abuse.

The legacy of a broken trust is much too great for those who are left to make sense of the experience.