Friday, March 11, 2011

Sexual Abuse in the Church

It remains an ugliness American Church leadership still has not been able to resolve, as this article from Phil Lawlor—author of a seminal book about sexual abuse in the Church, The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston's Catholic Culture—writing at Catholic Culture reports.

We’ve previously posted on the available resources, beyond those provided by the Holy Father, necessary to understand this evil that courses through the Church.

An excerpt from the Catholic Culture article.

“Among the news offerings of the past weekend, three stories remind us that the ugly era of the clerical sex-abuse scandal is not nearly over.

“The New York Times shines the spotlight on the Philadelphia archdiocese, where a grand jury has charged that Church leaders have allowed priests to remain in ministry despite solid evidence of abuse. The charges in Philadelphia, arising nearly a full decade after the American bishops approved the Dallas Charter, demonstrate that no policy—no words on paper—can restore trust in a hierarchy that has lost the confidence of the public.

“From 2002 forward, the policies were in place to remove abusive priests from circulation. But then again, even before 2002, the provisions of canon law required bishops to protect their people from such predators. If clerical discipline was not enforced before 2002, why should the public expect the shiny new policies of the Dallas Charter to be enforced afterward?

“The policies were never the problem. The problem was—and, alas, apparently still is—the people enforcing the policies.

“Next, from the Los Angeles archdiocese, comes an AP report that “dozens of former and current priests and religious brothers accused of childhood sexual abuse…now live unmonitored by civil authorities.” Here we have a common-sense reminder that if a priest is a threat to children, removing him from active ministry does not necessary remove the threat.

“A pedophile who is suspended remains a man with perverse impulses that may not be under control. If he is still a priest, and his bishop takes responsibility for monitoring his behavior, there is at least some hope that—if the bishop fulfills his duty—the priest will be kept away from children. But victims’ advocates have been pressing constantly for the Church to laicize (“defrock”) such priests. And once they are laicizing, cut loose from the authority of the Church, they are no longer under anyone’s control.

“The story from Los Angeles includes another disturbing reminder: the fact that a priest has been accused of sexual abuse does not necessarily mean that he is guilty. Worse, the fact that a diocese has paid out tens of thousands of dollars in a sex-abuse settlement does not mean that the accuser’s case has merit. The lawyer for the Church in Los Angeles makes the point. “The archdiocese believes, however, that many of the priests whose addresses appear on the list were wrongfully accused. The archdiocese included those clergy in the $660 million payout without admitting wrongdoing, simply to settle the claims, Hennigan said.”