April 26, 2002

Editorial

Vatican Meetings Render Disappointing Outcomes

The anticipated meetings between Pope John Paul II, members of the Vatican Cu-ria, American cardinals and certain high-ranking bishops on the growing sex scandals have concluded. The deepening scandals, which have become headline stories throughout the world, are shaking the foundations of the Catholic Church. The anticipation of all Catholics was that these meetings would result in a strong response from the pope. Such was not the case.

Though Pope John Paul II issued statements such as: “There is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young” and “sexual abuse by every standard is wrong and is rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God,” he backed away from the concept of “zero-tolerance” for those accused of sexual crimes.

Misreading or misunderstanding the deepening crisis within the American Catholic Church over the number of priests that have been singled out for molesting young boys and/or of having sexual affairs with young and older women, the pope and his advisors decided to continue the same failed policies that have led to the loss of confidence in the priesthood and the Catholic Church. The American Roman Catholic leaders agreed to “make it easier to remove priests guilty of sexually abusing minors.” They failed to agree on a policy of zero-tolerance that that would have brought about the dismissal of all abusive clerics. They did not agree to report the accused priests to legal authorities.

An agreement was reached that American church leaders would establish special processes to defrock any priest who has become “notorious” and is guilty of the “serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors.” American Catholic parents are being asked to submit their children to repeated attacks by their priests before anything will happen! The element of the local church that will have the competence to launch a criminal investigation to determine the facts was not addressed. It is further presumed that parents will not take the initiative to report the errant clergy to the District Attorney or police.

The pope’s statement was: “We cannot forget the power of Christian conversion, that radical decision to turn away from sin and back to God, which reaches to the depths of a person’s soul and can work extraordinary change.” The pope is indicating that offending clergy deserve a second, third fourth or any number of chances, and that they should not be turned over to the authorities. In one sentence he states that priests are immune from the laws that sovereign countries have put in place to protect their citizens.

The shepherd of the flock is saying: “It is all right to sacrifice the sheep in order to protect the offending shepherds.” Parents are saying: “It is my ultimate responsibility to God to protect my children.” There is a serious disconnect between what the pope and the cardinals are saying, and the very real concerns of parents who entrust their children to those wearing the vestments of the priesthood. There are some who should never have been allowed into the priesthood in the first place.

It is becoming apparent that there is a supportive culture within the church to protect the pedophiles, homosexuals, and those who cannot or will not take their vows of celibacy seriously. This is abhorrent and cannot be allowed to continue. Christ was crucified on the cross for the sins of people. In a strange reversal, it is now the people who are being sacrificed for the sins of priests. This must stop or the Catholic Church will cease to have relevance.

What is happening at this time does a terrible disservice to the thousands upon thousands of the North American clergy who walk in the footsteps of Christ. It is those priests that the Pope should be protecting.

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