June 14 2002

Editorial

San Diego Catholics Await Outcome of Bishop Conference on Sex Abuse

Catholics throughout the United States await the outcome of the National Bishops Council, which is being held from June 13th to the 15th in Dallas, Texas. At stake may be the existence of the North American Catholic church.

In being confronted with the widespread problem of sexual abuse by priests and the evident cover-up by the church hierarchy, the laity is being tested as never before. Those whom they trusted the most, their own parish priests and bishops, have betrayed their faith and beliefs.

The extent of the sexual abuses that have been carried out against young male children and the sexual predatory acts carried out against females of all ages have shocked America. However, only a few bishops have raised their voices in condemnation of these damnable acts.

The faithful still have their belief in God, the Bible and the Catholic teachings. What they have lost, however, is faith in those who were ordained to be the shepherds of the flock: the priests, bishops, cardinals and The Holy See. Without belief in those who stand as the guardians of our faith, we are now adrift in a perilous world. We have no sextants to help us navigate the dangerous waters of our earthly existence.

Unfortunately, The Holy See appears not to have recognized the seriousness of the problem. It has turned to the U.S. bishops, who failed us before, to come up with a solution. They are asking the Catholic flock, those who were the victims of this abuse, to believe that the bishops will come up with a solution to this problem.

These are the same shepherds who had no qualms ignoring, tolerating or participating in sacrificing the flock to preserve the reputation of the church and satisfy their insatiable sex drives. We are now asked to believe that they will find solutions and have the courage to enforce and expurgate this horrible, morally offensive sickness that exists in the priesthood at all levels.

Thus far, the hierarchy has shown an inclination to treat the problem in an episodic manner i.e., to treat the issues in terms of concrete instances and events committed by certain individuals, rather than see it as a systemic breakdown within our church. The mainline media has brought public pressure on the Catholic church by reporting the stories in an episodic manner. This perspective leads to solutions such as “Zero Tolerance,” wherein individuals are punished, but no changes are made in the Catholic structure to prevent a reoccurrence of the problem.

However, the issue confronting the church requires a broader context. The issue has to be examined in a thematic frame in order to uncover and eliminate the general, systemic problems that are inherent within the modern day Catholic church.

A general analysis of what needs to change in order to resolve the problem is required. Punishing the individuals is certainly necessary, but this, alone, will not correct the flaws that have led to the breakdown in the operation of the church. There are many options that are available, such as allowing priests to marry, making celibacy an option and allowing women to become priests.

The U.S. bishops do not have the powers vested in them to bring thematic solutions to the problem. This is the province of the Pope. Nothing less than a convocation by the Pope of the body of cardinals and bishops for the purpose of seeking systemic change can provide hope that the church will institute the structural changes required if the church is to survive. The Holy See should step in and take action before these self-inflicting wounds destroys all that we hold dear.

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