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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

If only

It's sometimes asked what the church should do in regards to the sex abuse problem Today I saw a comment to a post at America magazine's blog that I thought answered this question very well. Here's the comment ....

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7. Michael,

You ask what to do with the hierarchy. There are several steps that are needed.

First, there should be some sign from Rome that dereliction of duty that causes harm to innocent young people is not to be tolerated. Some meaningful gestures that show that those who govern the church are going to do more than repeat meaningless assurances, and spend the rest of their time casting blame on everyone except those responsible.

The pope could begin by removing Cardinal Law from his prestigious posts and sending him to work in the field - perhaps with those who are victims of a variety of abuse - women and children especially. The pope then should ask for resignations - also as a symbol. There are still a number of bishops heading dioceses who were as guilty as Law - McCormack for one (now in the news). Rigali obviously comes to mind. O'Brady of Ireland. These men could also be put to work where they will not enjoy cushy lives at the expense of the people in the pews.

Secondly, and more important for the long-run, the pope should call for a commission that would include ordinary priests, ordinary laity - especially parents - victims, as well as members of the hierarchy. Appointing Archbishop Martin and Bishop Robinson to head this commission would make a powerful statement that Rome is serious about this and not just playacting for the cameras.

This commission would be tasked with developing policies that clearly define what bishops must do when confronted with an abusive priest - it should also clearly define what will happen to the bishop if he fails to protect the innocent under his care. He will be asked to resign, and he will be given another assignment. Also, the commission could begin work on finding a way to have the bishops be accountable to THE church, rather than simply to the Vatican, just as they were in the early church. There should be some way for the people of God to be able to initiate investigations and even to 'recall' a bishop, just as we can 'recall' a politician in extreme circumstances. There should be a formal process that ensures that bishops and other hierarchy will invite the insights of THE church on a scheduled basis and report back to them (just as executives must do with their stockholders), and hopefully will listen to them. Bishops are afflicted with the same dangers that the pope and those in Rome face, and that face many in political leadership and in executive suites in industry as well - they become so isolated from the 'real' world, protected, all communications vetted and censored before reaching the top, so used to luxury paid for by others, and surrounded by those who fear challenging them, that they become arrogant and far more concerned about protecting their own privilege than protecting those who depend on their honesty, integrity and morality to do the 'right' thing. Executives can be fired - some have gone to prison. Politicians have to face reelection or even recalls. Heads of schools can be fired, and also have to face legal authorities if they hid child sexual abuse among their staff.

Those are the bare outlines. But until there are clear policies in place that indicate that the buck stops with the bishops (and if the bishops fail, with Rome), that the bishops must meet both the legal and moral obligations of reporting possible criminals to the legal authorities, and immediately removing the possible abuser from any ministry involving children until the legal investigation is complete, and, if necessary, a trial has been held to determine guilt or innocence.

I know of few organizations that tolerate the degree of malfeasance in its executives that the leadership in Rome has tolerated. This includes the current pope and his predecessor. (the Santo Subito nonsense should be stopped in its tracks as well). However, even if it is far too late, the pope could still demonstrate that he is willing to do all that is necessary to ensure that future priest-abusers must face the legal authorities and they will not be protected by their bishops.

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Posted By Anne Chapman | Wednesday, April 06, 2011 11:22:18 AM

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Unfortunately, I doubt any of this will come to pass :(


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