After the Philadelphia Indictments
The National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters responded to the first “filing criminal charges against a high-ranking Roman Catholic official for allegedly failing to protect children” by concluding:
When the scandal broke in 2002, I wrote these words: “The Church’s lack of credibility on questions of sexual ethics is especially disheartening because the Church has a lot to say to a culture in which sexuality is dehumanized, commodified, and generally seen as less than the beautiful thing the Catholic Church’s best theology insists it is. It is more than a little ironic that a culture awash in images of underage sexuality–the same culture that gave Oscars to American Beauty and where Britney Spears albums go multi-platinum–is now struck with horror at the revelation of priestly molestation. The irony, however, is grim. When the Church is most needed to remind our culture that sexuality can and should be humanizing, a giving of self in freedom and love, a participation in God’s ongoing creative work, the Church instead finds itself in court.” I would not change a word.
The lesson from Philadelphia is as clear as day: Every bishop in America must do what the grand jury did, investigate the facts and remove those who not only perpetrated the crimes of sexual abuse, which I suspect has been largely done, but also remove those who perpetrated the crime of endangering children by covering that abuse up. They must invite outside scrutiny of the record. If they themselves were a party to any cover-ups, they must resign. The time for prevarications and obfuscations is over. And, at their forthcoming ad limina visits in Rome, the bishops must have the courage to raise the crisis of belief over the Church’s sexual teachings with the Vatican. This crisis will not go away.
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