What is the Vatican doing about the sex abuse crisis?


This is a good question, frankly on the minds of many Catholics. What is the Vatican doing about clergy sex abuse when cases are reported today? What is the pope doing? Does he take sex abuse seriously? Do the bishops? Are they really doing something about it?

As politicians say, look at the record.

The Church in France has been hit hard. First, a study, commissioned by the French bishops to give them a good idea of the problem, found that many priests, as well as religious and lay employees, sexually abused a multitude of youth, or vulnerable adults, during the past 50 years.

The bishops released the results, but that was not the end of it. They are fully cooperating with other investigations and with French law enforcement in pursuit of justice, searching for facts, confronting the accused, assisting victims.

Also, in France, Archbishop Michael Aupetit of Paris, one of the most prominent dioceses in the world, was said to have had an improper relationship with a woman a decade ago. He and she committed no crime, but such indiscretion was not right. The archbishop resigned, and Pope Francis promptly accepted the resignation.

Another shadow fell on France. Recently, Cardinal Jean Pierre Ricard, the retired archbishop of Bordeaux, another major French diocese, admitted that years ago, he sexually molested an adolescent girl.

The cardinal is no longer active as a bishop since he is retired. The case is being investigated. Any outcome will depend on what is found, but no one who watches the Vatican thinks that Cardinal Ricard will receive special consideration.

The Vatican firmly dealt with other cardinals, let alone bishops, who abused the vulnerable, especially children, as in the cases of onetime Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, once Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer of Vienna, and former Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Edinburgh.

In one fell swoop, in 2018, 34 Chilean bishops were removed by Pope Francis or resigned to avoid removal from office, including the Cardinal-Archbishop of Santiago. More than a few American bishops have been removed. Former Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany asked to resign a few weeks ago amid accusations about him.

Dozens upon dozens of priests, by papal authority, have been expelled from the priesthood.

At present, the Vatican currently is investigating the handling of sex abuse cases in at least two American dioceses, and in dioceses elsewhere.

None of this is secret. The media, Catholic and otherwise, reported it and are reporting it.

Bishops, usually scrupulously, follow strict guidelines for dealing with accusations of abuse. Priests are required to know, and to obey, policies not only to avoid sexual misconduct but to confront it if seeing it among peers, other Church personnel, or anywhere.

American seminaries have procedures to detect problems and to alert seminarians about the moral, psychological and social gravity of sex abuse.

None of these policies just happened to come into being. They are required by Church authority, often in Rome, or approved by Rome.

The recent opinion study of American priestsreported several weeks ago in Our Sunday Visitor, clearly showed that this country’s Catholic clergy certainly does not think that Church authorities take pedophilia lightly, to say the least.

Few Catholics watch developments in the Southern Baptist denomination, but Southern Baptists constitute the second largest religious denomination in this country. They are experiencing their own problem with sex abuse of the young and vulnerable by their clergy, interestingly almost always married with children, and church personnel.

Theologically, historically, Baptists have no central, or overall, authority and want none. Every congregation is independent. Every Baptist stands on his, or her, own two feet, but in their many intense discussions, some Baptists observed that the presence of a central authority in the Roman Catholic Church — the pope, and bishops and the authority’s actions — assisted Catholics in addressing pedophilia more efficiently.

Catholic leaders take it seriously.

This article comes to you from Our Sunday Visitor courtesy of your parish or diocese.


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