Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Still Scandalous: Has the Catholic Church Learned Anything?

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Still Scandalous: Has the Catholic Church Learned Anything?

Article excerpt

As a Catholic priest, I write these lines with a mixture of shame and anger. I have a profound sense of the need once again to apologize for the incalculable harm done by my brother priests who violated their sacred trust with children, adolescents, and adults and the harm done by several bishops of my church in failing to deal effectively with those violations.

Two highly publicized and scathing reports on the scandal were released February 27, 2004, by the bishops' National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People. In the aftermath of these reports, two points deserve to be underscored as our communion continues to deal with the worst crisis Catholicism has encountered in its history on these shores. First, it is shortsighted and superficial in the extreme to pretend that the scandal is behind us. Some in the Catholic hierarchy have taken to speaking in the past tense about this whole sordid matter. But we shall confront the awful results of these wrongdoings for decades to come--especially in the broken lives that these sins have caused and in our church's consequent loss of moral authority.

Our leaders should know this. In a direct and graphic presentation to the entire Catholic bishops' conference gathered in Dallas in 2002 to address the growing storm of reported clerical abuses, Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea, a clinical psychologist, laid out the enormous harm done to victims of those abuses. She walked the bishops through the spiritual, psychological, emotional, physical, and social traumas inflicted on children, young people, and adults who, having put their confidence in a spiritual father, experienced a devastating betrayal at the hands of that trusted figure. Such traumas will accompany these betrayed people for years and years to come. No religious group can quickly or easily "put all that behind" and pretend once again to occupy some sort of high moral ground. …

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