Magazine article U.S. Catholic

... and What We've Failed to Do: The Abuse Crisis Will Never Be over without a Full Confession and a Freely Given Absolution

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

... and What We've Failed to Do: The Abuse Crisis Will Never Be over without a Full Confession and a Freely Given Absolution

Article excerpt

THE PEOPLE OF GOD IN LOS ANGELES EXPERIENCED collective jaw-drop in July when the archdiocese announced the largest sex-abuse settlement in U.S. history. Paying out $660 million to settle 508 claims, the archdiocese avoided costly litigation, which was to begin the next day.

Accompanying the announcement came the expected court-negotiated apology, delivered by Cardinal Roger Mahony before a phalanx of media. "I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who has been abused.... It should not have happened and should not ever happen again."

Victims responded with the perhaps understandable accusation that the settlement was simply a way for the archbishop to avoid damning testimony about how he handled (or didn't handle) accusations of child sexual abuse. With almost 600 victims and more than 200 offenders, someone obviously was asleep at the wheel.

Though the spectacular L.A. settlement may begin to bring the curtain down on the court-and-media phase of the sex abuse crisis, the tragedy of child sexual abuse is not going away. We can hope that the measures put into place since the scandal broke in 2002 have made child protection a priority. We are at least on the way to making our church a safer place for children.

What we have still not found, however, is a formula for bringing closure to the crisis itself. While money, information, and attempted apologies have gone some distance toward reconciliation, this tragedy continues to run on two parallel tracks. From the beginning, victims and their advocates, frustrated by dioceses, turned to the courts and the media. Bishops, forced to action by public outrage, responded with the institutional changes found in the 2002 Dallas Charter.

Lost in the shuffle is the fact that the whole church--victims, their advocates, bishops and other leaders, and the rest of the baptized--has yet to sit down together to find a way forward. The great scandal here is that a community whose lifeblood is charity has been duking it out for five years for all the world to see. Surely we can do better.

What we really need is what the victims have been asking for all along: the unedited truth. What really happened? …

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