February 15, 2005

One priest is punished, but church's progress still lags

USA Today

For scores of victims sexually abused by Catholic priests, Tuesday's sentencing of defrocked priest Paul Shanley to 12 to 15 years in prison was a cathartic moment.

Shanley, a central figure in the Boston Archdiocese's sex-abuse scandal, was found guilty last week of repeatedly molesting a boy, starting when the boy was 6, for several years in the 1980s. Abuse victims said the conviction and sentencing of Shanley, 74, provided release, vindication and a sense that they'd finally been heard and believed.

Few priests have been criminally prosecuted in the seismic scandal that shook the church three years ago with revelations that pedophile priests had preyed on children while bishops hid the wrongdoing for decades. So the culmination of Shanley's case provided a rare sense of justice.

But justice in court won't buy what victims of abuse and other frustrated parishioners are seeking from the church: accountability, transparency and a genuine spirit of change. In June 2002, under the hot glare of media attention, that's precisely what the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops promised to provide. Instead, as the spotlight has faded, so have the church's reform efforts.

Posted by kshaw at February 15, 2005 09:03 PM