March 03, 2005

Our View: Disgraced Superior priest sends a message to church

Duluth News Tribune

If anyone is shocked to hear that a former Superior priest managed to amass and distribute kiddie porn while supposedly locked up for child molestation, brace yourself for more horror stories if the nation's Catholic bishops relax their abuse-prevention measures this spring.

That's a possibility because the much-touted "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," adopted in 2002 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to address clergy sexual abuse at the height of the scandal, expired this week. The rules, which require mandatory reporting of abuse claims to civil authorities as well as background checks of church employees dealing with children, received Vatican approval in March 2003 as "particular law" affecting all U.S. parishes (but none elsewhere in the world) for two years. But it must be reviewed by the bishops at their June meeting to remain in force.

Yet even with those measures in place, they did nothing to prevent the Rev. David Malsch -- a one-time cleric at St. Patrick's parish in Superior convicted of child enticement -- from receiving and disseminating child pornography at the Missouri home for troubled priests, where he remained in civil commitment after serving a two-year prison term. On Monday, Malsch, 66, pleaded guilty to the child pornography charges for which he faces at least five additional years in prison.

That a facility approved for civil commitment of sex offenders could have allowed Malsch to continue his abhorrent behavior is disturbing. That he should have been committed to the porous Wounded Brothers facility -- run by the Franciscan order but ultimately the church that failed to turn him over to authorities when allegations first surfaced in the 1980s -- is truly disconcerting. And it speaks to the inability of the church to control its bad apples, even after they have been brought to justice.

Posted by kshaw at March 3, 2005 06:59 PM