February 27, 2006

Hold church hierarchy accountable

The Star-Ledger

Monday, February 27, 2006
It has been two years since the Catholic Church in the United States issued a report about the sexual abuse of minors by priests. Church authorities acknowledged that more than 10,000 victim-survivors had credibly accused more than 4,000 priests of abuse over a period of 50 years. Bishop Wilton Gregory, then president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said known offenders were not in ministry any longer, adding, "The terrible history recorded here today is history."

Catholics wanted to believe that new policies would bring needed changes and that the church was truly committed to putting the scandal behind it.

The bishops pledged themselves to transparency and accountability, and Catholics tried to overcome the temptation to distrust the church's leadership. Yes, the numbers of abusers and abused were dreadful, but two years ago Catholics wanted to be hopeful about the future.

However, careful attention to recent news accounts from dioceses all across the United States shows that the policies and procedures put in place to make churches safe environments for young people contain loopholes that still leave children at risk.

At the height of the scandal, bishops appointed review boards to assist them in evaluating charges against priests, and the bishops established a national review board to oversee compliance with policies throughout the country. It seemed as if the laity were finally collaborating in a meaningful way with the bishops, but this conclusion is optimistic. Lay boards are advisory in nature, and it is up to the bishop who appoints members to boards to accept or reject their advice.

Posted by kshaw at February 27, 2006 07:17 AM