BOSTON, Mass., Aug. 15, 2018 – The findings of a grand jury in Pennsylvania that investigated sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy in six dioceses cannot be called a surprise. Not after grand juries examining clergy sex abuse in two other Pennsylvania dioceses found the same pattern. Not after grand juries in other states and government commissions around the world have unearthed the same crimes and the same failures again and again.
What would be a surprise is if, this time, the Church hierarchy follows up on its numerous promises and expressions of sorrow and finally brings to account all those who participated in the crimes and coverups. Although Church officials can point to the positive efforts made to introduce child protection safeguards and abuse reporting going forward, such efforts cannot substitute for full justice – the Church and the Catholic faithful must hold accountable the many bishops, chancery officials, and even lay persons who knew of abuse, looked the other way, and allowed the predators to claim additional victims.
The latest report goes further than many others in the United States in naming the bishops who allowed abuser priests to escape justice. Now the test for the hierarchy will be whether these bishops face any sanctions for their failures, and whether all priests named as abusers are out of ministry. It is no longer sufficient to say a statute of limitations has passed or that the bishop now knows better. Justice and morality are not defined by legal stipulations. It’s long past time to do what’s right.
Voice of the Faithful has called for such accountability since its founding in 2002. As a lay organization seeking reform within the Church, we work with lay people, priests, and a few brave bishops to bring forward the changes that could guard against such abuses in the future. We promote programs that encourage both transparency and accountability, offer pathways to healing for those damaged by the abuse, and ask all Catholics to exercise vigilance.
However, given the administrative structure of the Roman Catholic Church, such efforts by the Catholic faithful must be endorsed and then implemented by the hierarchy if we are to obtain full transparency and accountability. Recent calls by some bishops, in the wake of news about former Cardinal McCarrick, for lay participation in holding bishops accountable would be a good start. The second step would be to address the clericalism that fosters such systemic failures.
Voice of the Faithful Statement, Aug. 15, 2018
Contact: Nick Ingala, firstname.lastname@example.org, 781-559-3360
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity, and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.