Real Church sex abuse scandal is in attempted cover-up

By The Beacon | August 26, 2010 9:00pm

Press to be thanked, exposed clergy’s faults when Church itself failed to take action

By Josh Noem, Guest Commentary

When the clergy sexual abuse crisis was hitting the Church in the America, I was working for a Catholic newspaper, and I reported from the pivotal 2002 meeting of US bishops in Dallas when they confronted this issue directly. A few things came clear to me at that time, and I think these insights hold true for the similar situation the universal Church finds itself in today.

First, we must, at all times, keep the victims of sexual abuse in our compassionate awareness, particularly those who suffered at the hands of those who represent the Church. The crime of sexual abuse is all too common in human experience and it utterly devastates lives.

Second, the Church is at once both a human and a divine institution. It is painfully clear how our community has human failings. At the same time, there are countless examples of how our community can also be, at its best, the presence of God in the world.

Third, the rates of sexual abusers among clergy is about the same as rates of sexual abusers among the general population. The Church's structure and disciplines (an all-male celibate clergy, for example) does not encourage nor foster sexual abuse. There has been a problem with the handling of abusive priests, however, and this is where there is real scandal. Bishops who knowingly re-assigned abusive priests with the ungrounded hope that they would not re-offend are particularly at fault.

Fourth, the media loves scandal, but the media does not create scandal. Scott Appleby, a history professor at Notre Dame, addressed the US bishops at that meeting in 2002 and said this about the frenzied media coverage:

Indeed, the mainstream media has done the Church a service by exposing that which was shrouded in darkness. Only in the light can truth prevail and healing and repentance begin. That the media has focused with such intensity on the scandal is a kind of testimony, odd though it may be, to the fact that society rightly expects more of the Church—more purity, more fidelity to the gospel, more compassion, more holiness. In a way that is not always balanced or fair, and certainly painful, the people are nonetheless calling the Church to purify itself and to be its best self—the image of the compassionate God in the midst of the world.