The Catholic Church has received some criticism in the pages of your newspaper recently. What caught my eye was the reference by all writers to the lack of accountability with respect to the sex abuse scandal that has plagued the church since 2002, and now has reared its ugly head again in Milwaukee, Europe and the Vatican. There is no question that the mishandling of this crisis by bishops – who knowingly transferred pedophile priests to other parishes where they revisited their abuse on other innocent children – continues to anger and alienate.
I believe the example of bishops in Ireland and Belgium, who have resigned their positions for their roles in continuing the abuse, should be followed by church leaders everywhere who engaged in similar inaction. Until definitive, systematic and public action is taken regarding those who failed to provide proper oversight to safeguard these children, the credibility of the Catholic Church will continue to be questioned.
The after effects of this scandal have touched the entire church and now serve as a horrible distraction from all of the good work the church, through its members, accomplishes every day. Take a close look at the outstanding work of Catholic schools at every level – parish members, pastors, priests and lay ministers who together with other faith communities address religious, educational and social justice needs of our community and the world. Other organizations work tirelessly and with very limited resources to fulfill basic human needs, equip people with necessary life skills, and enrich the lives of the most vulnerable among us. The Catholic Church is a very human institution. And, yes, those of us in the pews need to live out the Gospel values we say we embrace, use our voices and actions to challenge ourselves and those in leadership to be accountable to the faith we are all charged to model, and help to bring about the changes in our church that are indispensable to its mission.
Christ spoke of the need to regularly prune and cut back on even fruitful plants to sustain and promote new growth. I look forward to an announcement of the new actions promised by Pope Benedict to the sex abuse victims with whom he spoke on his recent visit to Malta. Open the windows. Let the pruning begin.
Therese Blake Sabo