(Article first published as Twenty-One Priests Suspended This Week; What is the Long Term Solution? on Technorati.)
This week, parishioners were learning the names of the 21 Philadelphia-area Roman Catholic priests who were suspended on Tuesday, following a two-year, child molestation investigation. Feelings about this latest development are mixed. Some church members refuse to believe that their priest could do what they are being accused of. Others have expressed their dissatisfaction with how slow the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been in dealing with the problem. Of course, those who have been victimized by priests in the past are still hurt and wounded.
As I mused the matter, I have a few questions of my own. I believe they need to be seriously addressed as the Catholic Church moves forward on this ugly situation that just doesn’t seem to want to go away. First of all, what the priests are being accused of having done is not normal. It’s not normal for a grown man to want to have sex with little boys. That one fact kind of sets the tone for my line of questions, so here goes:
What additional safeguards will the Catholic Church put in place to assure the children’s protection from a bad shepherd? Since the cloud of this misconduct/crime on the part of some priests has been hovering over the church so long, leaders must become much more aggressive in putting control measures in place to stem this tide. This will certainly make some of those priests who do an excellent job of upholding the honor of the office feel as though they are guilty by association, but if there is one place church members ought to be able to regard as safe, it should be in the house of God.
What impact is this on-going nightmare having on how priests are vetted for the ministry in the future? Yes, I know they are servants of God, but like the rest of us, they are not above reproach. I also know that when the best effort is made to try and weed out the bad priests, the process is not foolproof. But I believe the current situation warrants taking a second look at how to prevent sexual predators from becoming priests.
How committed are the dioceses to adequately addressing the child molestation problem? For instance, a grand jury report criticized the Philadelphia archdiocese's handling of sexual abuse accusations, claiming that 37 priests were child molestation suspects, yet these priests remained in ministry.
Priests who prey on children need serious help. And you would think that those who are spiritual leaders should at least know when they need help in this area. Perhaps it’s pride and/or embarrassment that keeps them from admitting moral failure. But if they shun getting the help they need, at the expense of the children, church leaders need to stand up and vigorously defend those who can’t defend themselves.
Copyright ©2011 by Frank King. All rights reserved.