Sexual Abuse or Abuse of the System?
The U.S. Catholic Church Has Been the Subject of Intense Scrutiny over the Past 18 Months or So.
And deservedly so.

The Progress-Index [Pennsylvania]
August 28, 2003

The priest sex abuse scandal has rocked the church and its faithful. Incredibly, church leaders fostered and nurtured the institution's sickness by transferring priests who sexually abused young boys from parish to parish and by paying millions in hush money to the victims who brought lawsuits.

As church scandals go, it doesn't get any worse.

That said, the latest lawsuit alleging priestly abuse at St. James Catholic Church in Hopewell deserves intense scrutiny and skepticism.

Here's why:

* The alleged victim's first contact with authorities regarding his claim of sexual abuse was earlier this month, when he filed a $5 million lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. The alleged abuse started in 1962, more than 40 years ago.

* The alleged victim has named two priests as his abusers. The Rev. Thomas M. Summers is dead. The Rev. Andrew Roy, also known as Andres Rodriquez, lives in Spain.

* And the Rev. Pasquale Apuzzo, spokesman for the Richmond Diocese, said the diocese "has never received any complaints against the two priests."

In other sex abuse cases involving local priests - thankfully, there have only been a handful - the church acknowledged that they had known about them, and better yet, taken steps to address the situation. Steps like apologizing, paying for psychological counseling for the priests and victims, moving priests into positions where they no longer worked with children, and even paying for the college tuition of one victim. Local church leaders didn't cover up, look the other way and foster further abuse by transferring abusive priests from parish to parish.

Not surprisingly, reaction to the allegations against the St. James priests bordered on outrage. Church members who knew the two are highly skeptical of the claims. In other local priestly abuse cases, church members offered no comment when the allegations surfaced anew.

Every claim of sexual abuse must be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly and intensely. In this case, intense scrutiny and skepticism also are warranted

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