The Truth about Church Sex Abuse

The Journal Gazette [Indiana]
December 13, 2003

Bishop John D'Arcy continues to impress with his steely commitment to openness in addressing the sexual abuse scandal among Roman Catholic priests. His report on an investigation into the subject shows an extraordinary willingness to discuss wrenching information that makes clear the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese has not been immune from sexually deviant priests.

The findings show that 17 priests in the diocese abused 33 people, all but one a minor, from 1950 to 2003. The numbers constitute only 2 percent of the 805 priests who served in the diocese since 1950. But D'Arcy commendably refused to minimize the problem, insisting that even "one is too many."

The $1.3 million the church has paid in settling claims and in legal and counseling fees represent only part of the pain inflicted by the scandal. Even as Catholics welcome D'Arcy's candor about the appalling conduct of some priests, they have good reason to be angered at the toll taken in shattered trust and emotional trauma lingering many years. .

Perhaps the three findings of most immediate importance to parishioners are these:

No credible accusations against priests have been substantiated among those ordained since 1986.

No accusations deemed credible have been made against priests currently working in the diocese. Others found to have committed offenses have died or been effectively fired.

The diocese has found no credible accusation of physical abuse of a child alleged to have happened after 1987. A pair of substantiated incidents since 1990 involved what D'Arcy described as "non-touching, flirtatious activity, which is prohibited ..."

The diocese's investigation of itself is bound to raise doubts among those familiar with the less than forthright responses of other dioceses to the sex abuse scandal. The consistent leadership D'Arcy has exhibited on the issue over many years in northeast Indiana and Massachusetts makes the investigation much more believable than it might be elsewhere.

The report covered priests who served in all capacities in the diocese, not just parishes.

Earlier this year, an independent audit concluded that the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese was "fully in compliance" with new rules for curbing sexual abuse by clergy. The audit was one of many nationwide examining how well dioceses are following the rules adopted in June by American bishops.

D'Arcy's emphasis on high standards for admitting men into the priesthood and decisive action against sex offenders have been hallmarks of his long career in the church hierarchy.

The victims have suffered the most, but the church also finds itself in crisis over a loss of confidence in much of its leadership. D'Arcy's willingness to confront harsh truths marks a refreshing contrast to so many of his flinching colleagues.


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