Sexual Abuse Scandal behind Veil of Secrecy

Republican [Springfield MA]
February 25, 2004

The sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church could have been avoided decades ago if church leaders had publicly confessed that the abuse existed and taken steps to stop it.

The refusal of church leaders to admit the extent of the abuse invited suspicion of a coverup, undermined the church's moral standing and unfairly cast doubt on the work of those priests who have never violated their vows or abused their positions of trust.

Monsignor Richard S. Sniezyk made an awkward attempt to put the church's denial and complicity into a historical context. During an interview with the Boston Globe published Monday, Sniezyk said the scandal resulted from the belief among some priests in the 1960s, '70s and '80s that sex with "young men" was acceptable behavior.

His comment was astounding. Priests who have sex with "young men" are engaging in homosexual sex while sex with boys is pedophelia.

The temporary administrator of the Springfield diocese sought to clarify his comments the next day by saying, "Let me be clear and unequivocal, I did not mean to suggest, nor do I believe to be true, that sexual misconduct in any context is ever acceptable."

A complete text of his clarification appears in the news section of today's newspaper. We welcome Sniezyk's attempts to lift the veil of secrecy that has protected the church for centuries. Just a day after he was named temporary leader of the Springfield diocese after Thomas L Dupre resigned amid sexual abuse allegations, Sniezyk told The Republican that an "old boy network" existed within the church that protected priests suspected of sexual abuse.

"We have to come clean," he said.

The diocese can begin doing that today. Records will show when officials within the Springfield diocese knew the magnitude of the sexual abuse scandal and what was done to stop it. The diocese should release those records, end its legal challenges, vow to cooperate fully with all current and future investigations and establish a fund to assist victims.

Any institution that has protected child molesters and permitted children to become their prey has some ground to cover before it can reclaim moral ground.

It's time to begin that long process.


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