Inches Traveled; Miles Ahead Inhealing Process

By Brian T. Olszewski
Northwest Indiana Times [United States]
Downloaded March 6, 2004

If you ever had the childhood experience of being threatened with "Just wait until your father gets home!" then you know the feeling I had the morning of Feb. 27 as I awaited the press conference announcing the results of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice study on clergy sexual abuse and the National Review Board's report on the problem.

As in the case of being told that the wrath of one's father was in store, the waiting was worse than the outcome. In last Friday's case, all the pre-publicity about the study and report lessened the blow of what was revealed. While there were no surprises, hearing the numbers associated with this scandal -- and yes, it is a scandal -- were a jolt: 10,667 victims, 4,392 clergy, and more than half a billion dollars paid for settlements, attorneys' fees and counseling.

Unlike the outcome in the child/father scenario, these numbers were a revelation not a resolution. The resolution will be much more complicated, much more complex than words on a page can depict. One can read the study and the report in a few hours by downloading it at, but the action Catholics are called to take will take decades.

Because the bishops are collectively called to task for what they did and what they failed to do about the predators and for their victims, the board addresses much of their report to them, including a recommendation for "greater accountability of bishops and other church leaders," including "meaningful lay consultation" in the selection of bishops and greater use by bishops of the consultative and deliberative bodies established or allowed in church law.

The board also wants the bishops to exercise "less secrecy, more transparency and a greater openness to the gifts that all members of the church bring to her." There are other recommendations, but these give you an idea of the direction our church could be -- should be -- heading.

The bishops will act upon those recommendations, not only because there will be pressure from the faithful to do so, but also because they know that the board is right. My concern is about members of the faithful who are tired of hearing about the scandal, who see it as something that has been resolved, who want the abused to "get over it." They are deluding themselves if they believe the pain suffered by those 10,667 victims ended with the publication and release of a couple of documents. They are trivializing the scars that have defaced the priesthood because of the actions of 4,392 sick men.

It isn't over! We have only covered a few inches in the miles of healing that need to take place -- certainly healing for the victims, their families and their parishes, but also healing for you, me, priests and bishops who, each in our own way, have been hurt by that four percent of priests who were scrofulous, and devastated by the decisions of the bishops under whom they served.

The John Jay study gave us data. The National Review Board told us why it happened and what should happen. Our faith in God, our adherence to the Word proclaimed and lived by Jesus, and our openness to the Holy Spirit will inspire us to make it happen and, above all, to heal.


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