Sexual Abuse by Priests
August 8, 2006
[See also the cartoon that ran beside
Two former city prosecutors whose open letter
to Cardinal Justin Rigali accuses the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia
of failing to protect parish children could well have quoted 18th-century
statesman Edmund Burke.
Burke's famous prescription for "the triumph of evil" - "that
good men do nothing" - is far too applicable to the ongoing legacy
of sexual abuse of children by priests.
It's outrageous that a year soon will have passed since the shocking grand
jury report on priests' sexual abuse of Philadelphia children without
legal reforms from Harrisburg.
The former prosecutors, Mariana Sorensen and Maureen McCartney, played
key roles in drafting the grand jury report. They wrote to the cardinal
urging action on the legislative reforms, as well as needed disclosure
by church officials about other suspected abusers in parishes.
Sorensen and McCartney rightly credit efforts by the archdiocese to remove
hurdles for victims seeking counseling. But they're also correct to criticize
church leaders across the state for failing to demand the amending of
criminal statutes so victims can get justice - and for opposing outright
a special window allowing new lawsuits for decades-old cases of abuse.
While Cardinal Rigali is on record supporting the criminal statute changes,
the state's bishops as a group have taken no stance. That's equivalent
to opposing reform.
As Sorensen and McCartney also note in their July 26 letter, the church
has ample financial resources to compensate victims. The point they make
is that the archdiocese ought to be big enough - in stature - that it
"should not hide behind false claims of poverty... to evade its moral
responsibility to compensate victims for lives destroyed by the actions
of its priests and bishops."
For inspiration, church leaders - and state lawmakers - should view the
abuse victims' harrowing accounts put together on video by Philadelphia
SNAP, a survivors' group. That's standing up to evil.
View the video at http://go.philly.com/snap
and the letter.
[The following carton ran on the editorial pages
on the same day as this editorial.]