Catholic Official Testifies against Child Abuse: Now What?

By Patrick Seaman
Washington Square News
March 4, 2016

Itís a wacky world we live in. Donald Trump is the Republican frontrunner in the 2016 presidential election, Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar for the first time in his career and Cuba and the U.S. have finally buried the hatchet. However, in light of Cardinal George Pell, one of Pope Francisí top advisers, testifying on Monday that the Catholic Church made a massive error in allowing the abuse and molestation of children within the Church to continue for centuries, thereís a clear winner in this yearís Crazy Olympics.

One might think that the most insane part is that the Catholic Church, an organization known for sticking to its guns even when astronomical evidence has been compiled to prove it wrong, admitted its mistakes, but thatís not it. The real craziness, to me at least, is that the apology is coming so late. As a former Catholic, for whom the revelations of child abuse within the Church was the breaking point, Iím frankly appalled at the weakness of the statement released by Cardinal Pell.

The Church does not have a good track record when it comes to their handling of child abuse cases throughout history, and it seems as though the Vatican, under the direction of Pope Francis, is unwilling to rectify the egregious errors they have made in their dealings with sexual abuse scandal. The Holy See has ultimate authority over the Catholic Church, and as the leader of the Church, Pope Francis needs to personally apologize and address the issue of child abuse within the Church. The lack of transparency in the Vaticanís investigations into those responsible for child abuse, as well as the apparent failure to prevent further abuse cases, is a blemish on the Churchís already precarious reputation.

According to a Pew survey, Catholicism is losing members faster than any other denomination. If the Vatican wants to stem the hemorrhage of members of the Church, they need to stop dragging their feet and treating the child abuse scandals like they will go away. The Vatican should release an official statement, admitting their mistakes in not only dealing with the repercussions of child abuse scandals, but also in allowing them to happen in the first place, much as Cardinal Pell already did. Furthermore, the Church must condemn and excommunicate any priest who has molested a child, and provide reparations to the victims and families of the victims.

Priests are often pillars of communities, exercising a huge amount of influence over schools and families. But their most vital role comes from their influence over schools. The Church needs to recognize the amount of power that priests have over the young members of their congregations, and revise church doctrine to reflect this. Children need to be taught that they have no obligation to their priests beyond respecting and listening to them about religious matters, and it should be the Churchís job to protect their flock from itself.

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