Flynn: Sex abuse report wrong to target Catholic rites

By Ray Flynn
December 17, 2017

HARD FINDINGS: Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan, near right, shakes hands with Governor-General Peter Cosgrove at the release of an Australian government report on child sexual abuse.

The Vatican is vowing to closely review the findings of a scathing report released last week by Australia’s Royal Commission that blames “catastrophic failures of leadership” within the Catholic Church for the institutional sexual abuse of children by priests over a 90-year period.

In response to the findings, the Vatican reiterated its commitment to helping the victims find healing and justice but didn’t comment on the commission’s 189 recommendations. They included a request that the Holy See consider allowing voluntary celibacy among clergy members and punishing priests who fail to report those who admit to abusing kids during the rite of confession.

I think most fair and objective people, including many Catholics, would agree that the failure to protect children from pedophile priests was an abomination. They’ll also tell you that the Catholic Church has made great progress in ensuring the atrocities committed by predatory priests are never repeated.

But it’s clear to me that there’s no link between celibacy and the sexual abuse of kids and I believe the sanctity of the confessional must be protected.

Unfortunately, this latest five-year study out of Australia, like many others conducted by government and media organizations that have probed this issue, delivers volumes and volumes of conclusions that are biased, one-sided and clearly aimed at swaying public opinion in their favor.

The report, based on the testimonies of more than 8,000 survivors of child sex abuse at state and religious institutions, found that “there were catastrophic failures of leadership of Catholic Church authorities over many decades.” Of those abused at religious institutions, 62 percent were Catholics.

But the report doesn’t mention the scores of nuns and priests who publicly apologized for the small percentage of sexually abusive clergy members or the acts of charity that Catholics do every day in war-torn countries where they face torture or death for protecting innocent people of all faiths.

Can Vatican leaders make the church more open to average people who feel alienated, marginalized and misunderstood? Yes, of course.

But Catholic values are not about what’s politically popular at the time. They’re about the hope and truth of Jesus.

We don’t wear this on our sleeves or proclaim it in news reports, but in our hearts.

Sometimes reforms can make an institution stronger and more accountable.

The Vatican was right to respond to the report by saying they’ll study it “thoroughly and seriously.”

But breaking the sacred seal of confession and rewriting the rules on celibacy for priests would be an overreaction and against Catholic values.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.