Judgment for Predatory Priests, Here and in the Hereafter

New York Times

December 22, 2018

Pope Francis had grim tidings for predatory priests, in this life and the next.

“Hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice,” the pope said in a Christmas address at the Vatican, making clear that the church will no longer protect them, “hush up or not take seriously any case.”

The warning came after the release of the latest catalog of church horrors, a scathing report by the Illinois attorney general, Lisa Madigan, finding that nearly 700 priests had been accused of abusing children over the years, while the names of only 185 were made public. It’s terrible, and terribly familiar. Earlier this year, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania accused bishops of covering up seven decades of widespread clerical abuse of children, and at least 16 state attorneys general have opened similar investigations.

The words of the pope and the authorities — about justice, divine and human — should be of deep concern at two major gatherings that the Catholic Church hopes will initiate genuine change in an institution almost brought to ruin by cascading revelations of clerics’ sexual abuse of minors, and systematic cover-ups by their bishops.

Action at the meetings — first a gathering of all American bishops outside Chicago in early January, then a summit meeting of the heads of all the national bishops’ conferences in the Vatican in late February — will be crucial if the church is to overcome broad skepticism after years of denial, obstruction of justice and callousness toward victims of predatory priests.

The depth of the problem was revealed nearly 17 years ago when The Boston Globe published its pioneering report on abuse in the Boston diocese.

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