Sins & Silence
Priest Abuse, Cover-Up Won't Happen Again

The Scandal That Rocked the Catholic Church Has Brought about Change

Telegraph Herald [Dubuque IA]
March 12, 2006

[See the main page of the Sins & Silence series for links to all the articles and letters to the editor.]

Today marks the eighth and final day of the TH series examining sexual abuse by the clergy, the scandal and the response. Some of the stories may have been difficult to read, but they were important stories to publish.

This history of abuse has affected change in seminaries, in congregations and in families. It is a history Catholics must accept so that they may move forward. In good ways, and in bad, the church will never be the same.

Never say never, some will admonish.

But with a large degree of certainty, we can say that a priest sexual abuse scandal and cover-up will never happen again.

The church has changed. Parents have changed. Society has changed.

Today's church welcomes new priests, but with eyes wide open. It takes more than a calling to enter the priesthood these days. Seminarians undergo extensive screening and analysis for psychological problems including any hint of personality disorder, impulse control, anxiety disorders or substance abuse. Most priests today are painfully aware of the sins of their predecessors and have made every attempt to be part of a brighter future for all Catholics.

Since the early 1990s, the Archdiocese of Dubuque has had a policy in place for dealing with sexual misconduct. Every reported incident is investigated. Any misconduct is grounds for immediate termination. The policy led to swift and just reaction in the case of Tim DeVenney, a priest who molested several boys in Dubuque in 1996.

Never again would such accusations be met with wholesale denial on the part of parents. Today's parents advocate for their children in ways never imagined by past generations. In this day and age, a child's claims of sexual abuse would likely be taken seriously.

Society now recognizes that sexual predators are a real and significant threat, and that children are most vulnerable to abuse by someone they know. Awareness of sexual offenders is now something parents talk about with children.

Catholics today can look with hope toward the future. These tragedies have led to changes and a commitment to vigilance in protecting children.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board: Jim Normandin (Publisher), Brian Cooper, Ken Brown, Monty Gilles, Amy Gilligan and Sharon Welborn.


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