Sex Abuse Cases
Church Owes the Faithful Timely, Forthright Justice

Naples Daily News
January 21, 2004

Neil Flemming, 72, a former pastor of Naples' St. William Catholic Church, is no longer a priest.

End of story, according to the Diocese of Venice, regional seat for Catholic leadership and policymaking.

But not so for parishioners and others trying to test the depth of the church's vow to right sexual misconduct alleged against priests such as Flemming across the country.

The diocese will not say why Flemming was dismissed or whether an internal review board substantiated allegations against Flemming made while he served on the east coast before serving at St. William from 1982 to 1991. Further, the diocese, which blames the formulation of new rules mandated by U.S. bishops for delaying the Flemming case, made public in 2002, touts a finding by a church audit praising Venice diocese efforts to prevent and combat abuse by clergy.

Nobody enjoys the ongoing saga of abuse by clergy in all religions, not only the Catholic Church. If those churches want members and others to believe in their sincerity about righting wrongs not because they are embarrassing, but because they are offenses against young people taught to trust their alleged predators those churches will be more forthright and timely with their investigations and actions.

Cases should not be allowed to drag out until suspects are elderly and infirm, or in hopes the public memory fades.

That is not justice stemming from a sense of commitment.