Church Policy Must Enforce Zero Tolerance
New Priest-Abuse Reports Demand Vatican Take Hard Line

Port Huron Times Herald [United States]
Downloaded March 8, 2004


As bad as the Catholic Church's child-abuse scandal has been, new revelations show its scope is worse than we thought. The release of two reports on priest misconduct make that clear.

Commissioned by Catholic bishops, the studies conclude 4,392 priests victimized 10,667 children from 1950 to 2002. Even then, the authors said the number of victims probably was low. They conceded some victims would never come forward.

The reports further damage the church's image. They tell a troubling story of widespread abuse in which criminal priests made up about 4% of those who served the church during that period.

The revelations, horrible as they are, also speak to an essential standard: zero tolerance for sexual misconduct by priests and any other authority figures. Moreover, they confirm the importance of full disclosure.

The church's past policy of treating sexual-abuse matters internally harmed the victims and helped priest misconduct continue. In too many instances, accused priests simply were transferred to new parishes without their misconduct officially addressed or corrected.

Now that church leaders finally have been forced to confront this terrible legacy, there is hope victims can be helped and offending priests confronted.

One promising example is the canonical trial of Marine City priest James Wysocki. Accused of abusing a minor during the early years of his priesthood, the accusations exceed Michigan's statute of limitations.

The Detroit Archdiocese first suspended him from his duties at Marine City's Holy Cross Catholic Church. When he appealed the decision, the Vatican supported the Archdiocese. The canonical trial, the first in 20 years, will convene at a date to be determined.

The hearing signals a welcome commitment by church officials to address and resolve the disgraceful scandal it allowed to fester far too long. That's a step forward. It is a model the church must embrace if it is to repair the damage it has suffered.


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