Why Catholic Church still gets picked on
March 16, 2014
"When you go in through those doors, it is supposed to be a spiritual, wholesome place. .. You don't know who you're listening to anymore ... It's like using the word of God for other purposes." — Roman Catholic Jose Soto, 44, talking to Fox News in Arecito, Puerto Rico
Pope Francis and the American Cardinal Timothy Dolan recently expressed puzzlement as to why the Roman Catholic Church has been singled out by ongoing criticism over child sex abuse.
The pope told an Italian newspaper that the Catholic Church "is perhaps the only public institution that has moved with transparency and responsibility" to ferret out abusers and address the problem. "No one has done more," the pope said, "and yet the church is the only one to have been attacked." Later on NBC's "Meet the Press," the cardinal said he cheered the pope's words. Then, claiming to speak for lay Catholics, he said Catholics, too, wonder why the church is being picked on when in recent years it's been "an example of what to do."
Surely these two highly educated, distinguished scholars and leaders of the Catholic faith understand all too well why the church continues to be singled out for criticism. Yes, child sexual abuse occurs across society, but when it's discovered, the perpetrators are prosecuted. That wasn't true for many, many decades in the Catholic Church, as reports of long-ago, ignored child sex abuse show.
Catholics have learned that in the past, church officials not only failed to report wayward priests, they often simply transferred these priests to another parish, where they could offend again. And not only were offenders' actions not reported: The very highest officials in the church directed bishops not to report these crimes against children to local police. It took a critical mass of thousands of outraged Catholics shedding public attention on the matter to force the church, belatedly, to act.
Revelations of church-related child sexual abuse continue to surface. In Puerto Rico, six priests have been defrocked since 2011, 11 more are under investigation, and even the bishop has come into the sights of prosecutors. And just Friday the Pocono Record reported that a priest who was accused of molesting boys in Shohola and Moscow, Pa., was suspended and afterward evaluated and found to be unfit for public ministry, has been promoted to the No. 2 position in his diocese in Paraguay. One priest after another, one parish after another, one diocese after another, is implicated.
The Catholic Church is an enormous, worldwide institution that offers both its own adherents and the larger world religious and moral leadership. Of course it will come under special attack. Loyal Catholics can only hope that the ongoing scrutiny prompts church officials to continue their laudable, yet still incomplete, efforts to identify and purge wrongdoers, to address the claims of victims and to protect today's children while offering them spiritual guidance. Only after years of corrective action, with steadfast "transparency and responsibility," will the church itself achieve forgiveness and reclaim the moral high ground.