Editorial: Catholic Church must expose all abusive priests
October 14, 2018
Catholic Church officials in Texas are finally taking the right approach to the horrendous scandal of priests who sexually abused children. The only way to deal with this outrage is to fully expose it and make every effort to ensure it never happens again.
To do that, however, Catholic officials in the Beaumont diocese and others in Texas need to completely follow through on this pledge so that all Texans can be confident in their findings.
All dioceses should do what the San Antonio diocese is doing to guarantee the fullest accounting — appoint an outside group headed by a respected judge to go through church files and assist this process. That will counteract any internal tendency to cover up something that should be disclosed. As with any financial audit, there is no substitute for unbiased review from a neutral observer.
For example, four priests from the Beaumont diocese have already been named over the years for varying levels of abuse. If those are the only priests identified in the final report from the Beaumont diocese, some Southeast Texans will suspect, fairly or unfairly, that other priests are still being protected.
Church officials say they will identify all priests who have been “credibly accused” of abuse, and there is some logic to that approach. But the very nature of this type of sexual assault makes it difficult or impossible for many victims (particularly children) to provide evidence or witnesses to the horror they endured.
Keep in mind the haunting words of Michael Norris, director of the Houston office of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests:
“In my case, the church said I wasn’t credible, but a jury of my peers found my abuser guilty and today he is sitting in jail.”
Again, a disinterested third party like a trained professional who specializes in treating victims or prosecuting sexual assault can help ensure that no abusive priest remains sheltered because of an unfairly high standard.
It’s also important for all Texans to realize that while this scandal within the Catholic Church is much larger than anyone ever expected, that is not the only place where sexual molestation occurs.
It can and does happen in many other places where adults and children interact, from schools to summer camps. To guard against that, any place where that interaction occurs must have oversight for the children and background checks for adults.
Many molesters purposely seek out jobs that bring them close to children; they must be stopped before they harm anyone.
When abuse is detected, it must be quickly investigated and vigorously prosecuted. Never again must abusive priests or teachers be quietly transferred to another church or school whether they can resume their terrible crimes.
We can all do more to protect innocent children from this nightmare. Starting now, we must.