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church leadership cover-up

Last week a Pennsylvania grand jury published a 900-page report detailing sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by 300 Roman Catholic priests over a 70 year time-period. The grand jury details the victims’ horrific stories. It also documents the carefully managed coverup by the highest levels of the US Catholic Church.

Forensic accounts of priests raping the sons and daughters of Christ remind me of Judas. Not even
Dante’s Inferno imagined crimes as sacrilegiously perverse. In the majority of cases the victims were adolescent males, but boys and girls as young as 7yrs-of-age were sexually abused by men trusted as representatives of Christ.

~ Adapted from an article by Prof. Pecknold, Catholic University of America ~
Most of the crimes occurred in the 1970s and ’80s; the accused are now dead or the statutes of limitations have run out. But the report claims: “The bishops weren’t just aware of what was going on; they went to great lengths to keep it secret.”

The bishops must be held to account.

In the secular world we are accustomed to corporate damage control. Public-relations firms limit reputational harm to protect shareholder value. But Christians don’t want PR Pharisees. They want shepherds who defend the flock, who respond to wickedness in the church the way any father would respond to threats against his children.

Instead of rending their hearts like grieving fathers, too many bishops have responded with silence or press releases—like management professionals. They’ve avoided the critical characteristic that sets the church apart from every human institution: the capacity for self-accusation, self-sacrifice and public repentance.

If bishops are to be true shepherds, they must show the world the church’s faith in penance and confession of sin.

In 2002
Pope John Paul II recommended that US bishops hold a national day of penance for the sins of priests and bishops. The bishops ignored the Pope’s advice. Worse, they exempted themselves from their own protocols for the protection of minors.

Healing will not begin until the church leadership acts with true repentance. After betraying Jesus, Judas—in despair—hung himself. After denying Christ, Peter wept bitterly, and subsequently became the rock of the church. Confronted with the grand jury’s report, the bishops have two options: despair or repentance.

God and the watching, cynical world await their choice. ~

Dan Nygaard