Our Pledge To You

News

Counterpoint: Church should push for stronger child safety laws

It’s been 30 years since the first pedophile priest case attracted nationwide attention. Since then, we’ve seen literally hundreds of Catholic abuse panels of one stripe or another. So it’s hard for us in SNAP to feel excited about the promise of another one, especially one in which clerics will judge fellow clerics.

OPINION

Each church committee feels like another move to handle criminal matters quietly and internally. There’s a far better alternative: the time-tested set of independent “tribunals” already in place to deal with those who commit or conceal child sex crimes called the secular justice system. It is where abuse and cover ups in other institutions are handled. But in most cases, church officials fight such legal action vigorously. They always have and still do.

If Vatican officials want to really protect kids and deter cover-ups, they have all the power and policies they need. They can start by insisting that bishops world-wide lobby politicians for stronger child safety laws, and turn over all files about accused predators to police now.

Within weeks of taking office, Pope Francis quickly ousted a German bishop who spent $42 million renovating his house. He could – and should — take similarly decisive action against hundreds of his complicit staff. No new “mechanism” was or is needed.

That’s the advantage of a clear, rigid monarchy –those on top can easily sack underlings. But Catholic officials won’t defrock, demote, discipline or denounce even one church employee, from custodian to cardinal, for protecting predators. Not one ordained cleric on earth even criticized by name Missouri Bishop Robert Finn, who was criminally convicted of endangering kids.

What the church hierarchy lacks are not policies, procedures, protocols and panels. It lacks the courage to “render unto Caesar” known and suspected criminal church officials who selfishly put their clerical careers and comfort ahead of the safety of their flock.

No words on paper – however reassuring or encouraging – will give these clerics the courage they’re missing. Let’s be prudent, stay vigilant and withhold judgment until we see if and how this panel might act.

Barbara Blaine is the founder and president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national advocacy group for survivors of clerical sexual abuse.