The recent headlines pertaining to more clergy abuses within the Catholic Church have brought about much discussion these days. On one side there are those who seem to make it a living to dig up any type of dirt on good people and organizations, especially one as big and influential as the Catholic Church. And on another side are those who leave their shields up continuously in defense of the constant bombardment of defamations.
Somewhere in the middle, perhaps sitting on a nice fence in between the two sides, are others. Some might think this group is mostly made of wishy-washy Catholics but most would be surprised to find out how many faithful and devout Catholics have meandered over to this middle ground.
Many of these men and women honor and respect their beloved Church and are active participants in Her service. They know it is the Roman Catholic Church who boasts the only unbroken line tracing back to the authority of St. Peter as defined by Jesus Christ. They also understand and believe that membership through baptism and active participation in this Church provides the fullest and most complete path to a close and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The Christ-instituted Sacraments of this Church offer a clear exchange of grace and love between God and His beloved people. Their faith is solid and loyal.
It is because of these convictions of the sacredness and beauty and truth that is the Catholic Church that many of the faithful aren’t quite sure what to think about everything. On the one hand, a certain and appropriate respect is given in particular to the vocation of priesthood as a priest takes the Church as his only Bride and dedicates his life to Her service, protection, and honor. However, as good a priest as one might be, their vocation does not separate them from their fallen nature. They will make mistakes. When the mistake is one as heinous as an adult sexually abusing a child(ren), the sin stabs into the heart and soul of the Church, the people of God.
Many efforts have been made to combat this problem and set up protections for our youth and also for the innocent and honest adults who work in youth ministry. Adults who wish to work with children in any capacity must attend special training and provide permission for a background check. Certain ratios between adults and youth are to be maintained and actions that could raise question or potential inappropriate situations are to be avoided.
In accordance with Canon Law, where even a single act of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or established the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry, including dismissal from the clerical state, if the case so warrants. A priest will not be permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or administer the sacraments. He will be instructed not to wear clerical garb, or to present himself publicly as a priest. A deacon will not be permitted to engage in any clerical or ministerial activities. The offending priest or deacon will be offered professional assistance for his own healing and well being, as well as for the purpose of prevention. In every case, the processes provided for in Canon law must be observed and the various provisions of Canon law will be fully implemented. The offending priest or deacon may request a dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state at any time.
These codes of conduct and policies of protections for children and adults and of how to deal with accused priests are fine and good. Until they are not followed. The door is opened for current and new pedophiles to infiltrate and continue abusing innocent children while damaging the reputation of those that are innocent.
While many of the mainstream media’s publications and outcries are elaborate and perhaps overblown and even at times simply untrue, there are true occurrences of abuse and failure to deal with the abusers appropriately. Yes it happens in other churches and communities, yes it happens within families, and, while nobody wants to believe this, yes it happens in the Catholic Church.
For the faithful, and even for the society, the Catholic Church is a guiding light of reason and truth, of love and applicable Christianity and true membership within a community. The outcry that follows when the leaders of this Church fail to live up to this expectation is of no surprise and rightly due. Sure there are those who will forever live to find fault in the Church. But for the others, those who truly love and respect the Church as instituted by Christ, assurances are needed.
They need to know they can trust their pastoral leaders to always act in defense of what is morally and ethically just and never put the reputation of the Church at risk by attempting to conceal or brush away inconvenient grievances from within. They need to know that their shepherds of the flock will stand by them even if it means protecting them from threats within their own pastures. They need to be able to trust their children with priests and other adults. They need to know that there is an absolute zero tolerance policy for the abuse of children; one strike and you’re out, (even after therapy).
The leaders and faithful must hold themselves accountable humbly and correctly for the sake of the Church, the people of God.