Right after the Boston scandal of pedophiliac priests, as revealed in 2002 by the Boston Globe, and in the movie “Spotlight” that followed, I talked with a local pastor and said, “You live in a rectory with other priests. Didn’t you know if one of them was unusually interested in younger children? Did you think about doing anything about it?”
He looked at me for a couple of seconds, didn’t say a word, and then did a 180-turn to ask another churchgoer –“And how are you today?”
Anecdotal, I know, but he knew and other clergy knew and they didn’t – or couldn’t – take any action.
As a born-into but now fading-away Catholic, I feel entitled to criticize the sexual offenses and cover-ups by the Church for years. The sexual offenses against children are terrible, but the years of clerical conspiracy of silence is almost as egregious.
The offenses have to be punished, to say the least. Unfortunately, in the Pennsylvania report, the statute of limitations has run out on most offenders. Yet, to me, the bigger challenge is what to do about this problem.
The bishops have been reticent to act, perhaps because many of them are older and live in a clerical culture where they have been indoctrinated to protect “the Church” and all its priestly brothers, just like some other organizations do – police, governmental agencies, private companies, etc., who want to cover-up from public scrutiny any misdeeds that might have occurred.
What to do? I have four ideas as a start: 1) Write our call local bishops in Santa Clara and San Francisco dioceses to tell them they must discipline the priests in their dioceses. They must insist that any sexual offenses by clergy be immediately reported to the police for further investigation. These sexual acts are criminal offenses and must be dealt with accordingly. 2) What the Pennsylvania Grand Jury was excellent – a two-year intense study with subpoenas to collect church records. Why not have similar grand jury investigations in California – at the state level? And why can’t other states do the same? If they all do and come up with the same results, Americans could present convincing evidence to the rest of the world that we have to have government officials and church authorities crack down on these crimes. 3) Talk with state and national legislators to see what it would take to lengthen the statute of limitations for sexual offenses. In this case, many of the men who were violated are reluctant to go public until their later years. 4) Ultimately, for effective action within the Church, it us up to the Pope. So write a “Dear Pope” letter. Write letters to the papal nuncio in this country, to the editors of local, national and Catholic publications. Insist the Church take action. Keep on writing.
Any other suggestions?
And, as an alternative, Catholics may want to withhold some or all of their Sunday donations to the Church until the Church forcefully acts to rid this mess. Yes, money talks its own language.