Ethics & Religion
February 28, 2019
Catholics Address Sexual Abuse
By Mike McManus
Francis gathered the world's top bishops and cardinals in Rome to
address the sexual abuse by priests of minors, which he called
"abominable crimes that must be erased from the face of the earth."
Sadly, he took no concrete steps to do so. As one sex abuse survivor,
Peter Saunders, put it, "I don't think we can rely on the institution to
clean up its act."
The Pope called for "concrete and effective measures" to contend with
the problem. But he failed to outline what they might be. In fact,
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, has
reportedly covered up priest abuse in two states: Houston-Galveston, TX
and Sioux City, IA. One priest alone admitted abusing 50 children.
One organizations sending people to Rome was SNAP, the Survivors Network
of those Abused by Priests, Mary Dispenza of SNAP said "We wanted to
hear very specific actions that would deal with clergy abuse - and the
covering up of it by bishops - but we did not hear anything like that."
SNAP had five demands:
- That the Pope name the cardinals and bishops in attendance who
had covered up abuses - like Cardinal DiNardo - and fire them!
- "We wanted severe consequences for bishops or cardinals who
cover up abuse. Zero tolerance should apply to all."
- Compel all bishops to turn documents on priestly abuse over to
civil authorities for criminal prosecution.
- Church leaders should stop fighting legislative reforms to
- Priests who were perpetrators, with credible accusations against
them - should be defrocked or fired.
SNAP's Becki Ianni, who was molested when she was 8 to 12 years old,
attended the Rome meeting, concluding the Pope and church "failed on
every point. There is a need for secular authority to step in."
Fortunately, that has happened in two states - Pennsylvania and Illinois
where the states Attorneys General appointed Grand Juries to
investigate. There were dramatic results, as I reported in December. A
Pennsylvania Grand Jury issued a 1,400 page report which accused 301
priests of sexually molesting 1,000 children and added there are
probably thousands more.
However, only two priest molesters were prosecuted, due to
Pennsylvania's statute of limitations. Victims of child abuse have until
they are aged 30 to file civil suits for damages and until age 50 to
file criminal charges. Many victims are embarrassed by their experience,
and file no charges.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Rozzi, who was raped by a priest in his
Catholic school, called upon fellow legislators to pass a law to
eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution. That's an
excellent solution, endorsed by the Grand Jury - that every state should
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan reported before Christmas that
six Catholic dioceses, which had previously identified 185 priests who
had been "credibly" charged with child abuse - when prodded by the
Attorney General - identified 500 additional clergy who "received
allegations of sexual abuse." Sadly, Illinois has failed to investigate
those cases, or to name the molesters.
However, the good news is that Attorneys General in 17 other states have
launched comprehensive investigations like those in Illinois and
In 2007 the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to an historic
$660 million settlement to 508 victims of clergy sexual abuse. However,
LA Cardinal Roger Mahoney's answer to the issue was to reassign many of
those priests to new parishes.
Why? There is an acute shortage of priests. Who wants to be celibate for
A.W. Richard Sipe, who quit the priesthood to marry, wrote three books
urging the church to change its celibacy rule. He reported that "between
6.5% and 9% of Catholic priests in America involve themselves sexually
with minors. He also estimated that half of all priests are sexually
In Protestant denominations, most pastors are married, and no Protestant
denomination is plagued by clergy molesting children.
What can be done?
First, I suggest that the Knights of Columbus, some 2 million faithful
male leaders from every parish in America - should ask their Attorneys
General to appoint a Grand Jury modeled on the ones in Pennsylvania and
Illinois, to investigate sexual abuse of their priests.
Second, the Knights should ask Rome to consider making celibacy optional
for the priesthood, so that married men might serve as priests. There
are 18,000 Catholic deacons in America, who have the power to baptize,
witness marriages, perform funeral services, distribute Holy Communion
and preach. Most are married.
Most would love to become priests who can hear confessions and conduct
Mass. Ordaining them is a natural next step to reform the church.
Their ordination would, in time, make clergy sexual abuse rare.
Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and
a syndicated columnist. To read past columns, go to
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