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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,949
December 27, 2018
Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal Grows
By Mike McManus

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan reported just before Christmas that six Catholic dioceses had previously identified 185 clergy who had been "credibly" accused of child sexual abuse. However, Madigan's investigation has found that the dioceses have also "received allegations of sexual abuse by at least 500 additional priests and clergy in Illinois." The state failed to investigate those cases, or to name the 500 molesters.

She began her investigation in August following the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury 1,400-page report describing clergy sexual abuse in that state. It 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 30 to file civil suits and until they are 50 to file criminal charges. By the time of the grand jury's investigation, "too many predators were out of reach," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

He charged that "Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing. They hid is all," Shapiro said at a news conference.

Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Rozzi said he was raped by a priest from the Catholic school in Berks County, PA. The same priest sexually molested one of his friends who committed suicide in 2009.

Therefore, Rozzi called upon fellow legislators to pass a law that would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of the molestation of children. That's a major solution which was endorsed by the grand jury.

Every state should pass laws to eliminate similar statutes of limitation.

At least 16 states have begun their own Pennsylvania-like probes into clergy misconduct. As Illinois illustrates, they are likely to uncover massive clergy misconduct.

Clearly, every state needs an Attorney General to conduct an investigation like that of Attorney General Madigan. Among the states which have begun investigations are New York, Maryland, Boston, Nebraska plus Washington D.C., whose diocese covers part of Maryland. Every state must do so.

In 2007 the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to an historic $660 million settlement to 508 victims of clergy sexual abuse. That was six times greater than any previous settlement. However, Cardinal Roger Mahoney's answer to the issue, was to reassign many of those priests to new parishes.

National Public Radio estimates that $3 billion has been paid to victims of clergy abuse by the Catholic Church. In fact, nearly 20 Catholic dioceses and religious orders have filed for bankruptcy due to the payments.

Reform should begin within the Catholic Church itself.

How? First, and most important, celibacy should be made optional, so that married men could serve as priests. The Apostle Peter was a married man.

The celibacy requirement attracts homosexuals and child molesters to the priesthood. A.W. Richard Sipe, a former priest who left the priesthood to marry, and wrote three books on celibacy, reported that "between 6.5% and 9% of Catholic clergy in the U. S. involve themselves sexually with minors." He also estimated that half of all priests are sexually active!

In Protestant denominations, most pastors are married, and no Protestant denomination is plagued by clergy molesting children.

The U.S. Catholic bishops held a meeting this fall to develop a comprehensive response to the charges of clergy sexual abuse. However, Rome asked the bishops not to vote on any resolutions until a worldwide meeting of bishops is held in Rome in February to address the issue.

Why? The recommendations of U.S. bishops could have been considered at the February meeting in Rome.

What should be done?

  1. First, I suggest that the Knights of Columbus, some 2 million male leaders from every parish in the country, should ask the Attorneys General of their state to appoint grand juries modeled on the one created in Pennsylvania, to investigate sexual abuse within the church. Knights of Columbus are respected leaders in every parish.
  2. Second, the Knights of Columbus could 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.

Many would love to become priests with the additional power to 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, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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