What accounts for the fact that bishops and other members of the Catholic church hierarchy responded to cases of sexual abuse by predator priests with nearly the same response, in country after country for decade after decade? As we now know, those priests were most often reassigned to yet another parish where they commonly abused still more children.
Like all Catholics, I gratefully depend on the faithful ministry of the many good priests who serve the church. Yet I offer a broad critique of something central to their lives and identities -- the rule of celibacy. Many priests will recognize the truth of what I describe. I write from inside the question, having lived as a celibate seminarian and priest for more than a decade when I was young. In the Bing Crosby glory days, celibacy was essential to the mystique that set priests apart from other clergy, the Roman collar an “Open sesame!” to respect and status. From a secular perspective, the celibate man or, in the case of nuns, woman made an impression simply by sexual unavailability. But from a religious perspective, the impact came from celibacy’s character as an all-or-nothing bet on the existence of God. The Catholic clergy lived in absolutism, which carried a magnetic pull.
VATICAN CITY -- The scandal of clerical abuse of minors must inspire bishops and priests to rediscover the need for penitence, purification, forgiveness and justice, Pope Benedict XVI told Italian bishops.
The church's desire to engage in a new evangelization of the world "does not hide the wounds scarring the church community, (wounds) caused by the weakness and sin of some of its members," he said in an audience with members of the Italian bishops' conference May 27.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- With Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell's approval, a reconfiguration plan for the Diocese of Springfield will take effect July 1.
Under the outline of the plan, 36 percent of the current workforce, or 49 positions, will be eliminated. A number of employees who will remain in their jobs will take on greater duties and still others will have their hours reduced. Some current departments and agencies will be eliminated entirely with any critical duties to be reassigned.
In total, the diocese is seeking to close a $5 million projected deficit for the upcoming 2010-11 fiscal year. Diocesan officials have stated the changes will narrow that gap considerably but not entirely.
In a statement issued May 20, Bishop McDonnell said he and other diocesan officials and staff members were engaged in "some very difficult, very painful conversations" to reach a decision on the changes.
VATICAN CITY -- As bishops' conferences across Europe are coming to grips with the clerical sex abuse crisis, the Italian bishops' conference revealed for the first time that about 100 cases of alleged abuse had been handled by Italian church courts in the past decade.
"In general and factual terms, there are about 100 cases relative to canonical procedures carried out during the last 10 years," said Bishop Mariano Crociata, general secretary of the Italian bishops.
DUBLIN -- The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has asked Pope Benedict XVI to appoint a bishop to assist him in dealing with the fallout of clerical sexual abuse allegations.
Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, said in a statement May 17 that he had asked the pope "for additional support for my work at (the) episcopal level."
DUBLIN -- A new report from a church-funded body set up to improve child protection procedures and policies reported nearly 200 new allegations of church-related child abuse in a year.
Ian Elliott, chief executive officer of the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church, said publication of two prominent reports on church abuse might have increased the number of victims coming forward to complain of abuse and that the number of allegations may well be down by the end of this reporting year in March 2011.
ROME -- A lack of expert opinion in media coverage of the clerical sex abuse scandal has led to a climate of "moral panic," which does nothing to help people understand the tragedy of abuse or keep children safe, said an influential Jesuit journal.
By presenting existing problems as being brand new and not providing accurate statistics, media outlets have helped create a sense of alarmism, and the resulting "moral panic doesn't help anybody," said La Civilta Cattolica.
The media "distort people's awareness of the problem and compromise the effectiveness of measures meant to solve it," the journal said.
WASHINGTON -- Bishops in the United States have learned that the injury to victims of priestly sexual abuse "is deeper than nonvictims can imagine" said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People.
U.S. bishops also learned that Catholics have been hurt by the "moral failings of some priests" and have been hurt and angered "even more by bishops who failed to put children first" when reports of abuse surfaced, said Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City, S.D.
UTRECHT, Netherlands -- The Dutch bishops' conference and the conference of Dutch religious have approved a "broad external and independent inquiry" into cases of clerical sexual abuse and how they were handled by the church.
The two conferences issued a joint press statement May 11 saying the number of abuse cases reported to a church-sponsored victims' assistance office since February "necessitates a thorough investigation."