The news outlet that broke the Catholic Church scandal in 2002 – the venerable Boston Globe – has once again gotten the story right in a just published editorial, “Law Enforcement Must Clean Up the Catholic Church.” The first line of the piece says it all: “Time’s up for Pope Francis and the leaders of the Catholic Church.” The Globe could not be more correct.
If we’ve learned anything from recent and similar incidents of sexual abuse at institutions of higher learning, such entities appear incapable of doing the right thing when it comes to handing incidents of impropriety with diligence and transparency. Instead, there are denials, cover-ups and repeated occurrences of abhorrent behavior. There’s a consistent pattern there – and it is sick and wrong.
When it comes to the Catholic Church we have seen and are seeing the worst of the worst. Men in a position of power grossly abusing their position while bastardizing the trust of those they are entrusted to guide and protect. As a person, I am disgusted. As a Catholic, I am greatly saddened. And whether you believe or not the allegations by archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano that Pope Francis and others knew of the sexual abuses of Theodore McCarrick and his peers, something needs to happen. No more hiding improprieties in the shadows of a “good old boy” network of those holier than thou. No more protection from a legal statute of limitations. As the Boston Globe notes, it is time for law enforcement to go in and do what is right.
At the same time the Catholic Church needs to work with law enforcement to finally and truly investigate this matter and punish those responsible. Transfers and early retirements don’t cut it. The guilty should face legal retribution and, very likely, prison. Moreover, the Church needs to make a top priority figuring out why this issue continues to rear its ugly head. Perhaps a summit of top psychiatric professionals could analyze the culture of the Church and the priesthood and the obviously twisted minds of many who serve in that role; those who unfortunately tarnish the reputations of priests who carry out their work with dedication and sacrifice.
Ultimately, as with any organization, the individual at the top – the Pope – needs to make sure real, tangible corrective measures are announced and put forth. With candor. With honesty. With resolve. With diligence. This has been going on for far too long. Real change cannot happen tomorrow. It can’t be merely talked about. It must happen today. The Catholic Church teaches the importance of honesty and treating others as you want to be treated. It is time they did more than merely impart that wisdom from the pulpit. They must practice what they preach in the real world.