Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tone-Deaf in Rome

Tone-Deaf in Rome
Published: July 16, 2010 NY Times
There was not much to like in the Vatican’s news conference this week about its pedophilia scandal, but among all the defensive posturing and inept statements, there was one real stunner: The citing of the movement for the ordination of women as a “grave crime” that Rome deems as offensive as the scandal of priests who sexually assault children.

Calls for ending the ban on women priests are only a blip on the ecclesiastical radar screen. Yet Vatican officials gratuitously raised them at the news conference, while they offered limited antidotes to the crimes of sexual abuse and the long history of bishops dithering and covering up these crimes.

They doubled the internal statute of limitations to 20 years for defrocking abusers. Yet they failed to emphasize the problem as a state crime as the American bishops did after being forced to dismiss more than 700 priests. “It’s not for canonical legislation to get itself involved with civil law,” one prelate airily declared, insisting Rome’s existing “guidelines” — not mandates — are sufficient for prelates to obey civil laws.

American bishops finally signaled an end to recycling serial predators through parishes by committing to zero tolerance and requiring secular authorities to be alerted from the beginning. These two steps should be embraced by the Vatican worldwide.

A third measure proposed by the Catholic laity panel that investigated the Roman Catholic Church in the United States is no less important — that there must be consequences for culpable bishops who protected pedophile clergy and paid hush money to victims. Neither the American bishops nor the Vatican have dared so far to bring offending prelates to full accountability.

Catholic parents, their trust violated, deserve to hear clear and firm countermeasures for enacting Pope Benedict XVI’s promises for reform. Red herrings about female priests only display the tone-deafness of the Vatican’s dominant male hierarchy.

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