Monday, December 20, 2010

Could church be honest?
Church needs to be honest in abuse claims
StoryDiscussionChurch needs to be honest in abuse claims
Michael Schillace / Auburn | Posted: Monday, December 20, 2010 3:00 am | (0) Comments

Font Size:Default font sizeLarger font size.With another report of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest, people want to know if it will ever end. The way to end the problem immediately is with radical honesty.

If the Church were to demand every single priest who ever sexual abused anyone come forward, admit what they did, and face the consequences, perhaps these surprises that come up every few years would start to go away.

The Church tells lay people to come forward and confess their sins and do penance. In the early years of Christianity, this was much more open and penance was done publicly.

This sex abuse crisis within Catholicism is usually kept secret and once anything is revealed, the priest often fades away in silence.

What if the priest didn’t go into hiding or disappear but rather asked forgiveness and continued to be an active participant in the community, if it wouldn’t cause further pain? What if he stood before his former congregation and spoke honestly and openly about the reality he now lives with?

These are hard matters and hurtful to many, especially the victims. No action should be taken that would cause them even more harm, but openness and forgiveness are recognized paths to healing. I’m not suggesting dirty laundry be aired tabloid-style, but that instead of letting people imagine the worst, the truth be told.

The most recent is not the first time that a popular Auburn priest has been removed for something that happened in the 70’s.

If, in fact, these were one-time incidents and not repeated, the priest’s good work in the years since and the positive impact he had on many lives should not be diminished or forgotten.

It may be necessary to relieve them of their duties, but the truth may be that the problematic behavior was in the past and they actually were able to serve faithfully throughout the rest of their priesthood.

Because of the Church’s failure on so many counts to deal with the worst offenders, it would be hard to trust it now to make the right decisions about who can and cannot remain active in the priesthood. If this were dealt with openly in the beginning, healing would be more possible today.

Finally, it is important to remember that none of this has anything to do with homosexuality. The Citizen report, for some reason, saw a need to present Fr. Shaw’s reasonable and compassionate views on equality for gays and lesbians.

There are many gay and lesbian Catholics, including people in the ministry who have not and never would abuse another person.

There are many gay priests who serve the entirety of their priesthood and never break their vow of celibacy and certainly never sexually abuse anyone. These gay priests and potential candidates for the priesthood should not suffer because of the actions of abusers.

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