Sunday, February 27, 2011


Church handled complaints poorly
Leaders ignored Charter for the Protection of Children.
Express-News Editorial Board
Published 12:00 a.m., Sunday, February 27, 2011
02/26/2011 Page 1 of 1
If John Fiala had been a teacher or a police officer, there’s almost no chance he could have amassed a lengthy list of accusations of impropriety with children and still held a job. People entrusted with positions of authority are held to strict standards of accountability — as they should be.

Fiala, however, was a priest. As Express-News staff writer Abe Levy reported, the actions of church leaders allowed him to continue serving in parishes over two decades, beginning in the 1980s, filled with complaints about highly inappropriate behavior with boys and defiance of parental demands that he cease contact with their children.

Kansas authorities arrested Fiala in September as a fugitive from Texas on a four-count indictment, including aggravated sexual assault. Texas Rangers and Department of Public Safety troopers re-arrested Fiala in November on two more charges of sexually assaulting a teenage boy and one charge of soliciting someone to murder his accuser.

What is spelled out in Levy’s reporting is that over the course of his priestly career, the archdiocese of Omaha and Fiala’s religious order failed to take appropriate action in response to serious and credible allegations of misconduct by Fiala. The bureaucratic workings of the church are partly responsible for this failure. But the larger share of the blame lies with church leaders who failed to act responsibly.

What makes this irresponsibility all the more shocking is that many of the allegations against Fiala — and some failures to respond appropriately — occurred after the promulgation in 2002 of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The charter, created in response to sexual abuse scandals, lays out a comprehensive set of procedures to follow in cases of alleged sexual abuse.

The church’s actions failed to live up to the charter’s articles. Perhaps most pertinently, church leaders were not “open and transparent in communicating with the public about sexual abuse of minors” and in “informing parish and other church communities directly affected by ministerial misconduct involving minors.”

The bishops pledged to “put into positions of trust only those who share this commitment to protecting children and youth.”

In the case of John Fiala, it appears that they failed to fulfill this pledge — to the detriment of the church he was allowed to serve and the children he was allowed to minister.

Read more:

No comments: