Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sex abuse and the RC Church

According to the BBC, the Catholic Church in Los Angeles has reached a financial deal with more than 500 people alleging sexual abuse by priests. The deal, said to be for $660m (£324m), has yet to be approved by a judge. It would be the biggest compensation payment the Church has made since the sexual abuse scandal erupted in 2002.

Many faithful and sincere Catholics have only recently grasped just how much the Catholic community relies on trust - now that they have so little of it. Pressures to reassign rather than remove priests and to cover up both abuses and incompetence are certainly exacerbated by the serious shortage of priests. Many have suggested that the long-term solution to this problem can come only with the ordination of married men and of women.

Many mistakes and cover-ups, involving the abuse of children by priests, have been made by bishops. What is clear is that the responsibility for resolving or moving beyond the present crisis of trust lies primarily with the bishops themselves. The problem is that the Catholic Church appears to be suffering a form of paralysis. The people who can do something (the conference bishops) have apparently done all they want to do or think they can do as a group. Yet those who want to do something to help to move things on, namely the laity and some clergy, have no real vehicle for doing so. Despite the long-ingrained tendency of lay men and women to defer to the hierarchy, lay people have both the right and the responsibility to make their voices heard. Many of them are now tragically aware of the consequences that follow from the concentration and misuse of power and lay deference to hierarchical authority.

For too long, the Roman Catholic Church has, for whatever reason, refused to talk openly, candidly and even compassionately about the crisis of trust that clearly now exists. It will be difficult to regain that trust but without it there can be no growth or development.

No comments: