The Pope should take a stronger stance on sex scandal

Don’t get me wrong. I am aware that plenty of opposition toward the Catholic Church exists on a variety of different topics. But the one that receives the most attention from anti-Catholic antagonists is the issue of sexual abuse that seems to be running unchecked in the church today.

Earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI issued a pastoral letter to the church in Ireland apologizing to victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy there. However, this letter was met with skepticism and anger by many Catholics, and for good reason.

The reality is that there seems to be contradicting Vatican ethics in addressing this issue. For many, the direct and seemingly sincere apology is unprecedented in scope. In addition, the apology and resolve to move forward with the current leadership embodies the forgiveness and strength to grow in holiness taught by Jesus and handed down to the church.

However, while one of my favorite things about the faith is its stance on forgiveness and the dignity of every person, something must be done. Sexual abuse is an apparent violation of canon law and the vows that members of the clergy have taken.

As a result, frustration has arisen from the seemingly wish-washy stance taken by the Vatican on this extremely momentous issue. Many victims are angry, and many have abandoned their faith. Action must be taken.

The pope is correct in a sense – it is paramount that the first step be that these clergy members are forgiven of their past actions. As Christians, we are called to forgive those who wrong us, completely and without hesitation.

However, even when forgiveness is bestowed, there are still consequences, much as a child who throws a baseball through his neighbor’s window is forgiven, but is still forced to repair the damage. Even if these clergy members are truly contrite for their sins, they need to undergo a period of penance, a time to fix the window they have broken.

The big issue here transcends the specifics of this particular case. It should be noted that this issue is not one of faith, but more of administrative responsibility within the church, beginning with the pope. It is a fact that the church is run by men, intrinsically sinful beings. Just because we don’t get it exactly right every time, there is no excuse to completely abandon Christianity altogether. If one has a bad professor at a university, that is no excuse for immediately dropping out and rejecting one’s beliefs in education. In much the same way, an experience with a sinful church leader should not detract from the truth of Christ and the many wonderful things the Catholic Church has to offer.

The pope should take a strong stance and temporarily suspend those clergy suspected or convicted of sexual abuse until either an investigation is conducted or until those individuals are healed.

The purpose of the presbyterate, the priesthood in general, is to nourish and build up the church, a mission that is not being fulfilled amidst all these distractions. With a strong stance on the issue and the appropriate actions, lives can begin to be healed and church officials can return to fulfilling their mission.

Shane Rainey is a junior chemistry major from Fort Worth.