The Catholic Church should do more to show it is apologetic

Sex abuse scandals have once again engulfed the Catholic Church and raised questions about its policies on celibacy and the proper handling of priests and others who commit the abuses. What’s stunning with this new round of allegations is its reach, both globally and administratively. Abuses have been reported throughout Europe in Ireland, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands. The Irish abuses became public after a government inquiry known as the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse released the findings from its nine-year investigation. The report found that the Church committed substantial abuses where more than 2,000 persons stated that they were physically and sexually abused.

In Italy, local authorities investigated Angelo Balducci, an Italian government official and member of the Vatican group, the Gentlemen of His Holiness, on government corruption charges and discovered that he took part in a gay prostitution ring that involved seminarians from the Vatican. Two other cases have links to Pope Benedict XVI, and indicate that while serving as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he had previous knowledge about the wrongdoings of two priests. Peter Hullermann of Munich was allowed to serve as a priest for thirty years after a sex abuse conviction and the Rev. Lawrence Murphy abused over 200 deaf boys in Wisconsin while serving at St. John’s School for the Deaf in the 1950s-1970s.

This exhaustive list, however, has not made the Catholic administration change its tone about the abuses. Some responses contain contradictions. The pope sent a written apology to Irish Catholics last month but during his Palm Sunday address called the media reports “petty gossip.” Some officials, like Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, have even called for continued secrecy stating this is what happens in every family, you don’t wash your dirty laundry in public.”

Given the enormity and frequency of these situations, the Church must change its tone. If it is to be last remaining bastion of truth and moral goodness in a corrupt world, it must not be seen as providing cover for those who commit wrongs and try to hide from authorities. It must create an environment where it responds quickly to the complaints of its parishioners instead of allowing the New York Times and government agencies to bring to light information it has had for decades. The Vatican must follow the words in James 4:17 and do the right thing because “anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin” (NRSV). Anything less than this makes the Church look like one from medieval times, where priests sexually and financially abused their parishioners. As we approach Easter, I can only hope that the Church can change its tone and do better for its parishioners and the world.

Bennett Parsons is a junior music education major from Arlington.