"Catholics Need to Address Global Sex Abuse Scandal"
By Bridget Mary Meehan
“Cry out as if you had a million voices, it is silence that kills the world,” said St. Catherine of Siena, a courageous reformer who lived from 1347-1380, at a time of grave scandal when three men, each claiming to be the pope, shook the church to its foundation. Today Catholics live in a time when the institutional church has lost credibility because of the cover-up of a global sex abuse scandal that, like a rapidly spreading cancer, is destroying the moral fiber of our church. Like St. Catherine, we, the people, need to speak truth to our church leaders including our bishops and our pope. Silence is compliance. It was silence on the part of many good people that allowed world-wide atrocities such as the Holocaust and the rape and murder of hundreds of thousands of women and children in tribal warfare in Africa to continue without world intervention.
Roman Catholics can no longer be silent about the thousands of victims throughout Europe
and around the world who were sexually assaulted by Catholic clergy. The growing number of allegations of sexual abuse in Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands indicate that the cover-up of crimes against children and youth in the Catholic Church goes all the way to the Pope and the Vatican. In the U.S. the sex abuse scandal has destroyed the lives of victims and their families, bankrupted some dioceses and cost the Church over two billion dollars. Approximately two-thirds of sitting U.S. bishops were alleged in 2002 to have kept accused priests in ministry or moved them to new assignments. Nineteen bishops in the United States have been accused of sexual abuse.
The Vatican's record on child abuse was criticized at the United Nations Human Rights Council in
Geneva, Switzerland on March 16, 2010.
Pope Benedict, the former Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger of Munich, has been linked to the case of a German priest convicted of molesting children but allowed to continue to minister in Ratzinger’s archdiocese for more than 30 years until his recent suspension. Later, as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger was in charge of reviewing sexual abuse cases for the Vatican. The cases were handled under a strict code of pontifical secrecy. The Vatican has handled more than 3,000 cases, according to its own report. Since Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, is implicated in the handling of the cases, civil authorities should investigate the alleged cover-up to assure that transparency and justice is achieved.
Catholics should call on the all-male leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, especially those in the Vatican, to admit their failures, including the abuse of power at the center of this crisis. Catholics should call for the resignation of bishops who covered-up sex abuse. Standards of accountability must be the norm for all, including the pope and hierarchy.
Roman Catholic Womenpriests have called for an independent truth commission made up of a broad representation of people of integrity, including victims of abuse and the non-ordained, to examine this global sexual abuse crisis and to chart a path forward to structural change - a change which would include women priests and married priests with an end to mandatory celibacy. Now more than ever our Church needs the wisdom and experience of women to re-birth a renewed community of equals empowered by the Spirit. Roman Catholic Womenpriests offer a collaborative model of an inclusive Church rooted in partnership with the people we serve, with no one excluded. (Bridget Mary Meehan is a Roman Catholic Womanbishop serving the southern region of the U.S. She is author of 18 books and has produced television programs on prayer, spirituality, and women's issues.)