God vs Gavel
Eliminate Statutes of Limitation in Childhood Sexual Abuse Cases: A Litmus Test for the Vatican
The academics tell Boehner that "Catholic social doctrine is not merely a set of goals to be achieved by whatever means one chooses. It is also a way of proceeding, a set of principles that are derived from the truth of the human person." They then quote Pope Benedict: "Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way....the word 'love" is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite."
I would have paraphrased the Pope's words as follows: "Without truth about child sex abuse, there is suffering, suicide, and devastation." That is far too often the life of the victim who was abused by a pedophile priest, who, in turn, was aided by bishops more concerned with staffing than crimes.
A victim can never get to the bottom of the truth, so long as bishops succeed in lobbying to ensure that he or she can never get to court.
Congress itself has a shameful record on the clergy abuse crisis. Boehner may have voted to reduce funding for the poor into the future, but he has done nothing for the victims of sex abuse by clergy, past or present.
The members of Congress have seen no evil, heard no evil and spoken not at all since the Boston Globe first broke the news of the fraud perpetrated on one Catholic family after another by Catholics' own bishops. The letter ignores the elephant in the Capitol, where high-flown rhetoric about the sexual degradation of children is not unusual. It is only abuse by clergy that Congress has chosen to ignore.
If the Pope believes in truth and protection for the vulnerable, his letter to the bishops will order them to become advocates for children in the legislatures by endorsing statutes of limitations reform. If his letter lacks this legislative agenda, the Vatican will have failed the litmus test for the protection of children. Again.
Marci A. Hamilton is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge, 2008) and God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge, 2005, 2007).