An annual review this last week gave Catholic bishops high marks on their sex abuse prevention policies. That’s good news.
However, there are still serious concerns about some pretty high-profile failings in many dioceses. You can read this report in more detail, with links, in the Religion News post Church Child Safety Officials Voice Concern Over Lapses By Bishops.
In essence, these are the problems:
- Some bishops still fail to report incidents of abuse.
- Some bishops still shield abusive priests.
- Only the pope in Rome can discipline a bishop.
- There’s no policy but only trust that bishops will be vigilant and accountable.
- There are no mechanisms in place to enforce the vague fraternal policies of the bishops.
Basically, it comes down to the buddy system where bishops can help one another cover up abuses in their dioceses with no one they are accountable to except the pope in Rome.
This not only happens in the Catholic church. This problem is rampant throughout the church. We’ve seen it in all kinds of denominations where abuses and highly inappropriate behavior has been covered up. And if it happens to get exposed those with influence may find ways to “restore” the perpetrator to continue his or her ministry.
I’m for restoration of the person. As for the restoration of the ministry, each case should be dealt with individually. My complaint is the imbalance of concern for the victims, the fraternal self-preservation of those in power, and their obvious lack of accountability.
With the dramatic rise in social media and the proliferation of and accessibility to news, it now seems that the public is the dominant critic of abuses. Public servants, servants of the people, are becoming more and more accountable to… the people! If someone retorts, “I serve the church!” then we can reply, “Who is the church?”