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   Vatican Must Deal Openly With Priest Pedophilia Cases

Speaking Out About Destructive Secrecy:

Vatican Must Deal Openly With Priest Pedophilia Cases

by Mary Louise Hartman
The harm that is done to the victims can hardly be measured over a lifetime. Their pain and suffering has been denied or ignored by the institutional church. The harm done to the credibility of the church may take decades to repair. The secrecy must stop.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a statement from the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC).

One of the more interesting announcements to come out of the Vatican in a long time is the statement establishing the rules dealing with pedophilia cases involving priests or religious.

According to the guidelines, a Roman ecclesiastical court will try these cases. This move in the direction of due process could be supported by the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC). However, the fact that these proceedings are secret makes support impossible.

We have many questions about this directive. Does this process have implications in international law? Will this process interfere with the civil prosecution of priest pedophiles? Legal minds should examine this. Will the process further protect bishops who may have neglected to take firm steps when cases were first brought to their attention? ARCC feels that they, like any other corporate executive, should be prosecuted if found guilty of neglect or a cover-up.

ARCC condemns all acts of child molestation by priests and others in any communal setting or institution. The full force of the secular justice system must be utilized to establish the innocence or guilt in all cases of child molestation. Sexual abuse of children should be treated as a civil crime, which it is, and prosecuted, to the full extent of the law with no exceptions.

ARCC is mindful that there are those who would seek to harm the church by wrongful accusations, thereby destroying the reputation of the accused. The late Cardinal Bernardin is a case in point. We lament that the actions of a few have caused some Catholics to look with suspicion on good and healthy priests and religious who are working honorably for the Church.

It is the secrecy surrounding the cases that occur within the Church that angers most Catholics. The harm that is done to the victims can hardly be measured over a lifetime. Their pain and suffering has been denied or ignored by the institutional church. The harm done to the credibility of the church may take decades to repair. The secrecy must stop.

"Catholics have the right to redress of grievances through regular procedures of law" (#10) and "All Catholics have the right to have their leaders accountable to them." (#6) (Both citations are from the Charter of the Rights of Catholics in the Church, ARCC, 1988). Open discussion between hierarchy and laity of this subject would be a first step in the difficult process of repairing the immense damage which secrecy has inflicted on the Church.

In Boston recently, Cardinal Law was correct in apologizing to the Catholics of the archdiocese of Boston for the crimes of Father John Geoghan, a pedophile. He was correct in establishing a new tough policy. He was not correct in waiting so many years to do so. Outside competent professionals should have been used right from the beginning to evaluate the situation instead of having in-house staff make the necessary assessments.

We question the continued policy of ordaining men who do not pass psychological muster. Catholics must demand that psychosexual maturity be a prerequisite for ordination. We call on the bishops' conferences of the world to begin a study to determine why the priesthood has become a hiding place for some pedophiles and what steps can be taken to eliminate this situation. A radical reform of priestly formation seems necessary to eliminate the sanctuary which seminary life and the priesthood, as we know it, can provide for those who are drawn to pedophilia.


Ms. Hartman is president of the ARCC, a national organization of Roman Catholic clergy, religious and lay people with affiliations in eleven European countries. ARCC works for the promulgation of teachings stated at the Second Vatican Council. It accomplishes this task through education advocacy, networking, and the circulation of its document "A Constitution for the Roman Catholic Church to the Catholics of the World." For more information, see http://arcc-catholic-rights.org, call 413-527-3305, or e-mail arccangel@charter.net.


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This story was published on March 2, 2002.
  
MARCH 2002
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ART & ENTERTAINMENT
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SPEAKING OUT
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NEWS MEDIA CRITIQUE
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CITIZENS REFERENCE: BLUE CROSS PRIVATIZATION ISSUES
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