- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 21, 2002

This week, U.S. cardinals will meet with Vatican officials to examine the clergy sex-abuse crisis that has hit the Catholic Church in America. The meeting comes none too soon. Until every U.S. diocese adopts a zero-tolerance policy toward clergy involved in sexual abuse, the problem will continue to fester and the reputation of Catholic priests will continue to suffer.
Though the Catholic Church has remained constant in its teaching on sexual ethics, church scholars point out that in the 1960s and 1970s, certain seminaries and sectors of the church adopted the general culture's morality of sexual permissiveness. Many who entered the priesthood during this time either had no intention of living up to the church's teaching or were unfit to do so. Whether out of fear of priest shortages or a misguided sense of compassion or protectiveness, those responsible for maintaining the integrity of the church's ministry failed to deal with this influx of unfit priests properly. Above all else, the current crisis is the result of this mistake.
Some dioceses long ago addressed this problem by implementing comprehensive procedures and guidelines. Those dioceses that have yet to follow suit should do so now. Though the U.S. cardinals will no doubt discuss possible procedures at the Vatican next week, a few seem obvious. The church should investigate all accusations of sexual abuse. If an accusation is deemed credible, it should be turned over to the authorities (with the accuser's consent). Until the church has completed its investigation, the accused priest should be removed from any role that involves contact with minors. If the church concludes that wrongdoing has occurred, the priest should be dismissed from duty.
It also seems obvious that church officials relied too heavily on the counsel of others. Specifically, they must treat advice from lawyers and psychiatrists more critically. Lawyers are often concerned more with damage control than with removing the cause of the damage, and psychiatrists often overestimate their ability to "cure" sex abusers.
It must be noted, however, that the majority of clergy sex-abuse cases involve male, teen-age minors. Technically, this is not pedophilia. Aspirants to the priesthood, therefore, must be rigorously screened not just for those with a proclivity for sexually abusing children, but also for those with homosexual tendencies. Though the crisis in the Catholic Church should not be used as an excuse for homosexual-bashing, it nonetheless must be acknowledged that the priesthood is no environment for homosexuals even those who wish to live holy, celibate lives.
For the Catholic Church, there is no returning to business as usual. Though all available statistics indicate that the rate of sexual abuse among the Catholic clergy is no higher than that in other denominations or, for that matter, in other professions the kind of gross mismanagement that has given rise to the current outcry must never happen again.

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