- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2017

The Catholic Church, as everybody knows, has a problem with its priests preying on little children, and with its higher-ups covering up the sexual abuse scandals.

So a new report in Australia is recommending the church lift its celibacy requirements for the diocesan clergy — the idea being that if these members of the church could have sex with, say, wives, they wouldn’t be chasing after the choir boys.

This makes practical sense.

After all, hasn’t the abuse of children within the church gone on long enough?

It’s the coverup that’s the double whammy to the victims, though. And on this, the members of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, who’ve just concluded a five-year investigation into child sex abuse in Australia, have another great idea: to require those who hear confessions about child sex abuse to report the content of these confessions to higher-ups and legal authorities.

Of course, the flip side of that requirement would likely be a failure of those guilty of such crimes to confess.

But at least the mandate would deliver a clear message to abusers that they could not simply ‘fess away their crimes and go their happy molesting ways. At least the mandate shows the church, as a whole, had shifted its focus from self-protection to committed concern for the victims.

“We have concluded that there were catastrophic failures of leadership of Catholic Church authorities over many decades,” the report stated, NPR noted.

No kidding.

It’s not as if the Catholic Church didn’t have a sullied reputation as shielding its child-molesting clergy from accountability.

But now, in Australia, there are real numbers on the deep-seated darkness.

“More than 15,000 people contacted the commission to share their experiences of abuse, more than 8,000 of them spoke personally with the commissioner about the trauma it caused, and approximately 2,500 cases have now been referred to police,” NPR cited the subscription-based Australian as reporting.

This is horrific.

And while it’s true that the commission found churches of other denominations guilty of similar abuse, the report concluded that the Catholic Church was by far the worst offender. Fully seven percent of priests who served in the country between the years of 1950 ad 2009 had been accused of sexually abusing children.

It’s high time the Catholic Church took a tough look inward and changed its way of dealing with criminal clergy. Tossing the celibacy requirements is a bold first step; treating clergy who abuse children as the criminals they are should be a no-brainer.

When it comes to abuse of children, the policy of the Catholic Church — of any church or place of religious affiliation, for that matter — should be one of zero tolerance.

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