With the recent arrest of an Ohio priest on charges of impregnating a 17 year old girl, several assumptions have been shattered that the Catholic Church was hoping to hang its hat on. First, the cancer or sickness that affected the Church for decades is not dead. It may now affect a smaller number of priests but it is still much alive. Secondly, not all Catholic priests appear to be honest and many of these priests are not coming forward and admitting they are not adhering or have not adhered to the vows they took and the moral honesty required to live like Men of God.
In the Diocese of Buffalo, Bishop Richard Malone is facing calls to resign for allegedly covering abuse by priests within the diocese. This is a repeat of the plight of other bishops across the United States and casts doubt on the integrity of these “holy men” and the role they played in keeping the sexual abuse alive for years. Why these bishops are not coming forward and being honest with the clergy and laity is a serious issue. Apparently the thinking has not changed – if they wait long enough maybe the issues will go away. Not a chance! The thinking process by the bishops must be that they made mistakes but now lack the courage to come forward and admit it before some investigative officer of the State or Federal Government drags them in front of a camera and the disgraced bishops are faced with their only option – resignation.
I am truly disappointed in the way the Catholic Church has handled this crisis. No one including the Pontiff is really stepping out and taking charge and accepting responsibility. Now they tell the laity that the Church will not tolerate this abuse and it has a zero tolerance policy. However, there still has been no clear explanation of the why or how it happened. It is left for the laity to guess. How did so many dysfunctional priests infect the ranks of our clergy? A reasonable assumption is that the bishops knew or suspected that the Catholic Church had a problem but failed to take the action necessary to remove this cancer from the ranks of the Church back forty or fifty years ago. A second assumption is that it had to have come during the formational period for the priesthood. Seminarians who were not acting in accordance with the moral laws of the Church should have been removed. Priests who acted in violation of these moral laws should have been removed immediately and not passed on to parish after parish. Having a zero tolerance policy now smacks of the old barn story of the door being closed after all the horses are gone.
We have a long way to go before we have passed through these “dark times.” I fear that we could face years of grief before this cancer is gone. The honesty required by the clergy and bishops is sadly lacking in today’s Church.