The clergy sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church continues to accumulate world wide media attention by the secular press. Catholics worldwide are well aware of the stories of the victims of sexual abuse have made public through many means of social communications. There are support groups for the victims, collective lawsuits and ongoing litigation even as you read this article. One group of victims the clergy sex abuse scandal has not taken into consideration are the many bishops, priests and deacons that have had allegations raised about their conduct and have never had the opportunity to defend themselves in a public forum.
Seemingly, accused clergy are removed from public ministry pending the outcome of an investigation by both Church and civil authorities. Then these ordained men, mysteriously disappear from parish ministry and are never heard from again. For the average Catholic, they are not aware of the disposition of any of the allegations lodged against their former parish priests. In some cases, the accused priests are now laity and permanently removed from ministry in the Catholic Church and are quietly absorbed into the world of academia. In other cases, these priests quietly live in a communal environment, with similarly accused priests and pursue a life of prayer and penance. Regardless of the disposition of the allegations made against them, these men are also victims of the clergy sex abuse scandal.
They are victims because they have never had the opportunity to take advantage of their constitutional rights of the due process of law. In most cases, their priestly ministry, their personal lives and their professional reputations have been destroyed without any civil charges being brought against them. Instead, these men, have suffered as the result of allegations that have never been brought to trial, but have already had punitive actions imposed on these priests and former priests.
While the Church has been quite responsive to allegations of clergy sex abuse in removing priests from active ministry, they have not been as forthcoming in disclosing the final determinations regarding these priests. As a result, the victims continue to accumulate, children victims, priests victims and ultimately parishioner victims.
I call all of these groups of individuals’ victims, because there has not been enough disclosure and transparency afforded by the Catholic Church regarding the whereabouts of priest perpetrators, exonerated priests and priests liaised and removed from active ministry. Catholic parishioners, ultimately continuing victims of this entire scandal continue to support and worship in their parish communities without any real sense of closure and finality to allegations which in most cases they have been unaware.
In order to fully realize and comprehend the vast complexity of the clergy sex abuse scandal, all parties involved need to disclose and acknowledge their collective victimization and fully disclose the status of everyone involved. This full disclosure and full transparency needs to come from the highest levels of Church authority and from the victims among the clergy and the laity. Any continuation of veiled disclosures, sudden disappearances of clergy and the continued practice of developing priestly lives of pseudo-community in prayer and penance will not solve the problems; just offer an extenuation of the scandal.
Victimhood in the clergy sex scandal within the Catholic Church is multifaceted and is an extremely complex topic of clericalism gone wild for too, too long. Now is the time to acknowledge all of the causalities that have resulted from this scandal, acknowledge mutual faults and move on towards healing and reconciliation in Christ Jesus.
Remember all of the victims, the children, the clergy and the entire People of God that need the healing of the Holy Spirit to bring closure and healing to this painful chapter in Catholic Church history.
We have fortunately learned from the scandal as well. We have learned the true insidious nature of sins of the flesh. We have learned there is accountability for everyone after an illicit transgression. We have learned most importantly that the most heinous crimes against humanity in all human history offer an opportunity for forgiveness, healing and rebirth.
It is time for the entire Catholic Church to join together as a living, praying and loving community of faith to resolve not to let this happen again. We have all been victims, now it is time to once again be faithful Cathoic.
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