Sexual abuse and sex-related crimes are a real problem in our society, there’s no doubt about that. It’s not just the Church and not even primarily the Church, despite what the media coverage would have you believe. (Public schools are much worse.) And since politicians must always pass new laws in order to make their constituents think they’re taking care of the problem, the area of sex offenders is particularly problematic.
A few years ago, sex offender registries became big news. It seemed to make sense that if a child predator or rapist is living in your neighborhood you should be made aware of it and thus the registries were born. But there were difficult questions? What about the guy given a citation in college for streaking across the quad? Should he be forever branded as a sex offender? And even the serious offenders: Where will they live if they’re driven out of the neighborhoods?
Now even those questions seem tame compared to the latest hare-brained idea out of Ohio: A registry of those accused, not convicted, of abuse. Sure, the justifications are there: What do you do about guys for whom the statute of limitations ran out or who got off on a technicality or whose trials are pending? But can anyone else see where this might be abused? Didn’t anyone else see “Minority Report”? Is this not “pre-crime”? What happened to “innocent until proven guilty?”
It’s one thing for a private institution to remove an accused from a position in which they might have the opportunity to do harm until either convicted or the allegations are deemed credible.
And the sad part of this? The idea comes from the state’s Catholic bishops who offered it as an alternative to opening up a one-time window for suspending the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits against the Church. That’s right: while protecting their own assets they’ve opened the door to this abomination. Coming soon to a state near you.