If you follow news stories about the Scandal like I do, you’ve seen a lot of this type of story recently. Dicoese are beginning to release accountings of how many priests have had credible allegations of abuse lodged against them, how many victims, and how much has been paid to settle lawsuits. All this is in advance of the Febraury deadline for the National Review Board to release its audit of US dioceses.
But with all these facts and figures, what does it all really mean? It’s good to have this information, just like training programs for recognizing abuse are good, but does it really go to the heart of the problem? Despite all the hand-wringing and policy-making, I have yet to see the bishops address the real problem at the heart of the Scandal: bishops who put clerical bureaucracy and ecclesial politics ahead of the mission of the Church and the safety of individuals and institutionalized sexual aberration and dissent that created a network of pervert priests.
Bishops are hoping that a blizzard of paper and official reports along with serious policy statements will cause American Catholics to go back to sleep in 2004, fat, dumb, and happy like before the Scandal broke in 2002. But we can’t go back. We have to remain vigilant and we have to keep the pressure on until they begin to address the root causes of rot in the Church. We need bishops to act like surgeons, cutting the gangrene out of the Body of Christ.