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Editorial: Catholic Church Scandal Hurts All

Drawing by Sara Arango

Drawing by Sara Arango

Drawing by Sara Arango

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The Roman Catholic Church teaches us that man sins. The Catholic Church also teaches us that sins may be forgiven by confession.

In recent news events, Catholic priests have been accussed and convicted of horrible events that have left many Catholic parishoners confused and conflicted. A large amount of Catholic priests have been under the very microscope of sin that their Sunday parishoners face on a daily basis.

According to a searing report released by a grand jury on August 14, leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania have concealed child sexual abuse by over 300 priests for 70 years.

The report mentioned that there were more than 1,000 distinct victims of child sexual abuse. (In Pennsylvania, approximately one of every four residents is Catholic.) Out of Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic dioceses, six were involved. These dioceses include Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.

Although several offenders were removed from their positions, members of the clergy who protected them either stayed or got promoted.

Why was the Catholic Church hiding this in the first place? The church in Pennsylvania was hiding the fact that priests were committing momentous sins. The Catholic Church was not protecting the victims but themselves and the priests who committed these crimes.

Cardinal Newman High School Religion Teacher Steven Reep was upset when he heard of the newest sexual abuse scandal facing the Catholic Church. His first emotions towards the news were “heart-break, disgust and anger,” he said. “My heart broke for the victims. I felt disgust towards those committing these terrible crimes. I felt anger towards those who covered it up,” Reep said.

The Pennsylvania report came after Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick’s resignation. The former
archbishop of Washington is also accused of sexually abusing minors and seminarians.

The grand jury in Pennsylvania convened for two years gathering information. During that time, the jury analyzed 500,000 documents from dioceses’ secret archives and listened to testimony from the bishop of Erie and many other victims. The report cites the accused priests and includes information about when they were sent to a new parish.

The report details horrendous acts of abuse.

“The people who covered these terrible crimes up are possibly the most guilty in this situation. I think they covered it up because they were afraid of how this would look for the church, but in doing so they made the church look worse. The church ought to be the first to stand up against evil acts against the innocent and uphold justice. In this case, we failed,” said Reep.

“Evil is a reality,” said Reep. “The Devil is real and of course he is going to attack his greatest enemy, the church. I think these priests did this because they were overtaken by their sin and have some sort of sickness. However, I think we must remember that the real enemy here is sin and not the church or priests. It is the job of the church, priests, and lay people to combat evil to make sure things like this do not happen,” said Reep.

The grand jury claimed that “individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability” and Catholic Church leaders went by a “playbook for concealing the truth.” The grand jury said the Catholic Church used euphemisms like “inappropriate contact” instead of “rape,” assigned priests who were untrained in sexual abuse cases to investigate their peers, and did not tell parishioners the actual reasons for getting rid of an accused priest.

“There should definitely be consequences and punishments to the priests here on earth. God entrusts us to defend the innocent and uphold justice. However, there should also be physiological help to these perpetrators because it is obvious that they are very sick individuals and need help,” said Reep.

Catholic bishops in Pennsylvania responded to the Pennsylvania report by promising a safer
Catholic Church environment due to measures established in recent years.

“My brother is in the fourth grade,” said Cardinal Newman Sophomore Elena Prada. “When my family heard about these cases, my parents reacted as any other parent would of and were fearful of what might happen. They decided that my brother would not become an altar server.”

It takes a tremendous amount of courage for victims to speak about their abuse, and childhood
victims cannot file civil lawsuits against the church once they turn 30. Both the grand jury and the attorney general suggested opening a temporary window that would allow older victims to file civil lawsuits against offenders and the church. Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, president of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, has not supported changing this procedure.

Two months after the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office released the grand jury report, the
Justice Department opened an investigation into the Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania accused
of hiding abuse for decades. This is considered to be the first statewide investigation by the
federal government of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.

Except for Altoona-Johnstown, all the dioceses in Pennsylvania said they received federal grand
jury subpoenas from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
asking for documents.

After the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released, the attorneys general in a dozen different
states said they would look into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Barbara Underwood, the attorney general in New York, sent subpoenas to all eight dioceses in the state. This is the first statewide investigation of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

On October 17th, the State Senate ended its session without voting on a measure that would
allow victims to sue their offenders and the Catholic Church.

Most of the time we think priests are connected to God in a powerful way, but these horrid events remind parishoners that they are people too. Priests take a serious vow to God and are somewhat married to the church, but this doesn’t mean they are any less human than parishoners.

Catholics around the world should still have hope and never lose sight of their faith.

The Church is not made up of a select group of priests or bishops. Lay people are also an active part of the faith community. People grow and evolve and the Roman Catholic Church should too.

The entire searing report by the grand jury can be found here

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