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(RNS) — Awful, disgusting, horrifying, sickening — one runs out of adjectives in describing the actions of abusive priests chronicled in the just-released Pennsylvania grand jury report.
The report lists more than 300 priests accused of abuse in six of the state’s eight dioceses. If accused priests from the other two dioceses, dealt with by earlier grand juries, are added, it amounts to about 8 percent of the 5,000 priests who served in Pennsylvania during the 70-year period covered by the report.
Abuse - Child - Children - Timespan - Forward
The abuse of even one child is terrible, but that more than 1,000 children were abused in that timespan is appalling. Undoubtedly, there are more who have not yet come forward, and hopefully this report will encourage them to do so.
Just as disconcerting is the failure of many bishops in the early days of the crisis to respond appropriately to the abuse. The best you can say about them is that they should have known better.
Why did they not do better?
First, the bishops still lived in a clerical culture where priests looked out for one another as “brothers” in the priesthood. Like bad cops, they didn’t blow the whistle on each other. Some bishops didn’t want to hear or look into the accusations. Clericalism blinded them to their responsibility to the children.
Bishops - Lawyers - Insurance - Companies - Victims
Second, the bishops were told by their lawyers and insurance companies not to meet with the victims or their families. They heard the excuses of their priests but not the agonizing pain of the victims, a terrible failure. Every bishop should set aside at least a day a month to listen to any survivor who wants to meet with him.
Third, at least as late as 1992, the bishops were told by psychologists that some priests were safe to return to ministry after treatment. It was not until 2002 that...
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