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Too Little, Too Late

cartoon by Rob Rogers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The recent controversy over the Catholic Church’s handling of priest pedophilia in Ireland highlights the utter failure of the Church in these matters. Instead of working for justice for the victims and healing the wounds of such a dark past, the Church has failed to categorically denounce its role in any real way. The Church’s responses have been marked by fumbling, silence and general inadequacy.

The most recent case involves the abuse of two teenage boys by a Catholic priest in the 1970s. The cardinal, Sean Brady, was present in 1975 when the boys were persuaded to sign oaths of silence about their abuse. The priest was dismissed, but nothing was reported to the police. Too often the Church’s responses seem to be more focused on preserving the reputation of the Church and religious officials than the protection of children. While this behavior would be shameful in any organization, there should be even less tolerance for a religious organization. The Economist rightfully states, “If you preach absolute moral values, you will be held to absolute moral standards.”

Those involved in a cover up, like Cardinal Brady, must be asked to leave the Church and made an example. Where legal action is still possible, it should be pursued aggressively. What terrifies me most is the possibly that these scandals are the tip of the iceberg. The Catholic Church needs to stop making excuses and claiming ignorance. For these priests and the people who shamelessly sheltered them from justice, there is no absolution, just an ever-widening gap for answers. More importantly, the idea that no justice is possible discourages future victims from coming forward and exposing the criminals. This case, like all the ones that came before it, should be a wake-up call for the Vatican. There is something inherently broken within the system which is allowing these crimes to be repeated: it must be found and fixed.

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