Church Plan on Sex Abuse, by Marguerite Michaels. Specifically, it will argue against the plan.
Recently, the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States formulated and adopted a new plan regarding sexual abuse by Catholic priests. Briefly, the plan says that if a priest is accused of sexual abuse, a board of at least one priest and lay Catholics will advise the local bishop in private if there is “sufficient evidence” of abuse. This is not acceptable practice, for the board may, and probably will be prejudiced toward the priest, and against the victim, especially if the board is made up of local members of the parish. The board, if it exists at all, should be made up of disinterested third parties, and members of parishes that are far enough away so as not to bring prejudices to the board. In other words, it should be an impartial board, and this approved board seems anything but impartial.
If there is “sufficient evidence,” the priest will be “temporarily” removed from his “ministry pending a church tribunal” (Michaels). The tribunal is comprised of a canon or church lawyer, along with up to five priests acting as judges, who are also canon lawyers. The victim will testify before the tribunal, as will the priest. Again, there are no lay people on the board, and so, it is not a balanced and impartial body, and cannot be expected to rule impartially.
If the priest is found guilty, he can be defrocked, and he can no longer wear the collar of his office, or give Communion. This is not enough punishment for someone found guilty of child abuse, and is no kind of compensation for the victims. It is a slap in the face to those who suffered abuse. Worst of all, the tribunal is not required to report the abuse to local law enforcement if state law does not require it. This is totally unacceptable, and is simply evidence that the church will continue to cover up child abuse scandals whenever possible, and shelter their own, no matter their crime. The church should not be immune from the law, and it should face these scandals with dignity and remorse, not more scandal and cover-ups.
Michaels, Marguerite. “A Church Plan on Sex Abuse.” Time. 25 Nov. 2002.
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