Mexican Summit Continues to Grapple With Harsh Realities of Sex Abuse Scandal, but Action is More Important than Words
We applaud Fr. Hans Zollner for his skill in articulating a major problem that exists within the Catholic church today: the referral of allegations of sex abuse by clerics to Catholic church lawyers, canonists and psychiatrists who then crush the victim and obscure the truth.
Fr. Zollner points out excuses that are often bandied about by defenders of the Church’s record on sexual abuse, highlighting the myths and catch-phrases succinctly,:
"...I fear for the church..."
".... other institutions are just as bad..."
"....I can't deal with it anymore..."
"....it’s the media' fault..."
And Fr. Zollner rightfully debunks these as the excuses they are. He even speaks the dreaded truth by saying the cover-up continues. Indeed, there are media stories nearly every day about contemporary sex abuse by priests and nuns against children and vulnerable adults. As often as not, these are also stories about cover-up and the priority of the church's financial assets over its most precious human asset, the children. Just read the recent Colorado AG report for the latest version of the cover-up story.
But what is really needed is decisive action.
In Mexico, where Fr. Zollner talked about these harsh truths at a sex abuse summit, Catholic officials can start by admitting the size of the problem. They can tell everyone how many priests are accused in that country. The John Jay Study, which Fr. Zollner highlights, is the best report available so far, but even if this study has been shown to under count the scope of clergy abuse in the United States. The study is an effort that can be matched by Mexican prelates in order to get a base-level understanding of the size and scope of the problem in that country.
As Fr. Zollner states, only 5% of pedophiles exhibit obvious tendencies. While that might be an explanation for why so many have entered into the priesthood and gotten away with their first victim, it does not excuse the thousands of cover-ups perpetrated by bishops all over the world, that is, why hundreds of priests offend for the second, third, fourth or 100th time.
So as this summit continues in Mexico, we call on Church officials there to tell the public about what is happening in Mexico and the rest of Latin America in terms of cases of clergy abuse. The bishops’ conference must find the courage to tell the truth. When they do, the conversation can move from addressing the problem to taking action that save lives. Catholic children's lives.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)