Two Crises, Two Different Responses

A blog by David Clohessy, longtime SNAP National Director

Ponder this flight of fancy, then ask “Why isn’t this really happening? From a recent news story:

Up and down Italy, police entered churches and church offices judged to be in violation of national child sex abuse reporting laws, issuing citations and fines to those taking part, in several instances including the parish priest.

Yet not only has there been no howl of protest from the country’s Catholic leadership, almost uniformly bishops have sided with the authorities.

“We have to be realistic,” said Archbishop Corrado Lorefice of Palermo in Sicily. “Child sexual abuse is widespread. We have to be the first to do whatever we can to prevent this epidemic from expanding.”

“This is the fruit of a Christian awareness that we’re part of a civil community, we’re the sons and daughters of a nation and a state, and we in the church are making a responsible choice to collaborate with authorities in the struggle against abuse,” he said.

This is not, of course, a “real” news story. Here’s the “real” one:

Up and down Italy, police entered churches and broke up services judged to be in violation of a national quarantine, issuing citations and fines to those taking part, in several instances including the parish priest.

Yet not only has there been no howl of protest from the country’s Catholic officials, almost uniformly bishops have sided with the authorities.

“We have to be realistic,” said Archbishop Corrado Lorefice of Palermo in Sicily. “COVID-19 is transmitted where people meet. We have to be the first to do whatever we can to prevent this epidemic from expanding.”

 “This isn’t about abandoning the faith, it’s the fruit of a Christian awareness that we’re part of a civil community, we’re the sons and daughters of a nation and a state, and we’re making a responsible choice to collaborate with authorities in the struggle against abuse,” he said.

(The “real” story was recently written by veteran Vatican watcher John Allen of Crux. Read it here.) 

But just imagine if the Catholic hierarchy showed this same kind of devotion to the common good, this same respect for civic duty, when it comes to the church's seemingly endless child abuse pandemic!

Imagine if church staff – from the pope down to the priests -  were to make "the responsible choice to collaborate with authorities in the struggle against' child sexual abuse and cover ups! They'd immediately report all allegations to the police and voluntarily turn over all relevant documents to prosecutors.

It really is that simple.

Long after COVID-19 disappears from headlines (and we pray that day will come sooner rather than later), boys and girls will still be devastated by the largely invisible pandemic known as child sexual abuse.

It’s NOT that hard to rise to the occasion during a widespread and widely-noted crisis. It’s much harder to do so during a constant, slow and largely ‘under the radar’ crisis like crimes against kids.

For more on this, see this excellent analysis by Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org.


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  • Terri Kimmel
    commented 2020-06-06 15:32:46 -0500
    While the need to protect and defend children is inarguably more urgent, let’s not forget adults who are victims of sexual predation by priests. Adult victims stand in solidarity with all victims and, compared to many, have an especially passionate interest and need for predators to be exposed and held accountable.

    My mother, my daughter and I are all three survivors of abuse by priests, the abuse occurring when we were adults. Three different circumstances, three different priests, all related by the same spirit of predation, entitlement, exploitation, and institutional cover-up.

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