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Reeling Catholic Church must give full accounting of its sins

August 29, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I have been a Catholic since 1990.

For me, the Catholic Church has always been appealing because it offers moral clarity, timeless beliefs, the divine rite of Communion and absolution through the rite of Confession.

It gives me no pleasure to express this, but I now have deep concern about the church’s future.

The sexual abuse scandal inside the Catholic Church has been public knowledge for more than 15 years now.

All practicing Catholics have been disgusted by the reports of active priests abusing children. Even worse, senior leaders in the church have looked the other way and transferred many of these priests rather than remove them from the priesthood, allowing the abuse to continue. Anyone who transferred an abusing priest is complicit in every additional crime that priest committed.

The sad fact is that many senior leaders in the Catholic Church have enabled this abuse, protected these abusers, and put the institution ahead of the welfare of children.

Let us not mince words: This is pure evil.

It is time for the Catholic Church to put the children first.

Millions of Catholics are now questioning their faith, avoiding going to church and withholding donations. You can count me in that group.

The latest round of shocking revelations comes after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro completed a lengthy investigation and the grand jury released a thorough, horrifying report detailing the alleged crimes in Pennsylvania dioceses over decades. In late July, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals. He’d had previously served in the high-profile role of archbishop of Washington, D.C.

What was his punishment? A “life of prayer and penance” for allegations that he sexually abused children and adults over a period of decades. What rational person believes this is an appropriate punishment?

The Pennsylvania grand jury report implicated longtime Pittsburgh Cardinal Donald Wuerl, now heading the Washington diocese, who has denied charges he knew about his predecessor’s record of abuse, a charge he has denied.

This story reached a new level of urgency last week when Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano released a detailed 11-page letter alleging that Pope Francis knew about and ignored accusations of sexual abuse against Cardinal McCarrick, and called on the pope to resign.

Archbishop Vigano is no minor figure. He served as apostolic nuncio in the U.S. from October 2011 through April 2016 and was secretary-general of Vatican City from July 2009 through September 2011.

Pope Francis released a detailed statement last week ahead of his address to the World Meeting of Families. His statement did not take responsibility and did not offer a concrete plan for how the church would deal with the crisis. Thus far, the pope has avoided responding to Archbishop Vigano’s charges in detail.

It seems to me several urgent steps are now required.

First, Pope Francis must credibly explain what he knew and when he knew it. If he did ignore the abuse allegations, he must resign immediately, for the good of the church. Second, the pope must release the names of every leader in the church for whom an abuse allegation has been made. Parishioners deserve to know who these individuals are.

Third, the church must forward all detailed abuse allegations to civil law enforcement agencies. Sexual abuse is a crime. It must be treated as such. We can no longer trust the church to take these crimes seriously.

Fourth, any leader in the church who has been the subject of a credible abuse allegation must be removed immediately. No exceptions.

Fifth, as Hugh Hewitt has suggested, the other 49 states need to conduct their own thorough investigations of sexual abuse in the church. If this is what happened in Pennsylvania, imagine the collective weight on the crimes in the rest of the country. A complete accounting is necessary.

It is now time for the Catholic Church to decide whether it truly cares about justice. Protecting the children must come first. Protecting the institution, which appears to have been the primary motivation for over a decade, must now come second.

Catholics are tired of the lies. After all, “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is in the Ten Commandments.

Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. His “Mack on Politics” podcast is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and on WashingtonTimes.com.

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