Changing the Vatican’s response to abuse

Scripture shows us that Jesus often gave people a second chance to make things right once they were shown the truth. Roman Catholic Church leaders today have had chance after chance to do justice not just in individual cases of sexual abuse survivors, but also to remedy what is at the root of the church’s sexual abuse crisis. Unfortunately, they haven’t done either.

The roots of this crisis are perpetuated by the secrecy and lack of accountability that has been the modus operandi by church officials for decades. Decisions to hide cases from the public and to harbor pedophile priests has allowed perpetrators to walk freely, abusing child after child. Some bishops still refuse to fully comply with their own internal audits that are meant to safeguard children, and other bishops continue to fight in court against legislation that would allow survivors to bring their cases forward.

What we have learned is that the bishops will not remedy the situation on their own. Survivors, Catholic laity and local news media must hold the bishops accountable.

According to its own report this weekend, the Vatican has seen more than 3,000 cases — that’s 3,000 chances — during the last decade to remedy the sexual abuse crisis and hasn’t. Now that the alleged cover-up potentially extends to Pope Benedict XVI himself, the highest official in the Vatican, government officials must step in to investigate the crimes.

The Vatican has had its chance to correct the problem. As far as we are concerned, that’s it: the lives of too many children are at stake.

Jim FitzGerald is the executive director of Call To Action, a national Catholic justice organization, and Nicole Sotelo is the group’s communications director and the author of “Women Healing from Abuse: Meditations for Finding Peace.”

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