Hope and abuse: two sides of the same coin in the Catholic Church
There has been a recent influx of cases of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. However, this news should not come to anyone as a surprise, as similar stories have been shared so many times before.
Time and time again people have spoken out against the Catholic Church, claiming that those in charge of this international religious institution have taken advantage of innocent — usually young — children.
Measures to fight this abuse should’ve taken place a long time ago. But now, the Catholic Church has entered a time when social change such as the #MeToo movement is prevalent. With this growing need for change, people have been using not only their voice but also the media to help them along the way.
Netflix features a seven-episode documentary series, The Keepers, which dives into the unsolved murder case of Sister Catherine Cesnik, who taught at Seton Keough High School in Baltimore. Former students of this school believe that she was murdered by school officials who wanted to cover up her suspicions of sexual abuse by the hands of Priest Joseph Maskell.
Now, the Catholic Church has once again been thrust into the spotlight regarding sexual abuse as a result of a recent grand jury report in Pennsylvania that found more than 1,000 identifiable victims who were sexually abused by over 300 priests in the last 70 years. To make matters worse, the bishops and other leaders knew about this, but instead of doing something to stop it, they tried to persuade the victims not to report it at all.
The Catholic Church has come up with countermeasures to fight this abuse. On Wednesday, Sept. 19, they announced that new steps were going to be taken.
First, they approved the establishment of a third-party reporting system that will receive confidential complaints of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop and sexual harassment or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishop by phone and online. These complaints will be directed to the appropriate ecclesiastical authority and, as required by applicable law, to civil authorities.
Second, the Catholic Church instructed the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or had resigned because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors. The proposal also covers sexual harassment or misconduct with adults, including seminarians and priests.
Third, a code of conduct is being developed for bishops regarding the sexual abuse of a minor, sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with an adult, or negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases.
The Catholic Church also supports a full investigation into the situation surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, including his alleged assaults on minors, priests and seminarians, as well as any responses made to those allegations. Such an investigation should rely on lay experts in relevant fields, such as law enforcement and social services.
Even if they have this system, it’s not wrong to be suspicious of it. In the past, sexual assault has typically been received in a way in which the victims are blamed rather than the perpetrators.
Those with power and money have slipped their way out of being charged. Though it seems pessimistic, believing that change will be immediate after implementing this system would be naive.
The Catholic Church has been engulfed in these allegations for years. An example of this would be in 2002 when The Boston Globe exposed how multiple priests in Boston sexually abused minors. If the Catholic Church wanted real change, it would’ve happened by now.