Q. What about the role of the bishops – the way things were handled by the Church? How can we trust that this won’t continue to happen?
A. True, this situation has been handled badly by some bishops. It’s inexcusable to try to keep it quiet. Too often abusers were allowed to return to parish work. Sadly, many bishops were greatly misguided by psychologists, who assessed priests and deemed them fit to return to ministry. Other times, there was weak leadership – some were not willing to expose and reprimand the offenders out of a fear of controversy or perhaps from misguided sympathy. Reform is ongoing, with transparency and protection of individuals as the overriding goal. Programs such as Called to Protect have been implemented in our diocese, and in many others, that are mandatory for clergy and for anyone working with those considered to be most vulnerable – children, the elderly, and the handicapped. Finally, canonical penalties against priests guilty of sexual abuse have become harsher, including dismissal from the priesthood, in addition to any civil prosecution.