Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Problem That Hasn't Gone Away

The Problem That Hasn't Gone Away

So why are Catholic officials continuing the same hurtful behaviors? Why are the alleged reforms adopted by bishops apparently not working?

The answer can be found in three simple words: checks and balances.

For centuries, monarchs ruled the world. Corruption was rampant. Kings kept secrets, acted arbitrarily, and put the lives of their subjects at risk.

Then, an upstart colony devised another approach. They wisely drew up a plan in which power was shared, with no one person or persons having too much of it.

The result: an imperfect yet fundamentally healthy and largely self-correcting system.

The Catholic church, on the other hand, remains perhaps the only real monarchy. Each of the world's 5,000 bishops is the lord of his own kingdom.

The short answer: reduce bishops' opportunity to abuse their power.

And the Holy Bible gives us precise instructions for doing so. "Ordain elders in every city..."

Finally, all of us must reverse our assumptions about church officials. In court, we must (and should) presume innocence until guilt is proven. But given the painful, recurring, widespread pattern of child sex-abuse corruption in the church hierarchy, and given the long-term devastation to innocent children, here we must presume just the reverse. In our minds and our assumptions, we owe it to kids to assume that the truth is still hidden until it's conclusively been proven otherwise. We owe it to kids to assume that an ancient, rigid, secretive, all-male hierarchy has not radically changed course in three short years.

David Clohessy is national director of the Chicago-based advocacy group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (


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