Reform in Catholic Church necessary to prevent abuse of children

April 23, 2010 — by Christine Tseng and Christine Bancroft

Shortly before the Holy Week of Easter, the Catholic church was hit with a devastating and familiar scandal. A massive cover-up of pedophilia and sexual abuse committed by priests and high-ranking members of the church was brought to light. With over 300 cases just in Germany, the victims have reported everything from molestation to repeated abuses, including beatings and rape. These offenses have left an unknown number of children traumatized by the very people who were supposed to guide them.

So far, the Pope has given speeches and written letters and has expressed great sorrow that such an atrocity could have happened within the church. This recent scandal has also hit the Pope especially close to home since his own brother, George Ratzinger, is among the accused.

In response, the church has uncharacteristically become more open and transparent in lieu of the traditional tendency to cover problems up. However, though this new change is good, this is something that should have happened years ago. The Catholic church should have taken a more aggressive approach when handling these cases from the very start.

After a priest is found to be guilty of child molestations, he is sent to get treatment and the whole event is essentially hushed up. Not only is this bad enough, as the community should have a right to know about this deviant, but the same priest is often released and sent to another church.This is analogous to having a sex offender as a teacher. If a teacher committed the same crimes as these priests but, instead of being punished, was simply sent to another school, chances are that parents would react rather adversely.

What the church should have done was to help the victims and bring legal suits against the priests. It does not matter that the priests are part of a religious sect. People were hurt. Pedophilia is a crime, and should be punished accordingly, whether the offender is black or white, Buddhist or Catholic. Just because it is a priest committing these crimes and not some strange-looking homeless man in the street does not make it any better or any less punishable. There must be legal action taken by law enforcement.

The priests should get the same sentence as any regular offender would recieve, no less and no more. They should also be subject to treatment either after or during their prison sentence and not be allowed to return to their past position within the church. If they do wish to become a priest again, then they should have to go through all required qualifications again and prove that they are able to control themselves. There should be a record not only with the police but with the church as well, to notify and warn others to be cautious of the priest if he does return.

As well, just because the the offenders happen to all be priests of the Catholic Church does not mean that the victims who have decided to come and speak out are coming out to attack the Pope or the church. Those who were traumatized and violated, and their anger is not at the church itself; rather, it is at the individual priests involved. The victims’ stories must be told in order for something to change within the system, and if it takes over 300 victims to change it, then that’s already 300 scarred lives too many.

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