You may have noticed the lead story on the home page, Mark Sargent’s “Vengeance Time: When Abuse Victims Squander Their Moral Authority.” We’re already getting…somewhat heated letters about it–not that anyone is surprised. Mark gives voice to the concerns of many observers of the church’s sexual-abuse scandals–liberal, conservative, Catholic, and non-Catholic alike. Take E. Paul Kelly, for example, a retired attorney who worked on the Bishop Accountability database of accused priests. On his blog, he writes the following:
I agree that Catholic priests, a small minority to be sure, had sought out
children, wee ones, elementary school ages, teenagers, for gross sexual
practices, and had been doing so for decades. Many of their bishops knew about
their crimes against humanity and suppressed as mightily as they could the
leaking of any disclosures of those monstrosities, lest the Roman Catholic
Church’s reputation be stained. They transferred them within and without their
dioceses, pulled a rug over the whole tragic slaughter of the young, and looked
the other way. The explosion of that news in January, 2002, was unbelievable,
unimaginable, incomprehensible. We, all of us, were enraged and we roared into
action to see that justice be done, accountability be extracted from those
responsible, and punishment be imposed for those resonsible. I joined in.
Now, however, I am frightened for our country, as well as for our religion
and the institution that calls itself its church. We have forgotten who we are.
Our country is mean. Justice is a synonym for vengeance. The rule of law is
ignored by vigilantes in their relentless pursuits. Accusation in a news story
is conviction without courts. The government is a sham and the Department of
Justice itself is in tatters, from the current administration’s abuse of power.
And lawyers are beginning to wake up.
Our church continues under the leadership of its bishops, as it has always
done, impervious to change, excommunicating those of us who seek change,
ignoring us as people of the church by the stalemate of silence, and plowing
straight ahead with The Three Ds: Dogma, Doctrine, Discipline. Many of
our bishops and their church have become masters of the hardball tactics of
unscrupulous lawyers, frustrated judges with delay by discovery, obliterated
victims’ hopes with bankruptcies, and turned the search for justice into a
bare-knuckled game where victory goes to the meanest. It is time for lawyers to
stand and speak, for the sake of our legal system and the oaths they swore to
uphold the Rule of Law.
One of them is Mark A. Sargent, the Dean of the Villanova University School