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 of Law.