Zero Tolerance?

Did the bishops go too far?

 

A reluctant yes

 

As anticipated, media coverage of sexual abuse by clergy seems to be cresting, at least to some degree. However, the crisis remains one of tragic proportions and should receive the attention of church officials for the foreseeable future. Priests who were identified, evaluated, and punished years ago are crying foul, calling the bishops’ zero-tolerance policy flawed. Stories of priests who have confessed their crime and whose witness to virtue has been applauded firsthand by their congregations have left some Catholics disillusioned by the severity of the new policy within a church that preaches forgiveness as a gospel mandate. Moreover, citing a breach of their canonical right to due process, some priests are appealing to Rome. It already appears that, pending further word from the Vatican, some dioceses will in fact not implement a zero-tolerance policy in those cases in which there is no clear evidence that there was more than one offense. On the other hand, victims and survivors of sexual abuse are as quick to cry foul in the face of this mounting opposition, stating that the very nature of this crime is such that one incident is unlikely. The lack of evidence and the testimony of the accused are not sufficient proof for them that it occurred only once. They may be correct. The database to which I have been exposed over the last seventeen years in dealing with...

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About the Author

The Reverend Kenneth Lasch is pastor of St. Joseph’s Church, Mendham, New Jersey.