Good money after bad? Is that what the Catholic Church is doing in settling sex abuse claims without a plan to prevent their reoccurrence? Are those billions of settlement dollars money well spent? Why have priests continued to be able to commit those heinous acts? As a victim myself, I will never know peace as long as this horrendous issue continues to remain an issue and plays out in the media as a perpetually decades-old bleeding wound.
The Church needs to lift what appears to be a veil of secrecy concerning this ongoing scandal. Where there is tangible evidence that priests have engaged in this abhorrent behavior, they need to be quickly removed from their professional position and mandated to undergo counseling or treatment for what I consider a disease. Further, as these actions are being taken against the accused priests, there needs to be absolute transparency with regard to the corrective actions being taken by the Church hierarchy in addressing the problem. In my case, when I initiated an action against the Church, it appeared to me that all the Church wanted to do was pay me off with the hope that I would go away. That is the wrong approach. There needs to be follow up actions once a monetary settlement is agreed upon where the victim is not just offered counseling service but is encouraged to seek counseling. Perhaps the Church should set aside specific money to even help pay for such counseling. A monetary settlement does not fix a life long wound that has no cure. The Catholic Church needs to do more on this issue or it will continue to be portrayed in the negative light that now illuminates it.
The issue itself might also be abated by lifting the requirement of abstinence for priests. I would argue that it is unnatural to require men to disengage on what many believe is a core need for human beings. The Catholic Church can continue to be adamant in this doctrinaire approach to the priesthood, but I am convinced that if the approach does not change, there will continue to be pedophile priests and the Church will continue to pay billions of dollars in settlements. By most estimates the Catholic Church has paid out between 4 and 5 billion dollars in settlements and may pay even more should the statute of limitations be lifted on some of these cases as is being pursued by several state attorneys general.
In support of this proposal, my dear friend Fr. Tom, one of the most disciplined people I have ever met in my life, personally relayed to me his greatest struggle in being a priest was holding to his vow of abstinence. He did it, but I know for a fact it was a constant struggle. He said he was holding on to the hope that at some point the Church would lift this restriction. The clergy within the Catholic Church is growing old and finding replacements is not an easy task, and if these priests cannot be replaced or are replaced at a slower rate than they are retiring or dying, the Catholic Church will run the risk of losing its prominence as one of the world’s major religions. As it now stands it is bleeding parishioners daily because of this ongoing scandal.
The powers that be in the Church must begin to apologize, atone, and prevent the abominable acts committed by their own. By reevaluating its traditions and centuries-old rules in order to curb the culture that has been allowed to perpetuate and by actually helping the victims of these heinous crimes committed, the Church will be able to do just that. It will be able to move forward and reestablish itself as a respected major world religion and reflection of what it professes God to desire from us.