NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Catholic Church should stand up and say enough

Who can begin to comprehend the damage done by Catholic priests who have sexually abused children for decades in this country and around the world?

A single incident should be immediately reported, prosecuted and held up as a warning from the Church to all priests that nothing so egregious will ever be tolerated, much less hidden. Lives have been devastated, and the church should have long ago solved this problem.

We can’t turn back the clock on what has happened. We CAN make sure we take every step possible to prevent it from happening again, and certainly make sure that if it does happen, action is swift and final in putting the offender behind bars while not only rescuing but rehabilitating the victims.

Why are these cases just now coming to light after decades of being shrouded in secrecy by the Church? Because, for one thing, parents and parishioners and Church leaders haven’t believed the children who had the courage or desperation to cry out for help. And how many others kept their torture to themselves because of threats, fear or self-denigration from blaming themselves under the belief that their priests were God’s chosen and above reproach?

When a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a report alleging sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by 301 priests since 1950, the floodgates were opened on this pent up reservoir of secrecy at last. The jury investigated abuse within six of eight Catholic dioceses across Pennsylvania and revealed that church leaders attempted to cover up the abuse by persuading victims not to report it.

Last week, Bishop Kevin Rhoades released the names of 18 priests and deacons in the Fort Wayne/South Bend Diocese who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.

But just the names of the abusers, their dates and sites of service and number of credible accusations have been released. While Rhoades said that by releasing these names, he hoped “the innocent victims of these horrific and heartbreaking crimes can finally begin the process of healing,” what’s next in the Fort Wayne/South Bend Diocese is key. Just as it is in Pennsylvania, Evansville, Kentucky and around the world.

News-Sentinel.com reporter Kevin Leininger’s column Thursday pointed out that new reports detail 3,677 abuse cases in Germany between 1946 and 2014 and 4,444 cases in Australia between 1980 and 2015. “Attorneys general in New York and Kentucky,” he wrote, “are considering investigations, and some victims are demanding action by the U.S. Justice Department.”

Thursday, the bishop of the Diocese of Evansville said it will collect and release the names of its priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors.

Lawsuits are currently being filed by victims of abuse across the country, and dioceses and religious orders have already paid settlements of more than $3 billion.

Childhood sexual abuse survivors may suffer life-long physical and psychological issues, such as depression, especially if they don’t come foreword with what happened to them and hold in their feelings of guilt and shame. These survivors may be eligible for significant financial compensation for pain, suffering, therapy, medical treatments, rehabilitation and lost earnings. According to lawsscout.com, help is available in all 50 states.

Let the church stand up and say enough. Let law enforcement pursue these cases, and let prosecutors seek justice at long last. May parents and parishioners listen to and believe their children when they are crying for help. And may these victims and their families hold their abusers accountable for what they have done.