Priest Abuse Scandal: Actions Speak Louder than Words

Two unrelated incidents this past week reveal much about where the Catholic Church stands regarding the sex abuse scandal that has plagued the institution for the last decade. Catholic officials, including bishops, archbishops, even the Pope, have often said they always cooperate with civil authorities in investigating allegations of sexual abuse. In fact, the US bishops continue to tout their “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to clergy that have been “credibly” accused of the abuse of minors. We’ve heard seemingly heartfelt statements from the Pope, bishops and archbishops about their anguish in learning of the survivors’ struggles. The words have always been well crafted. Yet, actions always speak louder and more eloquently than words.
This past week, we discovered that the senior Vatican representative to Ireland sent a letter to the Irish bishops in 1997 forbidding them from cooperating with civil authorities in their investigation of priest sex abuse cases. The papal representative even went so far as to mention “moral and canonical” difficulties with his brother bishops cooperating with the police. If you’re reading this and shaking your head, you should be? What “moral” difficulty could there possibly be with helping police catch those who abuse kids? The after spin by the Vatican has been interesting. Some church officials said that the letter was issued by the Congregation for the Clergy and they no longer handle priest abuse cases (now it’s the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). The intimation is that somehow the Congregation for the Clergy made an error.
The second action that speaks louder than words concerns the Archbishop of Boston’s promise that he would post all those archdiocesan clergy who’ve been accused of sex abuse. The archbishop made the promise two years ago and there’s been no action. That’s when Mitch Garabedian, a friend of mine and a courageous defender of survivors, took matters into his own hands. He posted the 117 names on his website! Good for him.
Actions do speak louder than words. If your words aren’t consistent with your actions, you risk the possibility of being labeled a hypocrite.