Nearly every month since Dallas in 2002 when the U.S. bishops undertook a concerted effort to address the crisis of clergy sex-abuse, I have been covering it in some way, shape or form for St. Anthony Messenger magazine. I have written editorials, rants as a mom in Faith-filled Family, reports on various cases, court settlements and bankruptcy filings in Church in the News and interviewed Bishop Joseph Galante in our June 2003 special issue on the crisis. To say it has been part of the reality of my life for 10-plus years is an understatement.
And to say I feel deeply passionate about the topic doesn’t even come close to summing up my feelings. You see, in addition to all of the above, I’ve seen the crisis up close and personal. I know the names and faces of some abusers. I went to their Masses, and I went to school with some of their victims.
So when I read an article by Catholic News Service on comments Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels, president of the Belgian bishops’ conference, made regarding compensating survivors of clergy sex abuse, I was floored.
According to the article, Archbishop Leonard said he “feared the consequences of compensating victims, because payments could also be demanded for ‘unhappy children born via artificial insemination’ or facing the ‘psychological impact’ of being raised by same-sex couples.”
I had to read the article a second time. Are you serious? I thought to myself. He really said that?
I’ve read a number of articles trying to explain the archbishop’s comments—that those who have been abused should seek redress from the justice system before the church and that there should be a “solidarity fund” for those abused when courts are unable to establish “direct responsibility.” He added that the Church would contribute to it “in the same way that it already intervenes for victims of natural catastrophes or for the poor.” Really? Now we’re equating sex abuse with natural disasters?
Unfortunately, if there’s anything I’ve learned from covering this crisis it’s that just when I think I can’t be more shocked, infuriated or saddened by the actions of some in the Catholic Church, I am.
And as I have begun covering this latest round of the crisis erupt in Europe, I shake my head in disappointment. Have these countries not watched the pain and suffering such abuse has caused in the United States? For better or worse, our bishops have certainly provided plenty of examples of both how and how not to handle this crisis. Were these other countries not watching and learning? If so, why are these abuse cases just now making the headlines? If not, did they think they were immune from such evil?
Regardless of the answer, all I know is that I’m infuriated that I have to keep covering this crisis. But at the same time, I am now all the more determined to keep covering it in case there’s even one person out there, like Archbishop Leonard, who still doesn’t get it.