The Catholic Church in the United States has had a somber cloud hanging over it for the past few days in the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report’s release. Many Catholics—both clergy and laity—are offering prayers and sacrifices in reparation for the heinous crimes that were committed, and the Church is working to find ways to ensure that these atrocities do not happen again. But even so, some Catholics find themselves overcome with anger at the thought of our shepherds using their positions of authority to inflict irreparable damage on members of the flock they were meant to protect.
Andre from Oakland, California, called to express his anger and ardent desire that abusive clergy face punishment for their actions. “I’m really saddened with this news out of PA and I know we need to pray about it … but we also need to take action. These priests need to go to jail,” he said.
The report’s contents are disturbing, and have moved many Catholics to tears and righteous anger. “The Pennsylvania report is just near impossible to read without really being ill on many different levels. Emotionally, mentally, every way—even physically,” said Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your FatherTM on Relevant Radio®.
He encouraged Andre to see the tremendous progress that the Church has made in implementing policies that protect the vulnerable from abuse so that the sins committed decades ago are not repeated. “Has the Church gotten it perfect yet? No. But I think the Church is really engaging this and has for a while. If you look at that report, most everything in it is from a very long time ago. Most of it well before 2002 when this was begun to be dealt with in the kind of very serious and straightforward way that you refer to. Now, the question about the criminal, that’s a state thing. The Church has no power over the criminal justice system. But obviously, these are crimes as well as immoralities,” says Msgr. Swetland.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting abusers to face justice for their actions. Justice is necessary, not only for the good of the victims but also for the perpetrators. “It’s always good for criminals to suffer the just punishment of their crime … this is something that even Plato and Aristotle, the ancient Greeks understood, that the worst thing that can happen to an evildoer is to get away with the evil because that confirms them and conforms them to the wickedness.”
For more about the sexual abuse crisis, read Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Sexual Abuse Crisis and tune in for continuing coverage of new developments.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.