I am having a difficult time comprehending the appalling situation in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It's really almost incomprehensible to me. My main questions are: How could this be happening in my hometown nine years after the Dallas Charter was promulgated? Is it possible that priests with credible accusations could still be in ministry almost a decade after the sexual abuse crisis first broke in Boston? After Pope John Paul II said that there was "no place" in the priesthood for abusers? After agonizing testimony from victims and their families, after millions and millions of dollars of payouts following countless lawsuits, after the resignation of Bernard Cardinal Law, after the founding of the Office of Child and Youth Protection at the USCCB, after "safe environment" programs were instituted across the country, after Pope Benedict met personally with victims of abuse during his trip the the United States. In short, after years of agony? To begin to answer those questions, Nicholas Cafardi, dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law and one of the original members of the National Review Board, provides an analysis in Commonweal. (On a personal note, I was horrified to see one of my childhood pastors among the list of 21 priests removed from ministry.) Here is Cafardi:
What was wrong with the Philadelphia review board and the bishops who signed off on their decisions? Who instructed board members on the standard of proof? The fact that bishops approved the board’s mistaken recommendations doesn’t mean they committed a crime. The grand jury would have indicted those bishops if it had come to that conclusion. Still, their failures ought to give pause to critics of zero tolerance. As should the admitted failure of Cardinal Francis George, who—three years after lobbying for zero tolerance in Dallas—refused the advice of his own review board and allowed an abusive priest to remain in ministry. Until there are no more Bostons, no more Philadelphias, no more Chicagos, any talk of softening zero tolerance remains premature. Without that policy, we’d be asked simply to trust such bishops’ judgment. As any Philadelphia parent would ask, Why should we? Read the rest here.
St. Katharine Drexel, St. John Neumann, pray for your city.
James Martin, SJ