Now, if only the bishops and other members of the hierarchy could learn that lesson. For years, they have been “forgiving” pedophile priests and shuffling them around the world to keep them out of trouble and to avoid damaging public disclosure.
For years they have been skipping the public and potentially embarrassing step of legal prosecution. For years, the protection of the reputation of the hierarchy has taken priority over the lives of thousands of abused young people. For years the institutional church has wreaked havoc on the lives of the very people it is mandated to save by denying the realities of priestly sexual abuse. For years diocesan insurance carriers have denied retribution to people whose lives have been forever wrecked by pedophile priests without first attempting to wiggle out from under the responsibility by civil court battles. And for years the bishops have allowed those litigations to continue.
Once this massive sexual abuse cover-up became public, bishops continued their denials. Cardinal Law was moved to Vatican City – to avoid the law. Even now, the hierarchy continues to be in denial. Bishops continue to lie about the realities of the sexual abuse cover-up. They continue to defend their dysfunction. Some, like Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City have even been convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse. Predictably, Bishop Finn has been allowed to continue in his position as the moral leader of the diocese. As one member of the Kansas City Diocese put it,“The flock deserves a new shepherd.”
Perhaps most importantly, each bishop continues to fail to say to the victims of his pedophile priests, “I’m truly sorry.” That apology –delivered in true humility and honesty – admitting to the dysfunctional behaviors that drove the cover-up – is all that many of the victims really want.
That apology – followed by genuine and honest efforts to inform the People of God about past, current, and future priestly sexual abuse– is the only way that the institutional church can regain the moral high ground. Until that happens throughout the Catholic Church, it will be increasingly viewed as just another closed hierarchic institution that has lost its way – a bureaucratic institution that cannot see the Light of the Spirit from inside its self-imposed silo.
It’s time to learn the lesson of the butler.
This commentary was first published December 30, 2012 by the Winona Daily News