The sad reality of recent sex abuse scandals within the Catholic Church is that they appear to be shrouded under an enduring culture of protection and secrecy by the church hierarchy. Some individuals have described these scandals as the worst crisis confronting the Catholic Church since the Protestant Reformation, while others have called for the resignation of Pope Francis and/or blamed a homosexual network operating within the church. We think that these positions are premature, a position also held by most U.S. bishops.
We advocate a thorough and open investigation by both the church and legal authorities of recent charges of sexual abuse by priests and their potential coverup by the church hierarchy. From our perspective, sexual misconduct by priests should be treated as a crime — at the very least it involves sexual harassment between people of unequal power, while at the most it is the statutory rape of a minor. Those in administrative positions who cover up such crimes or create an environment in which abuse flourishes should be investigated for the crime of running an illegal criminal empire. In short, the Catholic Church must rid the church of such “filth.”
We also believe that a wide range of systemic issues underly the recent episodes of sexual scandals within the church. Some of the systemic issues, which have been identified by others, include the authority of bishops, the secrecy of church authorities, the celibacy of priests, and the role of females. We subscribe to the position that, until the church thoroughly addresses all of its systemic problems, it will be vulnerable to additional scandals. We are opposed to the simple scapegoating of the pope, gay priests, and priests sympathetic to homosexuals as the primary impediments to meaningful church reform. The church needs to establish an independent committee to investigate systemic issues underlying sexual abuse and its coverup.
Finally, we are not anti-Catholic or opposed to organized religion in general. We have the highest regard for the Catholic religion, the Catholic faithful, and the good priests who lead and serve their flocks.
Gerald and Elaine VisgilioWesterly