For Immediate Release April 6, 2010
|Contact:||Sr. Christine Schenk 216-228-0869 X 4 (W); 216-513-3647 (C)
William Wisniewski (Married Catholic Priest) 330-931-0111 (C) 330-297-4153 (W)
Mary Louise Hartman 609-921-9134 (W) 609-915-2258 (C)
The breadth and depth of the worldwide clergy sex abuse crisis is, for the first time, challenging Vatican officials to be accountable to victims and ultimately to Catholic laity.
“Decades of pain and suffering endured by victims of clergy sex abuse point to the need for a serious overhaul of Church governance structures,” said Sr. Christine Schenk, Executive Director of FutureChurch.
“We need a system of checks and balances that holds our leaders accountable, includes due process for redress of grievances, and allows diverse perspectives to be heard. While extraordinarily painful right now, in the end this will be good for the Church. This devastating lack of accountability must not continue.”
Currently there are no mechanisms in the Church for sanctioning bishops who knowingly transfer pedophile priests or who cover up sexual abuse inflicted by non-clergy subordinates such as lay coaches or teachers.
“If episcopal power is to be exercised appropriately, it must be balanced by power exercised in the community of believers,” said FutureChurch board member, Bill Wisniewski
“It is apparent that there were no advocates for children at the table when the terrible decisions were made to transfer pedophile priests or cover up abuses by lay coaches or teachers rather than report them to law enforcement officials.” Wisniewski is a married priest and himself the father of two children.
FutureChurch is calling on Vatican leaders to implement zero tolerance for clergy sex abuse in the worldwide church, as the US Catholic Bishops' Conference did in June 2002.
The organization also believes the Vatican should implement recommendations issued by the U.S. National Lay Review Board in 2004 calling for increased lay consultation in the selection of bishops and an indepth study of the relationship of mandatory celibacy to clergy sex abuse. The latter recommendation was recently echoed by Vienna's Cardinal Schoenborn.
“Bishops and the Vatican should not scapegoat homosexual clergy as a way of diverting attention from their own culpability,” said FutureChurch board member, Mary Louise Hartman. Hartman cited a recent John Jay study commissioned by U.S. Bishops that found sexual orientation was not a significant factor in U.S. clergy sex abuse. Numerous other experts note that healthy gay priests are no more likely to violate celibacy promises than healthy straight priests.
“Instead the bishops and the Vatican need to accept responsibility for the consequences of a closed clerical culture of secrecy which allowed such abuses to continue without the knowledge of civil authorities or lay Catholics."Ultimately, bishops must heed the voices of lay people and include them meaningfully on all levels of church decision making.'” concluded Hartman.
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