A Catholic friend of mine wrote to me a couple of weeks ago saying that she is worried about the state of the Church in light of the paedophile priest cases coming to light. She cited stories from Newsweek as the source of her concerns.
To her and any other Catholic readers who are similarly troubled, please remember that the left-wing press covering this story, mainly Newsweek, the New York Times and the Times (London) adopt an anti-Catholic viewpoint. Therefore, they already speak from a biased perspective.
Having said that, the problem lies within the Catholic Church’s leniency to discipline these priests immediately. Beginning in the 1990s, they should have investigated these claims quickly and, in cases of proven abuse, made doubly sure that priests were disciplined by moving them to other posts out of the public eye or by defrocking them.
It seems as if only Protestant churches take church discipline seriously. It’s there to keep the churches pure. Yet, we see very little of this with our Catholic cousins. The last real case I could think of involved laity: some Catholic priests refusing to give Sen. John Kerry Holy Communion during the Presidential contest in 2004 because of his laissez-faire stance on abortion. Yes, the secular worldwide press fumed at that, but those few priests were doing the right thing.
Similarly, the Vatican should not be leaving disciplinary decisions to local bishops, whether in the US or elsewhere. Vatican II dramatically increased the autonomy of the bishops, and many in America took it seriously to the point where they run their dioceses as fiefdoms.
As a result, many Catholics are disappointed in their leadership. It does the traditional wing, however well-intentioned, no good in promoting Church teachings only to ignore these scandals and call for Christian unity under the Catholic banner.
Whilst we do not need the sensationalism of the NYT, Newsweek and the Times, there is a need to approach this problem objectively and realise that had the Catholic hierarchy cared to apply disciplinary measures sooner, the Church would have had fewer scandals.
No one is saying that Protestant denominations are free of similar sins, but, by and large, they have a better system of internal checks and balances with higher expectations of clergy (and laity). It’s called church discipline: Biblically mandated and there to be used.