None of this work is acknowledged by SNAP or by the press. Instead the Catholic Church, as Pope Francis has pointed out, continues to be scapegoated, and Barbara Blaine and SNAP continue to pretend that nothing is being done. Attendees at the annual SNAP convention testify to the atmosphere of extreme hatred toward the Catholic Church. Could there be another motivation for the continued attacks on the Catholic Church? The links between church-suing lawyer Jeff Anderson and the funding of SNAP are well established.
What else can the Catholic Church do to address the sex abuse crisis? The Pope’s commission must make sure the zero tolerance principle is maintained across the church’s structures, but most of all, Catholic officials must be more proactive in getting the message across about what is being done every day at the local level to prevent child abuse. Those of us who work in parishes and school in the United States can testify to the extensive training courses, certification, background checks and child protection policies that are in place. At a moment’s notice, given any form of credible accusation, a priest or church worker will be yanked out and thrown under the bus. Catholics need to make it known that the zero tolerance policy is in place.
We must also insist on facts and call out anti-Catholic gossip and anti-Catholic bigotry when it occurs. Catholic priests are not the only abusers, and the studies reveal that the problem is much worse in other sectors of society. We must admit our own failings, make reparation and do better, but we must also continue to publicize the real story of priestly sex abuse. Objective and factual studies like Philip Jenkins’s Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis and the John Jay Report provide the real facts about sex abuse among Catholic priests. These studies lay out the truth and put it into context and we need to be more proactive in proclaiming the truth.
In the name of the whole church, it is right for Pope Francis to meet victims and apologize. It is right that we face the horrible truth about a few sick men who served as priests. It is right that we fact the truth about the bishops who covered up for them.
But it is also right that we proclaim the real truth about child sex abuse and insist on justice not only for the victims, but for all involved in the sordid and sorry mess.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker is the author of The Romance of Religion: Fighting for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.