Because of all the inaccuracies in the recent coverage of the Catholic Church in the New York Times and other publications, appearing in news articles, editorials, and op-eds, I was tempted to try my best to offer corrections to the multitude of errors. However, I soon realized that this would probably be a full time job.
It is a source of consternation as to why, instead of complimenting the Vatican and a reformer like Pope Benedict XVI, for codifying procedures long advocated by critics, such outfits would instead choose to intrude on a matter of internal doctrine, namely the ordination of women.
But, correcting the paper is not what really matters. What is important is the well-being of God’s people, especially of His little ones.
The bottom line is that the Holy Father, the Vatican, and the Church universal regards with the utmost seriousness the heinous and sinful crime of child abuse and is committed to doing everything it can to ensure that justice is served and that such abuse never happens again.
If critics want to say, “It’s about time,” fair enough. But for critics to continue their obsessive criticism of Benedict XVI, claiming that he just “doesn’t get it,” is simply out of bounds.
The norms released last week by the Holy See take what have been standard practice for several years, especially here in the United States, and made them formally part of Church law. You can read the norms here, and an explanation by the Vatican’s press officer, Father Frederico Lombardi, here.
This is very important. It’s not merely administrative housekeeping as some have said, or procedural updates. The offenses listed — child abuse, use of child pornography, and abuse of a mentally disabled adult — now carry the weight of the most serious of crimes against the very heart of the Church.
These norms speed up the processing of cases, allow qualified individuals who are not priests to serve on tribunals, require that the sexual abuse of a mentally handicapped person be treated as gravely as that of a minor, extends the time in which penalties are applicable, and confirm that child pornography is not only a grievous sin but a church crime.
These are serious advances and clearly lay out Pope Benedict’s ongoing firm commitment to providing justice and healing for the victims of abuse in an effective, timely, just and compassionate manner.
The Church is, contrary to media reports, ahead of her time. As Dr. Paul McHugh, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and internationally recognized expert in child abuse has said, “Nobody is doing more to address the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church.”
That the Church is indeed doing this is the real story here.
It is fair to say that decades ago the Catholic Church was an example of what not to do when dealing with sexual abuse of minors. However, now it is fair to say that the Catholic Church is an example of what to do about a crime found in every religion, every profession, every culture, and many families.
Make no mistake, Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church are at the forefront of addressing the problem of clerical abuse but, even more, of addressing abuse wherever it occurs in society.
And that won’t change no matter how much some in the media try to slant the truth.