In the last few years, the Catholic Church has made some strides in dealing with the atrocious behavior of sexual abuse charges coming forth against many of its priests and members of the Roman Catholic Order. Although it appears that this child sexual abuse crime has mostly been committed by priests, there are allegations against other members as well. In addition to actual charges of sexual abuse that took place over years, there is also the allegations of cover up and moving of priests to different location and parishes instead of dealing with the issue.
In addition to the monetary loss (approximately two billion dollars – some say it’s closer to three), this scandal has cost the public and its members to distrust the Catholic Church and how it handles matters. There have been many payouts to victims; however, this will never make up for all the damage that has been caused. Some will most probably continue in therapy for years. The church, however, is finally making amends in some of these cases that have recently come to light. As part of this restitution, the church has made the availability of counseling and restitution where victims are concerned.
In terms of preventative measures there are a number of different programs now in place that seek out and address warning signs that might arise from the clergy and/or other members of the church. There are special sections of the Catholic church that have been put in place to address these very issues. These factions will now address the abusers and heinous acts both through preventative analysis and by directly addressing the problem itself rather than covering it up as in previous times.
The church has responded that it will view any sexual abuse cases on three levels. They will look at it from a diocesan level, an Episcopal conference level, and also from the Vatican level. The higher levels will now become more involved as the gravity of the problem becomes more evident. For instance, in the past, clergy abuse was mostly left up to the bishops to decide how to handle these cases and some handled these accusations poorly.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has since called for swift and sure punishment for priests that are accused of this misconduct. This process, however, has to ensure that it also protects the rights of the clergy being accused. In June 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops implemented a zero tolerance practice. Within this zero tolerance mandate, the bishops pledged that within the U.S., the church would provide a safe environment of all children that participated in any church-sponsored activity or events as one of its solutions.
The main aspect that has changed within the church in light of these acts, has been how it responds to reports of abuse. There is no longer a dismissive attitude, but instead one of genuine concern when an allegation is brought to the table. This goes a long way in reassuring those who might experience some kind of sexual abuse by a clergy and or other member. It is now making it “acceptable” for a victim to come forward and seek help. Of course, nothing is fool proof and things may still fall through the cracks, but so long as the church continues to pursue issues as they come up, it will continue to foster a better environment for these types of behaviors to be eradicated from the church. The fact that so many people were previously abused physically and sexually at the hands of mostly the clergy, it is about time that the church begin addressing these problems. Some members are now beginning to feel that the church will take action and will no longer accept this behavior. Others are still not so sure.
With victims coming forward from all over the world, such a realization has sent shock waves into the furthest corners of the Catholic community and church. As such, there has been a demand to reform how these acts are addressed. Some members have gone so far as to shun the Catholic Church altogether; although, this has not been a common practice. These acts that were brutality committed by priests and other members have only served to drive a distrusting wedge between its members and the Church.
Ensuring that the Church survive, was made possible by the very clear and very transparent efforts made to bring anyone who might harm a child to justice. This has included not only internal justice within the Church, but also turning priests over to authorities in the country where they practice. This step has brought some indignation upon the church because the churches premise is based on forgiveness; however, in light of the severity of these offenses it has become more common to turn such people over to the authorities. After all, say most, pedophilia and rape are crimes that can’t go unpunished by society. One thing is to forgive, but another thing is to turn a cheek to moral wrongs being done in a society that can cause great damage.
Members and the community have slowly begun to regain trust in the Catholic Church due to the change it has taken to deal with this very raw issue, but there is still a very long road ahead for trust to be totally restored. Constant vigilance and enforcement of the now staunch policies that govern this institution will ensure that the healing process continues and that other abuses that may be currently occurring are handled property and swiftly.