Another scandal, more hand wringing, assurances from the Church that they will try harder... The result is that people lose faith in their church leaders and it affects their faith in God. That's the truth. That's the problem. What's the solution?
While it is unlikely that the majority of the faithful will serve on the panel to investigate sexual misconduct by priests, we ought to. After all, we are the faithful in the pews who year after year support the Church with our time, talent and treasure. We are also the ones who want to protect our children from abuse of any kind. We are also the source of tomorrow's priests. We have a lot to give We have a lot of reasons to make sure this stops happening.
In light of that these are my suggestions, concerns, and solutions.
1. It's time to start admitting that clergy misconduct is a whole lot more than misconduct. It is SIN with a Mortal consequence. It destroys lives of faith. It is sin that shrinks membership into the church. It is sin that fails to evangelize.
2. Its time to admit that clergy misconduct gets its start long before the actual incident of pedophilia or adultery takes place.
3. It's time to admit that few parishioners want a priest to act as minister when he is mired down by personal temptations and problems.
4. It's time to admit that failing to admit the truth is always problematic.
Long ago a priest friend told me that the Bishops and priests who seem to hide behind sanitized press releases and lack courage to fully support all aspects of authentic, orthodox life and love issues fail to do so because they have been compromised by some personal sin. This could explain the lack of leadership in and outside of the church.
5. It's time to admit that clergy misconduct includes downloading pornographic images of any kinds.
6. It's time to admit that clergy visits to brothels, hot spots in the city, chat-rooms,etc. is an act of clergy misconduct. It is not just playing with fire as suggests Fr. McDonough. It is an act of misconduct that ought to be punished immediately.
7. It's time to admit that a priest's sexual encounter with any person, any age of person, any time, any place is an act of clergy misconduct. But acts of pedophilia are even more heinous because it involves a minor who is young, impressionable, and vulnerable. Priests take the vow of permanent chastity and we can rightfully and righteously hold them to that standard - no matter how perverted our general society is getting. We have to have priests willing to live differently if we are to teach others how to love.
8. It's time to change the language and the words used to describe the misconduct.
9. It's time to change the way church leaders inform seminarians about the consequences of the misconduct. For example, several years ago, I asked our parish assistant priest what/how the seminary trains them with regard to sexual scandals. This is his reply: "They tell us to make sure we never involve a parishioner!" My reply: a priest preparing a young couple for marriage would never tell either person to make sure any adulterous affair didn't involve someone they knew! Why any seminary training would suggest the above, explains the problem - partly.
Also there is no way to give proper feedback when a young seminarian is assigned to a parish. Why are there not proper channels that we can rely on to offer the feedback - both positive and negative.
10. Corporations have long instituted a policy of inspecting all computer usage among employees for inappropriate usage. The Diocese ought to institute the same scrutiny of the priests' computers, laptops, iphones, any internet access points. The first offense is punishable immediately and appropriately - removal from ministry.
11. Provide clergy living accommodations in which priests are held accountable to each other. The priests ought to live with other priests.
12. Security cameras ought to be installed in each office.
13. Accountability to everyone is necessary. Priests need to be protected from loneliness by instituting regular community discussions about these matters. It's not happening now according to more than one priest source.
Simple solutions for complex problems. These work.