Our regular OSV Newsweekly contributor from across the pond, London-based Austen Ivereigh, recently published in the Britain’s daily Guardian newspaper a striking commentary about the clerical sex abuse scandal following Pope Benedict XVI’s latest apology for it.
Ivereigh makes the frequently overlooked point that all the recent focus on the Vatican and Pope Benedict obscures the fact that “the mishandling of these cases in the past was not by the Vatican, but by the local Church; and it is the local Church which has had to put its house in order (and mostly, at least in English-speaking countries, it has done so).
“It was the bishops in dioceses who failed to act on the accusations, or who — especially in the 1970s-80s — moved priests between parishes after spells of therapy rather than removing them from active ministry.”
Ivereigh also addresses another common allegation that misses the mark: While it is undoubtedly true that the Vatican should have responded more quickly and consistently to laicization petitions for abuser priests,
Laicization made no difference to whether an abusive priest had contact with children; the key decision — to remove the priest from active ministry — was made (or not) by a bishop. Rome played no part in that process, and the accusation of some U.S. lawyers that there was some kind of Vatican-ordered cover-up has proved baseless.