The sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church has reached a “degree we could not have imagined,” according to a statement made by Pope Benedict XVI on Monday that was quoted the December 20th New York Times.
Pecklers is a professor of liturgy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and widely regarded as one of the foremost authorities on Catholic liturgy in the world. He is also a frequent commentator on Vatican Affairs for ABC News. Pecklers is a native of Jersey City and it was in St. Paul’s Church in the Greenville section of Jersey City that then-14-year-old Brennan was abused by him starting in 1976.
In a December 5th story, the Star-Ledger also reported about how John J. Myers, the Archbishop of Newark, shielded at least four priests who had been accused of sexual abuse against children and one adult:
In the four instances, the priests have either admitted improper sexual contact, pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from accusations of sexual misconduct or been permanently barred from ministry by the archdiocese after allegations of sexual misconduct.
In his Christmas message to the Vatican hierarchy, the Pope wrote that
“We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred…….We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen.”
In the past year, investigations in Ireland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United States have found that clerics from parish priests to those at high levels like Fr. Pecklers, committed sexual abuse against children in many cases. And in many if not most cases, the church hierarchy covered up the abuse, sometimes moving priests with a history of sexually abusing children from parish to parish, and without informing parishioners of the priests’ history.
In his Christmas letter, even though the Pope states that ‘“We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility,”’ he also says that the abuses should be viewed ‘in the context of these times.”‘
But rather than blaming ‘these times’ for the catalogue of abuses committed around the world, should not the Pope be looking at the culture of the Roman Catholic Church, a culture that, indeed, shielded and continues to shield—to protect—clerics who committed terrible crimes? As a July 8 editorial from the National Catholic Reporter states, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is ‘as it has evolved in the past half millennium is deeply damaged from within.’
Earlier this year, the Vatican revised its law on sexual abuse, a step in the right direction—-but a step that seems to be not only too little, but too, too late.
Photo by Kamoteus (A Better Way).