Another Long Lent
The abuse crisis resurfaces in Philadelphia
by Nicholas P. Cafardi, Commonweal Magazine, April 2011
Last month, three Philadelphia priests were indicted for sexual abuse, and their former vicar for clergy was charged with child endangerment. Perhaps more troubling, those indictments came after a grand jury found “substantial evidence of abuse” committed by at least thirty-seven other priests who remained in active ministry. In response, Cardinal Justin Rigali said that “there are no archdiocesan priests in ministry today who have an admitted or established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against them.” Six days later the archbishop placed three of the thirty-seven on administrative leave. Three weeks after that, he suspended another twenty-one.
For Philadelphia Catholics, the shocking news was not altogether surprising. They recall a 2005 grand-jury report [PDF] that harshly criticized the archdiocese for its handling of sexually abusive priests. Still, nearly a decade after the scandal exploded in Boston, Catholics want to know: How could this happen again? Haven’t we been down this road before?
“Until there are no more Bostons, no more Philadelphias, no more Chicagos, any talk of softening zero tolerance remains premature. Without that policy, we’d be asked simply to trust such bishops’ judgment. As any Philadelphia parent would ask, Why should we?”