In a well written article, [Feb.11/11, the National Catholic reporter], Msgr. Stephen Rossetti articulates what I, and many falsely accused priests, have long argued: the so-called Dallas Charter is a seriously flawed approach to the abuse crisis and, tragically, this flawed approach of the American Bishops has served as a template for similar documents throughout the Church.
The full article is available on-line at the NCR web site.
The key points in the article are: 1] priests feeling ‘they’ve been thrown under the bus’; 2] experts noting ‘cutting predators loose puts the community at risk’; 3] distortion of ‘the theology of the priesthood’; 4] and finally, but equally telling, ‘the higher percentage of false accusations’.
That the abuse of innocent children is a horrendous crime and sin is beyond dispute.
However for more than twenty years now the stark reality has been the progressive erosion, because of the so-called zero tolerance mentality, from the Vatican to the local Chancery, of reconciliation, repentance and renewal, of the very theology of the priesthood, indeed of the actual reality of Bishops as true shepherds and fathers.
There has been no reduction in the hurt and anger of victims, certainly not of those who, in the media and in so-called advocacy groups continue to hound the Church, even with the constant apologies, court settlements, instant banishing of accused priests.
We simply have replaced the terrible reality of denial in previous decades with an approach that does indeed throw priests willy-nilly under the bus.
If the Bishops are serious about protecting children then rather than casting out accused priests, guilty ones and falsely accused ones, the bishops should keep a tighter rein, a closer watch, and insure no priest, guilty or not, is cut loose.
If the Bishops are serious about proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of compassion and forgiveness, of reconciliation and conversion, then they should be enacting well crafted, profoundly spiritual, and as needed, psychologically sound programs which address the reality of crime and sin without abandoning the Gospel.
Of course this would require Bishops of deep spiritual maturity and courage.
If the Bishops believe in the ancient tradition and theology of the priesthood then their obsessive practice of forced laicization must end.
If not then having gutted the theology of the priesthood and reduced it from the sacramental reality of an indelible sacrament to a mere conferring of temporary status, all arguments against, for example the ordination of women or a married priesthood, become specious.
Granted the whole matter of facing the reality of the sins of some priests, the immense harm done to the victims, in all its aspects is both complex and highly emotional.
However the so-called Dallas Charter has proven itself to be a seriously flawed quick fix which, among other facts that should cause us all immense concern, has resulted in both a spike in false accusations and such a spike in priests committing suicide that the latter is on the verge of becoming commonplace.
Yes we should with intense prayer and fasting beseech the Holy Spirit to bring about an end to priestly sin, and especially to increase the holiness of priests – after reading the well-argued article of Msgr. Rossetti I believe we should also storm heaven for an infusion of courage and compassion into the hearts of our Bishops.