Our View: Priest list is a first step, but legal action is needed




In the legal world, there is a distinction between a confession and an admission. But in common use, the distinction between the two is that an admission means owning what is already known. 


In that sense, the list released by the Catholic Diocese of Jackson Tuesday is probably both. The church has confessed specifically to acts known generally.  


The list includes the names of 37 Catholic clergy who served in Mississippi whom the church considers allegations of sexual abuse are credible. It also states where the clergy served, when the allegations were made and when those allegations were revealed to the church.  


For many Catholics, the list is a confirmation of abuse that has long been cloaked in secrecy and a good faith effort by the Church to pull back the curtain on these wrongdoings. 


For the more cynical, the list is notable for many reasons. While the list contains allegations that go back as far as 1939, the most recent allegation contained on the list came in 1998. That priests mysteriously quit committing abuse 21 years ago strains credulity and raises the question of just how comprehensive the list actually is. The Diocese said the list is complete, but that subsequent offenses will be added to the list released Tuesday as they come to light. For now, we'll have to trust the Diocese on that point. 


One other thing that is not apparent from the information provided through this list. While many of the clergy were removed from ministry, there is no evidence that any of these people were ever held legally accountable. It appears as though the Church considered these "credible allegations" at internal affairs rather than crimes. 


That, too, must end. 


If the Catholic Church is to retain its credibility, it must not only acknowledge sexual abuse among its clergy, it must fulfill its obligation by notifying legal authorities of these allegations. Sexual abuse is not merely a sin to be handled though the Church and its doctrines. It is a crime that must be handled through the judicial system. 


Anything less is a betrayal of both faith and humanity.



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