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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 27, 2002

Ambivalence persists on pedophiliac priests

After two days of meetings with Pope John Paul II, leaders of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church have moved in a positive way toward rebuilding their damaged credibility through the removal of priests who molest children.

Indeed, in groundbreaking language, the pope bluntly acknowledged what most of us have known all along: that such abuse constitutes criminal behavior. It has been the attempt by senior clergy to deal with pedophiliac priests instead of referring them to law enforcement agencies that has broadened and prolonged this problem.

The 12 American cardinals and three senior clergymen who met with the pope have now proposed expedited procedures to defrock any priest who "has become notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory, sexual abuse of minors."

That's fine, but it doesn't do enough to address those priests who are in earlier stages of their depredations. The cardinals propose to leave disposition of those men up to their bishops.

Perhaps the problem here is confusion among the senior clergy between their understandable and appropriate desire to forgive and rehabilitate priestly sinners and their legal obligation to turn criminals over to the police, and to protect their congregations from them.

Half measures will not restore faith in a crippled system.