Today is Pope Benedict XVI's final day as the leader of Catholics around the world. Stories swirling around his resignation prompts many questions. The most pressing one: Are children safe within the Catholic Church - Sandy Springs and North Fulton included?
Last week, during a "CBS This Morning" town hall segment on the state of the Catholic Church, a mother said, “At this point, if I had to leave my child with a priest for him to watch him for the day, that would not happen.”
In full disclosure, I am Catholic. But as much as I love the holiness of the Catholic experience I have never been fully in step with the rules.
When news broke of Pope Benedict’s resignation, the first thought that came to my mind, and many others, was that it must be related to a child sexual abuse scandal.
Not everyone agreed. A Sandy Springs Patch Facebook friend wrote: "...It must have been an incredibly difficult decision that he wrestled with over much prayer and advice.”
I had recently seen the HBO Documentary, “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.” It thoughtfully and painfully details decades-long sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, starting in the 1960s with the sexual abuse of hundreds of boys at St. John’s School for the Death, in Milwaukee.
The film reported that $80 million was spent on rehabilitating and re-circulating 2000 priests between the 1950s and 1990s in Italy, France, Great Britain, South America and the Philippines.
When Pope Benedict was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he led a Vatican office for 25 years that dealt with the most severe cases of sexual abuse by priests, the film noted. In 2001, he put forth an order that every child sexual abuse case, worldwide, be sent directly to him.
On Monday, the Pope accepted the resignation of a Britain senior cardinal amid reports of a sex and blackmail scandal. It seemed bizarre to hear Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the New York Archbishop so casually say on the "Good Morning America" program, “We get tons of rumors; and all these whispers, most of them are not true.”
In these years after the height of the sexual abuse scandals of the Catholic Church, it feels like the church may finally be reaching a tipping point and must acknowledge in a larger way the hypocrisy of celibacy, and separately that the church has been a go to place for many pedophiles guised as priests. Or is that acknowledgment a naïve, wishful thought?
In any case, doubts remain in some parents' minds on how safe children are in the church, not just the mother mentioned above. When CBS analyst Frank Luntz, asked the entire town hall group, ”Who in this room would be uncomfortable leaving their child alone with a priest?” Several in the group raised their hand.
“The Catholic religion has to regain the trust of its followers,” a man said.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments.