A way the church shields sex offenders

by Mary Ann McGivern

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I subscribe to the Marshall Project, a criminal justice reporting project. The June 22 "pick of the day's criminal justice news" included this bit:

Lawmakers in New York once again fail to pass legislation that would extend the statute of limitations on childhood sex abuse. The Child Victims Act had deep-pocketed opposition from the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America.

The church and the Boy Scouts acted to prevent sex offenses from coming to light. Well, I'm guessing "the Church" here refers to some Catholic bishops, not the whole church. They are protecting priests and troop leaders who have violated children by silencing the accusers. And the bishops (I don't know what the Boy Scouts do) compensate by challenging the behavior of women and girls.

For example, our St. Louis Archbishop Carlson has complained about the Girl Scouts, saying in his letter of Feb. 19, 2016: "Girl Scouts is exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior and it is clear to me that as they move in the ways of the world it is becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values." He was referring to reproductive health care and abortion, of course, but not because these are in the local troop curriculum. Rather, the national organization has links with Oxfam and Amnesty International and identifies Gloria Steinem as a role model. Now some parishes have locked out the Girl Scouts.

But local Girl Scout troops are led by mothers to earn badges for accomplishments. They are a far cry from any church lobbying action to curtail justice for victims of sexual abuse.

I feel like the moral compass of the world has broken loose from its field of the good and the true. Yes, morals are complex. For example, I would put far fewer people in prison than most, including sex offenders. But that's not to say they shouldn't go on trial and face their accusers. Sentences are too long for sex offenses. The stigma of guilt is greater than the stigma of murder. It is a myth that most sex offenders recidivate.

Nonetheless the victims deserve their day in court, offenders should be punished, and the church should not put the rest of us at risk by shielding predators.

This is a small matter, I suppose, in light of thousands of immigrants being deported and millions of people with disabilities being threatened with loss of health care. But it is our matter as Catholics, our house, our dollars from the collection baskets. I feel ashamed.

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