Who will hold him accountable?
AT THE “Meeting on The Protection of Minors in the Church” at the Vatican last month, Pope Francis outlined the many dimensions to address “the plague of sexual abuse against minors.”
These dimensions include, among others, the protection of children, the “impeccable seriousness” in stating that the Church “will not be spared in doing everything necessary to bring to justice anyone who has committed such crimes,” and “true purification” to transform mistakes into opportunities to “eradicate this scourge not only from the body of the Church but also from that of society.”
Pope Francis, in a press statement at the end of the meeting held at the Vatican from Feb. 21 to 24, said, “Here again I would state clearly: if in the Church there should emerge even a single case of abuse – which already in itself represents an atrocity –that case will be faced with the utmost seriousness. Brothers and Sisters: in people’s justified anger, the Church sees the reflection of the wrath of God, betrayed and insulted by these deceitful consecrated persons. The echo of the silent cry of the little ones who, instead of finding in them fathers and spiritual guides encountered tormentors, will shake hearts dulled by hypocrisy and by power. It is our duty to pay close heed to this silent, choked cry.”
During a discussion in that meeting, someone asked: Who will hold bishops accountable? The Church or civil authorities? To Anne Barrett Doyle, a co-founder of the research and advocacy website BishopAccountability.org, it should be civil authorities. This would minimize suspicions of a whitewash by bishops.
What came out of the Vatican meeting hits a little close to home after a priest in Cebu was cited for molesting a minor inside the rectory. Archbishop Jose Palma confirmed last Saturday there was a complaint against a priest in Dumanjug town for molesting a 17-year-old female altar server. The priest has been relieved of his duties and an investigating committee of two monsignors, Palma said, will look into the allegat i ons.
The girl said she delivered vitamins to the priest’s room, then the priest invited her to eat and watch television with him. A police report said the priest then told the girl to lie beside him in bed; it was then that he reportedly embraced and kissed her. The girl’s family complained to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 which will file against the priest charges of acts of lasciviousness under the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
This is now an opportunity for the local Church to make public its policy for handling abuse cases, especially after the Vatican meeting last month. If the process is clear, there would be no confusion on who should make the priest accountable and no suspicion of bishops covering up for the priest.
Now that the girl’s complaint is with the police and the NBI, let civil authority investigate the complaint and, when warranted, take the priest to court.