The cover pages of national news magazines, special TV programs, and local newspapers are all asking this question. Our state of the art instantaneous electronic communication has made information available to all who care to listen or to read. Since January '02 the escalating charges have made this scandal assume nearly epic proportions. It has become so important that poor old and ill John Paul II called American Cardinals and bishops to Rome, presumably to discuss solutions to address this now global problem.
The only given in this tragic situation is that yes - the Roman Catholic Church will survive. It has survived for 2000 years; the horrors of the Inquisition, the upheaval caused by Martin Luther, the bloody break with England and Henry VIII, as well as other numerous trials of the powerful church of Rome.
The present situation has been made public by men and women, now adults, who have been victims of sexual abuse by priests, and have come forward with their accusations. Some from as long as 40 years ago, and whose lives have been affected by the trauma of destroyed trust.
The media has brought to the public the prurient details of the crimes of the accused priests, and the vast numbers who have been involved in these crimes. The reporting has been similar to the reporting of the murders and sex crimes that daily occur in our society. If nothing happens to change things, the old ones will be repeated. I do not denigrate the media. These things must be brought to light in order that they may be corrected. However, the thousands of priests who daily give their lives in service to people of their parish and to God are seldom mentioned.
On PBS April 15, a program was shown of a currently practicing priest and the yearlong diary he kept of his life in the inner city of Philadelphia. The parish was poor, the needs were great. From food to clothing to payment of rent, he was there night and day to help. He gave his whole life to God, through his people, and had been doing it for 24 years. This poignant story was shown from 11 p.m. to midnight - not exactly prime time.
For 20 years of my life, I was a practicing Catholic, and during that time was the grateful recipient of each of the kinds of help described above, through the efforts of a dedicated priest. We did not live in the inner city, but we were poor. Mine was only one of such stories.
There are countless criticisms and ideas being aired and written. However, there is no question that pedophilia is a crime and should be dealt with according to civil law and the system of justice as prescribed by the laws of this country. Children should never be put at risk in this way. But as to how to prevent it and why it happens, I don't presume to have the wisdom to offer solutions. Hopefully, Pope John Paul II and his plethora of advisors will. There are 63 million suffering Catholics in America alone. Let us pray for the daily laborers in this troubled vineyard.