«Skal det bare én telefosamtale til før en prest blir suspendert?» Slik avslutter John Allen en artikkel som omtaler behandlingen av anklager mot katolske prester i erkebispedømmet Philadelphia. Der har kardinal Justin Rigali tydeligvis (uten at mange visste det) ikke rapportert videre anklager mot prester som man ikke har funnet troverdige eller alvorlige nok. Men nå har nylig en domstol funnet at 37 av disse prestene har alvorlige anklager mot seg, og diskusjonen blant amerikanske biskoper raser – og de fleste er svært mye strengere i sin praksis. Les Hele John Allens artikkel her, og han avslutter den slik:
…. bishop complained of a “lack of information” from the Philadelphia archdiocese. “We have this massive grand jury report,” he said, “but the responses from the archdiocese so far have been vague.”
Others came to Rigali’s defense, suggesting there may be a “benign” interpretation of choices made by the cardinal and his aides.
Some of the cases in the grand jury report, one bishop said, may involve “boundary issues,” such as an inappropriate conversation with a minor, that do not necessarily rise to the level of sexual abuse. In those instances, the bishop said, a decision not to make a report may have been intended to resist “charter creep,” meaning expanding the purview of review boards beyond their mandate, distracting them from their core purpose.
Another bishop said the Philadelphia situation highlights a key bit of unfinished business: achieving a clearer definition of what precisely constitutes sexual abuse, and how it differs from other objectionable conduct.
“My sense is that some review boards handle these ‘boundary issue’ cases one way, and some boards handle them another way,” one bishop said.
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take them seriously,” this bishop said. “We have to move quickly to address them, but they require a different response than actual sexual abuse.”
In general, most bishops seem hesitant to pass judgment until more facts are in. “At this point, I don’t sense resentment directed at Rigali that in any way approximates what the bishops felt about Bernie Law,” one prelate said, referring to the former archbishop of Boston who resigned in December 2002 amid the first wave of the American crisis.
A final worry expressed by some bishops concerns the impact of the Philadelphia situation upon priests across the country.
The takeaway from Philadelphia, one bishop said, is that no matter how weakly documented a charge may be, it will now automatically result in a report to the police and the review board, and suspension from ministry — meaning that in the court of public opinion, the priest will be branded an abuser.
“Every priest in the country is just one phone call away from disgrace and removal,” the bishop said. “I don’t understand why nobody seems to be speaking up on this.”