Sunday, February 20, 2011

When Does A News Story Appear Below the Fold?

How long does a news story have “legs”? When does a story get so old, that the national and international news organizations will no longer pay attention to any new developments? Could this be happening to the story of the Catholic Church clergy sexual abuse story?

On February 14th, the Catholic News Service carried the story of a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; grand jury indicting 4 individuals, 3 priests and a 1 layperson of sexually assaulting children; and a former archdiocesan official of endangering children by ignoring the abuse. Probably because of the events in the Middle East, the national media seems to be ignoring this story. Or could we be seeing another example of the famous American trait of a short attention span. If a situation was not resolved in few weeks, Americans are said to turn their attention to something else.

This story is still very much alive for the victims of abuse and their supporters; very much alive for those Catholics who love the Church and are in pain of what has been happening to it. Each new story seems to rip off the scab and expose the wounds again, not just in this country, but across the sea into Europe. Many Catholics cannot bear it any longer and have left, others struggle to reform the Church and calling on it to be more accountably for the actions of its clergy.

The American bishops established a zero tolerance policy concerning priests who were credibly found to have abused children; dioceses have established preventive programs Many American Catholics find that these actions are not enough, that certain bishops need to be forced to resign; and that the names of all priests accused of abuse be made public. But there are now some Catholics who have voiced concerns over whether the zero tolerance policy goes too far; that we may have forgotten the American ideal that a person is innocent until he or she is found guilty in a court of law. John Allen of National Catholic Reporter has written about these new voices in the clergy sexual abuse story.

This is story that will sadly be with us for a long time, whether reported in the national press or just in the Catholic press. It will darken our hearts and challenge our faith. But there are some stories of hope and healing, as reported by the Concord Pastor and the Deacon’s Bench. In the Archdiocese of Dublin, the Archbishop of Dublin, and my own Archbishop, Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM CAP, will be leading a Liturgy of Lament and Repentance. They will both be washing the feet of victims of abuse. Would that all bishops do the same for all victims who members of their flocks!

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