Editorial from the Wexford People
Harsh policy will unfairly ruin priests’ reputations
Wednesday June 01 2011
FOR decades the Church authorities allowed the lives of countless young people to be destroyed because they ignored the problem of child abusers in their ranks. Indeed, in some instances they did worse than that by actively covering up for the abusers.
Church authorities are desperately trying to regain some of their moral authority and have been in overdrive mode in terms of attempting to create a new image for themselves. This has involved a whole range of reporting measures and an element of transparency which is welcome.
It also involves a very strict and instant policy in dealing with priests against whom allegations are made. Essentially what this involves is the public character assassination of a priest against whom any allegation is made.
In an absolute reversal of natural justice the priest is presumed guilty, removed from his post and left to fight to clear his name with his identity catapulted straight to the centre of public attention.
Even if the allegation has little or no substance or indeed is utterly false, the priest still suffers the public humiliation of having to step down from his post while battling to clear his name. Of course, once news that an allegation has been made enters the public arena the task of restoring one’s reputation, regardless of the validity or otherwise of the original allegation, is virtually impossible.
This Church policy which is being implemented by the authorities is as wrong and damaging to ordinary priests as the previous cover-up policy was for the victim of abuse. There is no doubt that with the exposure of wrongdoing through various costly tribunals and as a result of the actions of some very brave people, the scandalous conduct of not only the abusers but their superiors has left the Church itself a badly damaged institution.
But the new strict policy is reckless in the extreme and must hang as a dark shadow over every single priest in the Diocese who could wake up any morning to hear that they have to leave their post because of some historical, unsubstantiated allegation being made against them.
No one is suggesting that suspected abusers should be left in a position which would facilitate them in committing more offences but this is a complex issue and a degree of examination and testing of allegations should surely be a basic requirement before an individual’s character is sacrificed.
It is time to consign this crazy and brutal policy to the bin before even more lives are scarred.