Last Sunday, I went with a delegation of concerned Catholics to present a letter to Bishop Michael Bransfield requesting that he lead the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in addressing child sexual abuse by priests in the Church openly and completely. There is nothing to be gained by trying to avoid the issue, but everything to be gained by being straight forward and transparent. As scripture says in Luke 12:3 “Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” Our people have come to the point where the greatest good and the greatest healing can occur when Bishops and church leaders fall on their knees and repent of their ghastly failures to protect children and report the criminals who abuse children to law enforcement. Which Bishops chose to protect sexual predators instead of children who loved and served the Church?
Our children need adult protection. The sexual abuse of thousands of children anywhere is not a fabricated story or an attempt to discredit the church. It is a passionate attempt to protect our children from acts that hurt, shame and devastate their bodies, minds, futures, and faith. Everybody fails. Every church, every institution, fails to do good, at one point or another. Just because everybody does it doesn’t make it right. Sexual abuse of children is a crime. Stop hiding it. Stop pretending it doesn’t happen. Leaders and laity, we’re called to grow up, take responsibility for our actions, be accountable for our sins, and pay for our crimes. It is time for church leaders to step up to the plate. It is time to ask why did anyone with knowledge and authority allow this to go on for so long. It is time to identify where the failures are in the system, and fix them. When church leaders are failures in the system, they must go. Resign.
Our delegation asked Bishop Bransfield to begin restoring trust in the church by opening every diocesan record related to sex abuse to state and federal law enforcement and publishing the names of credibly accused abuser priests. Pope Francis has called on church leaders to deeply listen to survivors and hear the anguish caused by this abuse. Church leaders must change every single way power and secrecy are complicit in child sexual abuse.