“We Gave Him a Chance”: Mercy for Abusive Priests Divides Church reads the headline of an article in a recent Wall Street Journal. And the division exists; although IMNSHO, it need not; it stems from a misunderstanding of a basic concept.
Recall last fall’s American Bishop conclave in which the group’s decision was to hold all abusers—priests, bishops, cardinals—absolutely accountable with all of them defrocked for a single occurrence—a zero-tolerance position. Also common, though, is an opposing position, exemplified by a Polish priest:
You have to exonerate the human being[.]
This after his congregation had rallied behind a colleague convicted of distributing child pornography.
The American bishops come closer to the mark, but they miss, too. Forgive, of course—but that, in no way, requires, or even suggests, forgetting the sin or the sinner, nor does it even hint at leaving the man in the same place or function within which he committed such grievous sins.
Forgetting, or taking no sanction—which not removing the abuser would be, no matter the pretty words of scold that might be uttered—cannot be.