By Kelly Clark
September 13, 2010

"However, it is the scandal over paedophile priests that will plague the Pope throughout his visit.

…"But while the Pope has expressed contrition over the revelations, even senior Catholics in Britain believe the Vatican has not handled its response to the crisis well.

‘The Vatican has got itself into a very defensive position, which probably inhibits the positive initiatives we could be taking,’ Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, said recently. ‘The Holy See can do a lot better in its understanding of how the media perceive things and how important those perceptions are.’

…"The Vatican‘s attitude appears to remain one of minimising the wave of criticism focused on Pope Benedict’s handling of the crisis over paedophile priests. Complaints were ‘excessive amplifications’ with ‘an echo superior to that which is the true sensitivity of the population’, Federico Lombardi, spokesman for the Vatican, said on Friday."

–Financial Times, Sept 13, 2010.

"Excessive amplifications?"  Really?  Really.   Compare this response, so typical of the Vatican, with that of the Belgian Church in today’s NYT– which really seems to get that the abuse scandals there are a very big deal and must be dealt with in an upfront and uncompromising way.  See article here.

Tragically, the American Church’s response has been and continues to be closer to that of the Vatican than that of Belgium.

It didn’t have to be this way. Way back in the mid-1980’s, after the cases involving Fr Gil Gauthe of Louisiana came to light, the National Bishops Conference commissioned a study by three men whom they trusted as being experts in the field, one of whom was a young priest and canon lawyer, then in the Washington DC Vatican embassy, with an obviously bright future, Fr Thomas Doyle.  The study came back with an unpopular conclusion: the Church has a major child abuse problem on its hands, and, unless the Church comes forward quickly and aggressively to acknowledge it, seek out the victims and get them help, the Church could be facing huge liability. How huge?  Perhaps as much as a HALF A BILLION DOLLARS in liability, the study concluded.

Well, the report was shelved, and Doyle’s bright career was derailed.  (He ended up as a longtime priest in the Air Force, and has become the leading priest expert in the nation on the abuse problem, testifying hundreds of times for victims in court and depositions. He is one of the most spiritually courageous men I know.)

But fast forward twenty years, and the American Church has been badly damaged by their own failure to do the right thing back in 1985.  SEVERAL Billions of dollars paid out in judgments and settlements– just in the US– plus several dioceses bankrupt, a Cardinal from Boston forced to resign, and the image of the Church in tatters. 

All because the Bishops thought the Doyle report was–to borrow from the words of Fr Lombardi above–"excessive amplifications."