On Monday, I resigned my volunteer position as chairman of the national review board of lay Catholics charged with enforcing the zero-tolerance charter against child sexual abuse adopted last year by America's Roman Catholic Bishops. I left, after almost exactly a year of service, for two reasons: the need to devote full time to my job, and frustration over the efforts of a small minority of church leaders to obstruct the workings of the board.
Still, I remain optimistic that the church — my church — will ultimately protect the innocent and hold the guilty accountable. The national review board, no matter who leads it, is an expression of the hopes of millions of American Catholics. As such, it can and must continue its work.
My optimism is based on my meetings with Catholic clergy and lay members over the past year. They understand the challenge the church faces, and they will not stand for a retreat from the truth. These are people who have come together not just to address a crisis, but to rescue their shared faith. Theirs is a mission and a movement that will not be denied.
......Sexual abuse leaves lifelong emotional scars. In the past year, I met with many victims of abuse. I heard their heartbreaking stories of damaged lives and broken trust. I pledged to them that they would have a voice, and I am convinced that they will continue to be heard, if only because most Catholics know that right is on their side.
Sadly, a few church leaders, including some in large dioceses, chose to resist and obstruct the board. When we asked valid questions, they gave us few or no answers. Where information and cooperation was called for, we received delay or an outright refusal to help.
These few leaders turned to their lawyers when they should have looked into their hearts — and I expressed my disgust with them. I am a candid person, and that makes some people uncomfortable. So be it. Obstructing justice, excusing and concealing those who victimize innocent children: these are not the actions of holy men. They are sins — and they are crimes. God may hold them accountable in the next world, but we will certainly hold them accountable in this one.