Tone Deaf in Rome

Dear Engaged Bystander: Do you ever read a news story or editorial and find you keep thinking about it? Well, on July 17th I read an editorial in the NY Times titled Tone Deaf in Rome. Like the editorial, I was appalled by the news conference held at the Vatican which described the movement for the ordination of women as a "grave crime" that Rome deems as offensive as the scandal of priests who sexually assault children."

The editorial describe the strategies used in the US and encouraged the Vatican to do the same. The strategies include policies such as extending the internal statute of limitations to 20 years and committing to a zero tolerance policy that means alerting local authorities to allegations of sexual abuse. And we know that the current US policy does not go far enough.

But what lingered for me and why I am still angry was the comparison of an ordained woman in the eyes of the Church with the trauma of sexual abuse by a trusted spiritual leader. It is so clear that the person who made this statement does not understand the impact of sexual abuse on a child. It is also so clear that the person making this statement does not understand the important role the Church must play to end this cycle of violence. If the Church finds a way to officially minimize this crime, then it is essentially giving permission to sexual abusers to continue to abuse.

I have spoken with too many sex offenders to ignore the impact of this tacit permission. When people don't speak up, many sex offenders will believe that what they are doing is OK. I have heard this from many men in prison. The silence of their friends and family was a way they justified what they did.

So while we each need to find ways to speak up, we also need our institutions to say what is right and what is wrong. And our institutions have a responsibility to NOT minimize what we know is a traumatic event in the life of a child, the child's family and the entire Church community.

Over time, I hope that more faith based communities will begin to take a leadership role in this difficult, heart breaking issue.