Church on the right track

It is a very difficult task to address what has grown into a crisis within the Roman Catholic Church.

Our first concern at all times should not be the welfare of clerics, who are adults and thus able to speak for themselves, but children, or those who were once children but had that robbed by criminals in collars.

Several highly publicized cases in the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese over the past few decades provided indications that at one time officials in the church were tolerant of abuse by their priests, if not conspirators who allowed more victimization to occur by not acting appropriately on complaints.

The cases where survivors came forward shed light on other abuses where official action was not taken. When Robert Melancon, a priest tried for rape, was convicted in 1996 it was the testimony of one courageous survivor who put the predator away for life. Two other men were also victimized by Melancon but their cases had occurred too long ago for prosecutors to take action. The files of prosecutors at that time included a letter from a woman who was convinced that her son had taken his life because of the priest’s actions. A priest from the New Orleans area was among supporters of Melancon who have sought clemency for his life sentence because he is in ill health.

Prioritization of the desires of criminal priests appear, then to trump concern for victims and their families. The Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux is not known to have been involved with the plea for release of Melancon, to its credit. Fortunately, the known cases are in the past and hopefully shall continue to be.

It should be noted here as well that the Catholic Church is not the only bastion for abusers in our communities or others. Other denominations, schools and just about anywhere one could think children and teens might congregate are ripe picking grounds for pedophiles, ephebophiles, and others with dangerous agendas.

Because of the potential that such fiendish people, who might take advantage of their positions of trust with children and parents, may be found in any and all places, some important wording regarding the Catholic Church, indeed all churches, is justified.

We would not keep our children from going to camp because some counselors might be bad. We should not keep our children from baseball teams because coaches in other places might have been offenders.

Likewise, those who are Catholic should not give up their faith simply because of crimes committed or administrative shortcomings of the past. We take at face value Bishop Shelton Fabre’s recent statement of hope that more can be done to keep young people safe. We also take at face value the statement by Pope Francis in which he includes himself — using plural nouns — among those at fault for tolerating abuse that has occurred.

What will keep our children safest is teaching them to tell us when someone does something wrong. We as parents can then make our choices as to what course of action to follow next.

We also note that there are people — our staff has spoken to some of them — who at the time abuse occurred did not wish to notify anybody, or at least nobody who would take a proper action.

As survivors of the abuse this is their choice, and they should never be blamed for exercising what is their personal privilege.

We wish local church leaders luck as they move forward toward greater accountability. We wish for those whose suffering may have been rekindled by so much attention the strength to continue.

We wish parents the wisdom to listen to their children when they say something has happened that is wrong.

Most of all, we wish for our readers to take comfort in what appears to be an effort towards transparency. We hope that more churches and other organizations that deal with children also move forward in their policies and procedures to make this world a safer place for them and for all of us.