Those who suggest that the current crisis is just a media beatup, or that the Church really has already cleaned its act up need to take a look at the toll of bishops who have resigned over the last year or so for serious reasons. Think Canada, Africa, Latin America, Ireland...and now Belgium.
Last week saw the resignation of another Irish bishop. Now Bishop Roger Joseph Vangheluwe of Bruges, whose resignation statement said:
"When I was still just a priest, and for a certain period at the beginning of my episcopate, I sexually abused a minor from my immediate environment. The victim is still marked by what happened. Over the course of these decades I have repeatedly recognised my guilt towards him and his family, and I have asked forgiveness; but this did not pacify him, as it did not pacify me. The media storm of recent weeks has increased the trauma, and the situation is no longer tenable. I profoundly regret what I did and offer my most sincere apologies to the victim, to his family, to all the Catholic community and to society in general. I have presented my resignation as bishop of Bruges to Pope Benedict XVI. It was accepted on Friday and so I retire."
The real question is how many more there are still hiding in the ranks. And how many complicit in coverups, inaction or worse.
They really need to resign quickly, and get the pain for the rest of us over so we can rebuild.
We can defend the Pope and those other bishops who are genuinely attempting to tackle the problem, particularly where we have the real facts and the attacks are just attempts to smear by association. But we really need better information coming from our diocesan bishops to help us do that.
We can defend innocent priests from guilt by association and support them with our prayers.
We can pray for the victims.
We can make reparation for past sins of others.
But the laity should not have to put up with this ongoing plague of wolves pretending to be shepherds, this festering, gangrenous wound. Amputation is the only possible approach at this stage.
And, the complacency represented by Australian bishops' conferences press interactions aside, I don't think we can be sure that there are no Australians who should be seriously considering their position.
I for one am still waiting for an official explanation for the apparent admission that around 100 priests in Melbourne have been involved in substantiated abuse claims, with only one laicized. If it's true, that's around a third of Melbourne's diocesan priests. Of nearly 20% of all priests in the diocese.
Maybe the figures are wrong. Maybe there is a credible explanation for the apparent inaction. If so, we need to hear it.
And I'm also waiting to hear why the official investigator is allowed to get away with compromising police investigations for some supposed right of people to know they are being investigated (a right that doesn't apply to any other suspected criminals), or attempting to impose his own judgments of what is and isn't a crime to discourage victims from proceeding.
The Archbishop, like our PM, must be blessing the Storm (Melbourne Rugby League team) salary cap rort story for its diversionary value.
There is though, a fairly balanced editorial today in The Age on this subject which is worth reading.
I doubt Melbourne is the only diocese where serious questions need to be answered though.
It all makes my stomach turn.
Poor Pope Benedict XVI, having to deal with all this on the fifth anniversary of his inauguration. Pray for him that he may continue to take decisive action to deal with this plague.
Also pray that the priests and bishops concerned admit their crimes and sins to their superiors, and resign forthwith. Far better to admit their guilt and get out quickly than to hang around hoping to get away with it, as many apparently have, only to be exposed later. There is a lot of pain now, and it looks like it will only get worse for a while. But only by ridding ourselves of the sources of infection can we hope to recover our health in the long-term.