Catholic Lawmakers Urge The Church To ‘Cleanse’ Sex Abuse Problem With ‘Total Transparency’

Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter
  • Speaker of the House Paul Ryan urged Catholic Church leaders to take responsibility for the sexual abuse crisis and deal with it transparently
  • Ryan and other Catholic representatives warned against politicizing the crisis and against government overreach in an effort to force the church to reform
  • Some representatives suggested congressional oversight of the Department of Justice in dealing with the church’s sexual abuse cases, but said Congress should stay out of the crisis in all other respects

Catholic lawmakers urged the Catholic Church Thursday to institute reforms and deal with the rising sexual abuse crisis with “total transparency.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and several other Catholic representatives admonished church leaders to take responsibility for the crisis and to handle it from within, warning that external efforts and politicizing of the problem would only cause further harm. The issue at the heart of the crisis facing the church is not a fight between liberal and conservative Catholics, Ryan said, but is a question of whether the church will take the opportunity to deal with sexual abuse with open accountability. (RELATED: Cardinal Wuerl To Meet With Pope Francis About Resignation)

“This is very disturbing. As a practicing Catholic, the last thing that this needs to be is become relegated to a fight between the Catholic left and the Catholic right. This needs to be elevated to truth and justice,” Ryan said, according to The Hill.

“That means cleanse the problem with total transparency and total accountability so that the healing can begin, and so that the church can renew itself,” he added.

Ryan made the comments the same day that Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, led a four-person delegation to meet with Pope Francis to seek a full investigation of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and his associates and clarification concerning Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s allegations of cover-up against Francis and other high-ranking church officials.

DiNardo “is on the right track,” Ryan said, according to National Review.

Other Catholic representatives echoed Ryan’s sentiments, especially with regard to the church’s responsibility.

“The primary responsibility still resides with the church,” said Democratic Rep. John Larson of Connecticut. Beyond that, “it would fall on the shoulders of states more so than the federal government,” he added.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona suggested that Congress play a role in supervising the Department of Justice as they handle legal aspects of the sexual abuse crisis, given the criticism that law enforcement agencies have sparked over the perception that they were too hands off in their dealings with the church.

“You could hold DOJ and our investigative and enforcement arms accountable for explaining why. Absolutely,” Grijalva said.

Aside from that, Grijalva said all that is necessary is to enforce the laws that are already on the books.

“We can be disgusted and frustrated by the fact that we haven’t seemed to make progress on that issue — as a Catholic it’s frustrating and disgusting. But we already have a law against the abuse of children and what we can do is make sure that it’s enforced,” he said.

“Nobody is above that, including a priest,” he added.

Some have suggested that Congress could revoke the church’s tax exempt status while others have called for the church to be prosecuted in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) suit as a criminal organization. Most lawmakers, however, decried such steps.

“The church is fumbling, but fumbling along trying to handle it. I think the Congress should stay the hell out of it,” Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey said.

“I fully support the tax-exempt status of churches, and synagogues, and mosques. Period,” he added.

Others, like Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, asserted that the Catholic Church clearly needed pressure from the government to actually institute effective reforms.

“I believe firmly that the Catholic Church has to abide by the law of the land. That’s clearly severely in doubt, that they can self-police,” he said.

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