Few news events in recent years have chronicled more heartache and long-term suffering than the reports of abuse of children by adults, ranging from neighborhood pedophiles to leaders of youth organizations to pastors of churches. One of the most disturbing aspects of many of these reports has been the fact that the abuse was never reported to police. In too many instances involving church and youth-group leaders, there has been an effort to keep the abuse under wraps.
In the case of the Roman Catholic Church, priests accused of abusing children were often moved from assignment to assignment rather than being reported to civil authorities. As a result, the church has experienced one of its darkest eras. And, unfortunately, the actions of a few have tarnished the good names and reputations of the many priests who have been faithful to their vows.
A decade ago, as details of this abuse became public, Catholic bishops in the U.S. adopted a policy of reporting accused priests. Much of the rest of the church has been reluctant to do so. This month, the Vatican directed bishops to report such cases when local laws compelled them to do so.
Handing over these cases for investigation and, if warranted, prosecution is an enormous positive step.