The clergy abuse scandal has posed the greatest threat to the traditional understanding of the Catholic priesthood since the Protestant Reformation. Now, as then, the deadliest attacks are coming from within the Church. In an attempt to improve a system that allowed a small minority of the clergy to violate children and ameliorate the gross negligence of some bishops who recycled these predators, the American bishops instituted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002. It is, unfortunately, doing the Church more harm than good.
In Hope Springs Eternal in the Priestly Breast, Fr. James Valladares shows how justice and charity have been violated by some bishops in dealing with accused priests. He examines the pertinent canons that guide the Church's judicial system and finds that these are often ignored or wrongly applied. He provides true cases that highlight the injustice of the process and the agony of priests who have been subjected to the charter's draconian mandates.
The Church has incurred tremendous financial losses because of settlements rising from both legitimate and false claims. Her image has been marred by the secular media, which has taken advantage of the crisis. Even so, we often fail to understand how trivial these are in comparison to the damage done to the priesthood by the enactment of the charter's policies. This is the most pressing issue that the bishops need to address.