'Churchgate': The Scandal That Won't Go Away

NPR Senior News Analyst Dan Schorr gives his thoughts on the ongoing sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, questioning the response of the church leadership.

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The Catholic Church is on the defensive, trying to defuse the latest in the seemingly endless barrage of accusations about sexual abuse by priests.

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says it's time for the Church to change tactics.

DANIEL SCHORR: A county attorney in Minnesota is seeking the extradition of the Reverend Joseph Jeyapaul, wanted on charges of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl as a priest in Minnesota six years ago. The girl had expressed interest in becoming a nun. And where is the priest now? Serving in a parish in India, where his bishop has indicated no intention of asking the priest to return to Minnesota.

The Vatican has accused the media of a smear campaign. This is only one development in what has become known as the sexual abuse scandal of the Catholic Church. I've hesitated to comment on the crisis in a church which is not mine but this goes beyond normal restraint. As the facts dribble out, it turns out that some incidents go back a half century.

Over the years the scandal came to involve as many as 10,000 children and thousands of priests. Aryan priests were sometimes transferred to another diocese. Pedophilia was treated as a misstep in the family. For the most part, the hierarchy has treated the sex scandal as a matter of public relations, not a matter of accountability.

Pope Benedict did meet with a smaller group of one-time victims of child abuse. The pontiff read a short speech expressing apologies on behalf of the Church. But he did not respond to a Boston victim who warned him of a cancer on the church.

The Church hierarchy has done what a hierarchy does rallied around the pope, and in so doing, has displayed insensitivity to its responsibility for the children and this care. On Good Friday, the Pope's personal preacher suggested in his sermon that criticism of the Pope reminded him of shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.

But the Church's sexual abuse scandal will not go away. With the Vatican and its appellants veering between denials and apologies, the issue becomes not so much the original act, as the cover-up.

Churchgate, as it may come to be called, could learn from Watergate. Whereas Nixon said, it's the cover-up that does you in.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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