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'Pope Benedict, the world is watching and waiting,' says the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

News release from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

WASHINGTON, March 30 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and its National Religious Leadership Roundtable condemn the handling of the evolving scandal of sexual abuses by priests in the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI is now at the center of the controversy, which has garnered worldwide attention. The pope is being blamed directly for ignoring repeated pleas by senior U.S. clergy to take action against Father Lawrence C. Murphy, a priest who had molested up to 200 boys while working at the St. John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin from 1950 to 1974. Just today, media reports said the Vatican is launching a legal defense designed to shield the pope from a lawsuit that seeks to have him deposed over claims that the Holy See was negligent in failing to report abuse claims.

Statement by the Rev. Darlene Nipper, Deputy Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 
National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

“Abuse of children and the lack of appropriate action by the highest echelons of the Catholic Church is outrageous and unacceptable. Those who have been victimized deserve a swift, appropriate and supportive response. The church needs to come clean and take strong and decisive action to stop further abuse. It’s time for the Catholic Church to put the interests of children first.”

Statement by Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., Co-Director,
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) 

National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

“Recent revelations of widespread sexual abuse by priests and cover-ups by bishops in Europe, as well as the abuse of deaf children in the U.S., are signs of the implosion of Roman Catholicism as we knew it. Allegations that Pope Benedict XVI acted with the same impunity as other bishops in the failure to brings perpetrators to justice and instead protected the institutional church’s reputation by secrecy only add to the need for substantive structural change in Catholicism. Changing those in leadership will not be sufficient. A new, horizontal model of church led by teams of competent ministers who are accountable to the community is the only way to assure that these scandalous, damaging practices are ended.”

Statement by the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, Executive Director,
Religious Institute 

National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

“The latest revelations about sexual abuse against children by Roman Catholic priests are nothing short of revolting. The story of Father Lawrence Murphy, who abused more than 200 boys in Milwaukee over decades, despite the boys’ speaking out and calling for help, should outrage us all. The new revelations from Germany and other European countries add to the understanding that the prevalence of pedophile priests are, in the words of my colleague, Dan Maguire, ‘a global Catholic Church pandemic.’

“‘It went up to the pope,’ a formerly Roman Catholic friend said to me with tears in her eyes. ‘How is it possible that people knew and didn't stop it?’ Unfortunately, the answer is that the Catholic hierarchy did know, and chose to transfer the priests rather than address the crimes they were committing against children.

“Yes, crimes. In the secular world, the offending priests and their superiors would be held criminally accountable for their behavior. It is not enough for the pope to apologize, as he did to victims last week. It is unconscionable when Catholic apologists try to explain away the church’s inaction as a relic of another time, when people didn’t talk as much about sexual abuse. We are talking now — and learning, to our dismay, how widespread sexual abuse in faith communities really is.
“The pope now has an urgent responsibility — and an extraordinary opportunity. He must not only move beyond apologies to action, but could also use his influence to urge all religious institutions to address sexuality in healthier, more open and responsible ways.

“Pope Benedict, the world is watching and waiting.”

Statement by Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director,
New Ways Ministry 

National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

“The appalling story from Wisconsin of the priest who abused over 200 students, and whose sins and crimes were covered up by the Catholic hierarchy wrenches the heart and tests a person’s faith. It gets to the heart of what has been too often been the case in stories like this: the clerical system of secrecy, silence and unaccountability is the main culprit. Sadly, until the bishops responsible for moving abusers to other locales acknowledge their responsibility, the cycle of abuse will continue.”

Statement by the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, Faith Work Director,
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 

National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

“The story of the Wisconsin priest who sexually abused nearly 200 children during his tenure at a school for the deaf and the ensuing, decades-long cover-up by the Catholic Church hierarchy is devastating in several ways. The priest, Father Murphy, used his God-given gift of embodiment to perpetrate violence. Like any act that takes giftedness and uses it to harm, this is an act of defilement. The victims of his crime were doubly robbed — they experienced their bodies as a means of defilement and not as a gift, and they were taught that God desires pain and shame. And when the victims refused to learn this ill-conceived lie and spoke out against the abuse, they were taught that the gospel’s call to speak truth to power, to stand for that which is right and just, did not apply to the church.
“It is long past time that we say ‘no’ to those who claim to speak for God, yet issue lies and distortions. Let us claim the sacred trust of embodiment, and the responsibility it puts on all of us, and call the Roman Catholic hierarchy to repentance and making amends.”

To learn more about the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, visit www.theTaskForce.org and follow us on Twitter: @TheTaskForce.

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