Q | Dear OMG,
If one were a secretary to a bishop, did all his typing and filing and office work, and knew about sexually abusive priests, moving them around, filed the complaints, etc., would one have the moral obligation to do something or to keep silent to protect the bishop and one’s job?
— Wondering in Wichita
A | Dear Wondering,
The answer here is very clear. Any person who has knowledge of a priest (or a teacher or a coach or any other adult) sexually abusing children (or physically abusing them) is bound by morality – and, it turns out, by civil law – to report that person to the authorities. There is no moral argument for protecting the bishop, and only a selfish one for protecting one’s own job.
During his visit to Philadelphia earlier this year, Pope Francis vociferously condemned the perpetrators of the rampant sex abuse crisis and those who abetted the cover-ups, declaring that “I commit myself to the zealous watchfulness of the Church to protect minors, and I promise that all those responsible will be held accountable.”
There are those who claim that sex abuse allegations ought still to be secret, or private, in keeping with canon law – but in 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops enacted the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People, which requires any diocese faced with allegations of sex abuse to report those allegations to the police.
The sexual abuse of a child is a crime and a sin, and no secretary – or bystander or well-meaning neighbor – can justify putting the interests of the bishop over those of the child.