Anglicanism and Catholicism in an Age of Clerical Pedophilia


Recently, over 300 priests in six Catholic dioceses were found to have sexually abused over 1000 children. Further, it was found that the dioceses had papers of confessions and statements concerning the sexual abuse locked away in safes that could only be opened by members of the clergy who had the proper keys. Then, in recent days, Pope Francis was oddly silent about the McCarrick allegations and former Vatican officials stated outright that the Pope already knew about the allegations and did nothing. However, the Pope did condemn the entire situation and stated that the church failed the pedophilia victims.

Reading about this sordid affair of disgusting, deviant actions toward children reminds one of similar news stories from years ago during the time of Pope John Paul II. News stories came flooding into people's television sets, appeared in their daily papers, and popped up in their online news feeds that pedophilia was rampant in the Catholic Church. However, the Vatican had assured us that they fixed the situation, that they removed the perpetrators, and that it would not happen again. We believed them, only to be shown more disgusting reports of shameful cover ups and indecent, despicable acts less than 20 years later.

Learning of this, I cannot help but think about what it must be like to be the parent of one of these sexually assaulted children. I'd wonder how a priest, whose job it is to rear my family up in good Christian living and doctrine, could have done what he did. I'd also undoubtedly be skeptical of my parish, my ability to read people, and even my church, for failing me. Then when I would have read about how the scandal was covered up by local bishops, I'd worry about my child's safety if I switched to another catholic church. I'd probably even consider leaving the Catholic Church as a whole.
I cannot help but think about what it must be like to be the parent of one of these sexually assaulted children.
Anglicanism is often called the "kissing cousin" of Catholicism. It has a similar ecclesiastical structure, similar church service style, and even has some similar doctrines (like infant baptism, for example). However, there is one marked difference between Anglicanism and Catholicism in regard to sexual assault. The Anglican Church reformed itself the moment it had been made aware of its existence.

In Australia, 135 Anglican priests had complaints of child sexual abuse laid against them. The response of the Anglican Church of Australia was immediate. They took immediate steps to ensure that such grotesque acts would not happen again. They required churches to report this abhorrent conduct to the authorities to ensure that justice would be served and the situation rectified through the proper legal means. Additionally, they created a network that helps connect abused children with clergy to help them through it. In stark contrast, the Vatican kept the same policies in place that prevented their clergy from reporting allegations to the local authorities to keep scandal at a minimum when they were faced with sexual assault running rampant in the church.

In America, the Anglican Diocese of the South took steps to stop pedophilia through requiring background checks on priests in addition to requiring clergy to report the instance to the authorities, which is a stark contrast to the Vatican's policies. Various other Anglican Dioceses also took steps to ensure that such as what happened in Australia would not happen in their respective Diocese.

Because the Anglican Communion has no universal Canon Laws it allows the individual Dioceses to respond faster, since they do not have to wait for the Archbishop of Canterbury to change the laws. As an example, let's view what would have happened in Pittsburgh if the churches were Anglican instead.

The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, the main Anglican Diocese for Pennsylvania, must adhere to the Canons of the Episcopal Church. As such, they require all incoming clergy from other churches to undergo a psychological and physical evaluation in addition to a background check. Further, any candidate for a clerical position must also pass a background check and mental and psychological evaluation. If a potential candidate passes all these requirements, then they can become a member of the clergy. Additionally, a clergyman who is transferring and a potential candidate must both be given a letter of recommendation from two thirds of their vestry stating that they are a morally upstanding person and a good fit for the position. This very stringent process weeds out former sex offenders and those of unfit psychological standing from office. It also helps ensure that only those who are morally upright and free from criminal records can serve in any church of that diocese.

Now, what would have happened if, by the unfortunate occurrence of the person's vestry, a psychologist, a doctor, and a background check all failing to flag a sexual predator, a child was sexually assaulted? The local authorities would have been notified, as per the 2004 Episcopal Church policies regarding sexual abuse of minors, and the local authorities would have resolved the situation immediately, keeping those same priests from becoming repeat offenders, because they would have been tried for their heinous crimes and jailed appropriately.

Unlike the Vatican Church, which sought to cover up the actions of their clergy, the Anglican Church wants to remove the situation and provide justice the moment it happens. They want to ensure that children can attend church without worry of being sexually assaulted. In short, the Anglican Church wants church to be a safe place.

This proves that the Anglican Church, which is similar in ecclesiastical structure and style to Roman Catholicism, can provide Catholics who are worried for their child's safety in light of the shocking and appalling revelations in recent days over pedophilia in the Catholic Church a place to rear their children in an ecclesiastical environment that is safe, hits close to home, and teaches doctrine that will train their children to be godfearing citizens with love for their fellow human beings.

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