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FIRST-PERSON: Pedophiles, Catholic response, media hypocrisy & Boy Scouts

LYNCHBURG, Va. (BP)–It is time for the Catholic Church to get serious about protecting children.

The fact is, any cleric — Catholic or Protestant — who molests a child to satisfy his own dark urges should be immediately dismissed and severely punished. Period.

However, church leaders have gone blind to their responsibilities. Revelations that top U.S. clergy protected pedophiles and failed to prevent them from interacting with credulous children is simply unforgivable. It is criminal!

This is not the time for compromise, settlement or bargain. It is time for the church to attend to ridding itself of pedophiles and painstakingly ensuring that virtuous and honorable men are recruited to replace them.

President Bush has stated that any nation that harbors terrorists is guilty of terrorism. Similarly, any religious leader who provides safe haven for a pedophile priest, pastor or rabbi is just as guilty. It is unthinkable that men who have yielded their lives to ministry would descend to such depths that they would sexually abuse little children. It is just as unthinkable that a church leader would protect these men.

Twenty years ago, a child was brought into the nursery at Thomas Road Baptist Church. When a nursery worker was changing the child’s diaper, she discovered several bruises all over the child’s body. She reported this finding to our senior children’s pastor who called the parents in to discuss the situation. The parents said the child had simply “fallen down.”

We did not report this situation to the authorities. But we should have. A couple of weeks later, the same child was hospitalized after a severe beating. Our children’s pastor was arrested because the law requires the church — or anyone else, for that matter — to report what was earlier discovered.

Later, a court dismissed the charges against our pastor but gave a stern warning to our church that we have no right to determine the genuineness of these situations. I discovered that my staff and I are under obligation to do what is right, even if it means angering the family involved.

Today, all of our church workers are aware of their responsibilities in these situations.

And responsibility is the issue within the Catholic Church. Tragically, the church has bishops and cardinals who are aware of homosexuality and pedophilia and are advising that only mild censure take place with the guilty. It is even more astonishing that they would place guilty priests back in ministry where they have access to little boys. I can imagine my horror if I learned that my children or grandchildren had been placed in harm’s way in such a reckless manner.

Thankfully, the pope has now said he will no longer tolerate pedophile priests. But he must ensure that his subordinates solemnly carry out his message and ensure that the denomination rids itself of these predators.

I’m not just targeting Catholic priests. My call for justice and penalty includes Baptist preachers and ministers of any other denomination who may be guilty of child sexual abuse. Any man who would abuse a child should be immediately subjected to harsh criminal indictment.

I also believe the media is acting hypocritically in reporting on the controversy within the Catholic Church. The mainstream media has been typically critical of the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America for attempting to prevent similar situations from becoming pervasive in their organization by banning homosexual Scout leaders.

Because the Scouts took this common-sense approach to safeguarding their young members, they have been labeled as purveyors of hate. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is obvious that we live in a distorted world where such men hope to prey on innocent children. Preventive measures — no matter how politically incorrect — must be taken.

The same media that is clobbering the Catholic Church for harboring these guilty priests is the same one that has unleashed the brutal assault against the Scouts. The Scouts actually look pretty wise right now.

Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court acted unwisely by recently legalizing virtual pornography of children. This terrible decision struck down the Child Pornography Prevention Act which attempted to close a loophole for pedophiles by banning the creation, distribution and possession of what is known as “virtual child pornography” — sexually-explicit images of children through computer-generated programs.

According to the court’s majority, the law was too vague and theoretically could be used to halt worthy works of art. The hope is that Congress will immediately rewrite the law to address the concerns of the court, while retaining the virtual child porn ban. In this age of descending moral standards, it is imperative that our lawmakers compose sufficient laws that keep our children safe from sexual predators.

And it is imperative that church leaders earnestly attempt to prevent this type of outrage from ever taking place again.
Falwell is pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va., and chancellor of Liberty University.

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  • Jerry Falwell