The DA should prosecute and the archbishop should retire

* Originally published in The Mobile Register on December 18, 2005.

Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb must be held accountable by the laity and the law for sexual abuses and cover-ups during his 25-year reign over the Archdiocese of Mobile.

First, the archbishop should retire. Right now.

Second, the district attorney should prosecute anyone who had knowledge of but failed to report crimes committed in the archdiocese that haven’t yet expired under the statute of limitations.

The Register’s article titled “Pastor: Allegations about priest heard for years,” published on Dec. 14, illustrates the striking lackadaisical attitude within the archdiocese toward these crimes. These scandals will continue to bleed the Catholic Church of money and members until swift and severe action is taken at every level of responsibility, from the priest who commits the crime to his colleagues and even the bishop if they ignore it. Resignations, defrockings and prosecutions must happen when warranted, regardless of how many clergy would be removed. The church wouldn’t merely survive without them, it would thrive. A message must be sent, not only from Rome, but from every Roman Catholic Church: Enough.

This all hits very close to home for me. The church is part of our family. It’s entwined with every major event, including my father’s death last April. And, like any member of a family, it has its good and bad times. I received the sacraments of baptism, first confession, first Communion and confirmation at St. Pius X Catholic Church on Sage Avenue. The archbishop was present during my confirmation, and also shook my hand as I received diplomas from McGill-Toolen High School and Spring Hill College. Those were the good times.

My pastor at St. Pius was accused of sexual abuse, so the archbishop transferred him to a Montgomery parish. Eventually the priest admitted to sexually abusing three minors in the past, and resigned from the priesthood. My counselor at McGill-Toolen, an ordained brother, was convicted of sexually abusing several of my classmates. He’s in prison. Those were the bad times.

But things were supposed to change after we learned about all that. Archbishop Lipscomb released his “Archdiocesan Child Protection Policy.” He was going to crack down and purge our parishes of these sexual predators. Things were going to be safe. Now we learn that another priest is accused of abusing children since the scandal was first exposed and after the archbishop’s new policy was implemented.

It’s obviously not working. That’s why we need new leadership.

Surely there are other abusive priests not yet caught, for we continue to hear new charges annually. Common sense tells us that it’s probably happening right now.

I’m tired of having to defend my Roman Catholic faith because of these charlatans. Understanding and explaining 2,000 years of tradition is hard enough. I’m also tired of watching those in authority duck responsibility and avoid punishment. They have all made it incredibly difficult to evangelize, and have hemorrhaged millions of dollars and thousands of members from my beloved church.

They’ll never take my faith, but my patience is long gone. To Mobile County District Attorney John M. Tyson Jr., I say this: Prosecute. And to Archbishop Lipscomb, I say this: For the love of God, retire.