One doesn't have to be Roman Catholic or even Christian to recognize the great good the Catholic Church has done. America would be worse off were it not its pro-life stance and numerous acts of charity.
But good works are sometimes diluted or even overwhelmed by evil works, and it is the evil works of pedophile priests that threaten to sully the good the church has done.
But what should trouble not only Catholics but non-Catholics too is the latest statement from the Vatican regarding the sexual abuse scandal, a scandal that has prompted many Catholics to leave the church and the faith altogether.
In a letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore, the Vatican, as reported by U.S. News & World Report, requested that U.S. bishops "wait until after the Vatican-convened global meeting on sex abuse takes place in February" to take action on the sexual abuse issue plaguing the church. "The conference of bishops had expected to focus ... on measures to combat abuse, including establishing a new code of conduct."
Is it just a question of timing, or yet another attempt to avoid dealing with the crisis?
The church has long been reluctant to go to law enforcement about cases of sexual abuse by priests, choosing instead to have its own officials handle the cases themselves, or as was most often the case, suppress them, moving suspected clergy from parish to parish, threatening the safety of children, and thereby continuing a pattern of depravity and neglect.
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, an organization that compiles instances of clergy abuse, is quoted in The Washington Post: "What we see here is the Vatican again trying to suppress even modest progress by the U.S. Bishops. We're seeing where the problem lies, which is with the Vatican."
The Post reports the U.S. Bishops "expressed a mixture of disappointment, acceptance and frustration at the news from Rome." How about outrage, which is what victims groups have rightly expressed?
Law enforcement has a right and an obligation to investigate these cases. Where abuse can be proved, prosecutors have an equal right and obligation to hold the guilty accountable. Abusers break the laws of God, which they promised to obey, and the laws enacted by legislators, to which they should adhere. Breaking God's laws, if one believes Catholic doctrine, puts you in danger of eternal damnation. Breaking human laws should send lawbreakers to prison. This is not just an internal matter for the Catholic Church, which has failed to deliver on promises to purge the evil in its midst. Frequent excuses that these are old allegations do not ring true and certainly do not excuse either the behavior or the cover-up.
This is not just a U.S. problem, either. Many European countries are dealing with Catholic clergy who have been charged with everything from child abuse to child pornography and rape. While the statute of limitations has protected some, many others have been brought before criminal courts, convicted and imprisoned. It's the same here in the U.S.
Pope Francis recently said climate change and nuclear war are the greatest threats to the world. The greatest threats to the Catholic Church are the sexual abuse of children and the church's failure to adequately address that abuse and hold those responsible accountable.
Some of Pope Francis' critics suggest he resign. Though, according to canon law, no Pope can be forced out, perhaps he can be sufficiently shamed for his unwillingness to cleanse the church of the filth that has stained it.
In a recent comment, the Pope said the attacks on the Catholic Church were the work of the devil, and he called on angels to help. Maybe he needs to go higher? His church, according to Scripture, was created by and belongs to a much Higher Authority. God cannot be pleased with the derision heaped upon it or with those who have mismanaged it.
Cal Thomas, America's most-syndicated columnist, is the author of 10 books.