A Come to Jesus Moment for the U.S. Catholic Church

Pope Francis has called for silence and prayer from those who criticize the Catholic Church’s attempts to root out and punish sex abusing priests. But it is clear the time for silence has long passed.

Priests who prey on children are criminals, not souls to be saved for the sake of an institution.

Here in the U.S., the Boston Globe stunned the nation with its Pulitzer Prize-winning series about the systemic cover-up of child sexual exploitation within the Boston diocese in back in 2003. Today we are still talking about trying to find justice for victims of priestly sex crimes.

That’s why I was cheered by a report this week that the Missouri Attorney General, Jeff Hawley, was launching an investigation into allegations of sex abuse against the Catholic Church in his state. In short order, the Attorney General in New Mexico, Hector Balderas, followed suit. Both AG’s officially requesting all dioceses to voluntarily produce church documents for review of possible cases of sex crimes by priests. Church officials in both states promised to cooperate.

The news followed a shocking Grand Jury report from Pennsylvania which revealed the church had covered up the sexual abuse of more than 300 priests who defiled more than 1000 children over a span of 70 years. The report concluded there were likely thousands more victims whose records were lost or who decided to keep their terrible secret out of shame or fear.

Let’s just hope these newly launched investigations – and those anticipated to be announced in other states – are serious, long-term probes dedicated to finding the truth and were not prompted by personal political goals.

In New Mexico, AG Balderas is expected to win re-election in November and he’s reported to have his eye on the governor’s office. But he didn’t immediately act after the Pennsylvania cases made national news, nor after the Pope, himself, was implicated in covering up the alleged sex crimes of a top U.S. Cardinal. Balderas waited until the state’s largest newspaper, the Albuquerque Journal, wrote an editorial challenging him to act in the mostly Catholic state.

In Missouri, Attorney General Hawley, a republican, is locked in a neck-and-neck race for a U.S. Senate seat against democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill. And under Missouri law, he only has the authority to investigate. He does not have subpoena or prosecutorial power. -So, is his a grandstanding move to attract tough-on-crime voters or is it an honest attempt at mining the corrupt Catholic landscape that has allowed sexual abuse of so many of the faithful?

By the end of the week, Attorneys General in New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Nebraska had followed the trend. Some states established dedicated hotlines for the victims of priestly abuse to call in and report the crime.

We’ve all heard about the idea of “the separation of church and state” which was first mentioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1802. It was designed to keep the state out of church business and vice versa. But when church business becomes all about protecting criminal clergy the state must step in.

The scandal in the Catholic Church is worldwide and this is a watershed moment. What happened inside sacred spaces can no longer be ignored or waved off as something that happened long ago. The massive amount of media coverage has surely put priests across the globe on their best behavior but that does not mean they should be exempt from punishment for past crimes or that their victims don’t deserve justice. And for those in the church hierarchy who engaged in shuffling offending priests from parish to parish or to brief stays at Catholic retreats so they could pray and repent?  They are equally guilty, perhaps even more so, as they allowed their fellow clergy to remain free to prey on the unsuspecting, the devoted.  Whoever engaged in the cover-up of these horrendous crimes against children should also be punished. A collar and crucifix cannot erase the truth.

Any person who knows about or even suspects the sexual abuse of a child and does nothing is culpable. Those who take steps to protect the abuser are complicit. Why should it be any different for those in the church?

Some 70.4 million Americans identify as Catholic. It is the largest religious denomination in the United States.  As a group it is a potentially powerful political force that could be corralled to demand accountability for the countless victims – both alive and gone now – who deserve justice. Imagine if only a small percentage of Catholics rose up to urge their local officials to follow in the path of Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Missouri and launch official investigations?

It is, quite literally, a Come-to-Jesus moment not only for the Pope in Rome but for Catholics everywhere.

The laws are different in every state but this is a call to all those who hold the power to investigate and prosecute – Attorneys General, District Attorneys, local and state police departments. What the Vatican has not done you must do.


Note:  This updates the original column adding additional state’s actions.


  1. Diane Dimond on September 10, 2018 at 10:50 am

    ABQ Journal Reader Kevin McKeown writes:

    Great article, one that hits home. I’m Catholic.
    A couple of threads here. When I visited my parents, both devout Catholics, in 1993, I spoke about the then scandal involving New Mexico priests and the Servants of the Paraclete.
    My parents were wholly incredulous, and livid that I brought this up this allegation.
    “How dare you impugn these kind, gentle, wonderful men of faith!” my father shouted at me. My mother began crying.
    So one root of the scandal is what I call the “Cathoholic effect,” where devout Catholics cannot admit wrongdoing by their clergy. Like my parents, they are brainwashed into the belief that priests can never be criminals.
    The second thread, which you alluded to somewhat, is the success the Catholic Church has had establishing the idea that the Church is an international identity, above and beyond law enforcement. It’s sort of like local authorities know the Church is hands off. Scary. How can a priest be jailed?
    Okay, I think, maybe wrongly so, that all prospective clergy should be required to admit homosexuality, or other sexual devience. And be required to pass a lie detector test before a post. Why such a strong view?
    Well, my brother Brian was sexually molested by a gay guidance councilor in mid school. At the age of 25, he shot the top of head off with a .357 magnum Smith and Wesson handgun. Haunts me every day.
    My feeling? There is to be NO tolerance of sexual preditors. Bust them into prison for life. These people are sick.
    Sadly, am very intolerant of homosexuals, and other forms of perversion. Perhaps I am wrong to carry this predudice, but it is personal. I see these people as being unable, or unwilling to grow up, and shed their adolescence. Children who never grew up.
    Kevin McKeown

  2. Diane Dimond on September 10, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Facebook Friend Nancy Spieker Robel writes:

    No religion should be able to protect criminal behavior by having its own set of laws and punishment. If we can’t protect our children, we are lost. The Catholic religion continues to lose credibility. Too bad. We need faith more than ever, these days.

  3. Diane Dimond on September 10, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Facebook Friends answer the question: WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

    Linda Ellis writes:
    He would expose their sin and call them to repentance.

    Facebook friend Bill Voinovich writes:
    They would be exposed & called to pay for their misdeeds……….

    Facebook Friend Jodi Crisera Kelly writes:
    He’d turn in the sinners.

  4. Diane Dimond on September 10, 2018 at 11:01 am

    Facebook Friend Andrea Saint James writes:

    Drive the molesters out.

  5. Diane Dimond on September 10, 2018 at 11:01 am

    Facebook Friend Kim Phillip writes:

    Get them out of the church, put them where they belong in Prison.

  6. Diane Dimond on September 10, 2018 at 11:01 am

    Facebook Friend Madeline Michele Hovey writes:

    I am sure this is not the only religion who have sickos. I am catholic why put up the pope.

    • Diane Dimond on September 10, 2018 at 11:02 am

      Diane Dimond replies:

      Because this current scandal involves Catholicism — the largest organized religion in America — and the Pope is its leader. ALSO – he is the only one who can order all churches worldwide to come clean and give victims justice.

  7. Diane Dimond on September 12, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    Reader Kevin Keefauver writes:

    I just read your “A come-to-Jesus moment for church”. I completely agree with your article. I get so mad when someone hurts a child. What saddens me is that you couldn’t squeeze a comment about all the good the church has done, is doing, and will continue to do.

  8. Diane Dimond on September 13, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    Reader Curt Hoggatt writes:

    Keep your foot on the pedal on this issue! This Church NEEDS to be exposed for all the damage done to young lives. I shudder to think what went on a 100 years ago when they had a free rein to do as they pleased, much less the past thousand years!

  9. Diane Dimond on September 17, 2018 at 11:49 am

    Twitter Pal Diplomtc_Immnty@Diplomtc_Immnty writes:

    This should’ve been done in 2002 when the @BostonGlobe broke the Catholic Rape & molestation cases wide open.

  10. Diane Dimond on September 17, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Facebook Friend Jeff Davis writes:

    “Demented” is a word that comes to mind.

    • Diane Dimond on September 17, 2018 at 7:24 pm

      Facebook Friend Shirley Pacheco replies:

      Jeff, you=idiot

      • Diane Dimond on September 17, 2018 at 7:24 pm

        Jeff Davis replies writes:

        Shirley, do you always call people you disagree with names? How about a conversation instead. First, bad people will always have availability to bullets. And those people who are denied bullets for their licensed and registered weapons will also find other sources outside the state. It’s a meaningless effort. Now, what other names do you have that you can call me?

        • Diane Dimond on September 17, 2018 at 7:25 pm

          Diane Dimond replies:

          Shirley Pacheco I’m with Jeff. Let’s have conversations here not hurl names at each other. THAT accomplishes nothing.

  11. Diane Dimond on September 17, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    Facebook Friend Bill Voinovich writes:

    California also made it a jailable offense to use plastic straws…

  12. Diane Dimond on September 17, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    Facebook Friend Shirley Pacheco writes:

    What a brilliant idea !!
    Only you,
    Diane Dimond ❤️

  13. Diane Dimond on September 17, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    Facebook Friend Madeline Michele Hovey writes:

    We need gun control

  14. Diane Dimond on September 17, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    Facebook Friend William Drummond writes:

    In California it’s illegal to possess a switchblade knife. It’s easier to get an AK-47. The law goes back to the Zoot Suite days. Still on the books.

  15. Diane Dimond on September 17, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    Facebook Friend Camellio Contreras writes:

    Making your own bullets is easy. Lead is easy to obtain at every place that sells/repairs tires. The lead get melted down and poured into molds of the desired caliber. Black powder is easy to make from Charcoal, sulpher and saltpeter. Stores of surplus ammunition are still available from every major conflict from WWII forward and just doesnt go bad if stored properly. Obama was the greatest gun salesman ever and every gun enthusiast legally stocked up on firearms and ammunition during his admistration. The photo on the left shows lead tire weights being melted down on a propane stove and on the right a very simple 2 cavity mold for making 2 bullets at a time.

  16. Diane Dimond on September 17, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    Facebook Friend Centeno Angeles writes:

    Yep, already happening here in Ca. They want to make buying ammo the same as buying the actual firearm, and also pricing ammo out of the hands of poorer individuals who are in the most need of being able to protect themselves, since they don’t get personal body guards from the LAPD.

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