Christopher Gunty’s editorial (CR, March 25) was interesting, until I got to the premise. The sexual abuse of children, by anyone, has always been immoral and more importantly, illegal. Non seat belt use for yourself and non use of child seats have only within recent times been made illegal, so the analogy was poorly made. It also ignores the depth of the harm done to children by persons in authority and respect within the church. It disregards the fact that for decades the church seemed to have an institutional response which hid the crimes committed by clergy and did nothing for their victims.
If now the response of the church is different, it is only doing that which should have been done decades ago. These possible criminal matters are not and have never been appropriate for in-house treatment, bypassing the criminal justice system. Treatment, if appropriate, should be supervised by the courts, not a religious community which has an inherent conflict of interest. We as a society are learning more, but even in the 1970s and ’80s, people within the criminal justice system had mechanisms to deal with criminal abusers.
I am a retired attorney who did child abuse cases from 1980-85, so I was quite upset over someone who defends past bad decisions of the church. The “we didn’t know any better” defense is no defense to immoral and illegal acts.