News that the Vatican has reopened an investigation into sexual abuse allegations involving a priest close to Pope John Paul II should hearten those who have tried for years to get a hearing.
The case involves the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, a Mexican priest who heads a group called the Legionaries of Christ. Its U.S. headquarters is in Orange, and it has a seminary in Cheshire.
Nine former seminarians told Courant reporter Gerald Renner eight years ago that Father Maciel had sexually abused them at seminaries in Spain and Italy when they were ages 10 to 16. Following an all-too-common pattern in sexual abuse incidents, the Vatican buried the case. Only now has it agreed to delve into the allegations.
Three years ago, a sexual abuse scandal engulfed the U.S. Catholic Church. The church now acknowledges that hundreds of priests sexually assaulted thousands of young people in recent decades.
Bishops commonly transferred priests to new assignments instead of reporting them to police. Much of the Catholic hierarchy showed a shocking indifference to the victims' welfare.
The Catholic Church is paying a steep financial price for its dereliction - close to $1 billion in payouts so far. In the latest settlement, the diocese of Orange, Calif., will give $100 million to 90 victims.
It is galling that up to 40 percent of the money will go to lawyers. But it also is troubling that so much emphasis has been placed on large cash settlements. Three dioceses have filed for bankruptcy under the weight of multimillion-dollar awards. It makes little sense to drive Catholic institutions into ruin. No amount of money can repair the damage inflicted by abusers.
Apologizing to each victim, opening church abuse records and instituting tougher oversight to prevent future abuse are far more important than huge cash awards.