The Catholic Church is guilty of a grave moral failure for allowing massive sexual abuse of children

A stunning grand jury report issued Tuesday that said over 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania sexually abused more than 1,000 children over seven decades – and accused church leaders of covering up the wrongdoing – shows a massive and indefensible moral failure of the Catholic Church in the U.S.

The Catholic priests and bishops of Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States have failed the church. They have failed American Catholics. They have failed to uphold the dignity of the priesthood. They have failed God.

In the next few days much will be made of the damning 800+ page report issued by the Pennsylvania grand jury that named priests in six of the state’s seven dioceses as sexual predators who targeted vulnerable children – the most innocent of all the faithful. While the report identified 1,000 children it said were victims, it said there were probably thousands more child victims whose identities are not known.

The grand jury report states: “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.”

And sadly, the report said most of the terrible crimes it documents happened too long ago to be prosecuted because of statutes of limitations.

In a time when the number of people worldwide who associate with and practice a religion continues to decline, the bishops and priests of the world and of the United States had a calling to share the joys of Catholic Christianity to those who do not have it.

They had a duty to guide and form the members of the church in the teachings of Jesus Christ and His apostles, and strengthen their understanding of the truth.

But they failed.

As a lifelong faithful Catholic, Tuesday was a difficult day for me. I am angry, I am horrified, I am sickened, but I still have faith. The church established by Christ Himself shall endure even this great evil.

Now the Catholic Church in America needs to purge itself of this great evil and regain the sacred trust of millions of God-fearing Christians that has been so horrifically squandered.

Predator priests and the bishops who enabled them deserve to see the inside of a prison cell – the fact that many will not be prosecuted because their crimes happened long ago is a grave injustice.

The culture within rectories, chanceries and seminaries that allowed this behavior to fester must be purged. And there must be stiff consequences for these horrible actions committed against the most innocent of God’s flock by the very people who are supposed to guide humanity to Him.

As for those priests, bishops, deacons and lay administrators who turned a blind eye to such evil and are still working, they must be sent packing – and not by the Church hierarchy. The faithful should be the ones who determine which priests and bishops can keep their jobs. Only such a commission of the faithful can guarantee that the culture of secrecy and the evil in the church is weeded out and destroyed.

And if that means that half the priests and bishops in America must be defrocked and forced into retirement, then so be it. The terrible evil that these men have wrought on God’s Holy Church is so unspeakable that no price is too high to rectify it.

No Catholic should be giving a cent to the collection basket until the predatory monsters within the priesthood, and bishops of the Catholic Church who enabled them, are cast out in a visible, transparent process that makes crystal clear that the church will never permit these terrible crimes to take place again.

Jeremiah Poff is a senior at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.