Reform is long overdue, it's time for the Catholic Church to change its ways

Over the years we have become accustomed to hearing about Catholic priests molesting children. What was once an essentially American secret has become a worldwide abuse issue.

Last week, Larry King interviewed Arthur Budzinski, 61, who was molested as a child by Father Lawrence Murphy, a priest at St. John's School for the Deaf in Milwaukee. "Father Murphy asked me to go into a closet and then molested me in the closet," Budzinski said through an interpreter. "I was shocked...It happened three times to me."

This is just one of the many molestation reports that people have been hearing about in the past couple of years. Many have been reported outside the United States, such as in Germany, Italy and Ireland, according to The Guardian, a British newspaper.

Pope Benedict XVI is having a tough time handling the situation. The Los Angeles Times stated that he sent a letter to the Irish clergy where he "chastised Irish bishops for leadership shortcomings and errors in judgment for failing to apply church law to stop abusive priests."

According to the Times, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi commented on the church's response to the incidents. "Recognizing [the incidents] and making amends to the victims is the price of re-establishing justice and 'purifying memories' that will let us look with renewed commitment together with humility and trust in the future," he said in a statement on Vatican Radio.

So the message that comes across is that they may molest our children to satisfy their desires and, to be forgiven, all they have to do is own up to their behavior and apologize to the families. That will not help heal the psychological damage they have inflicted upon these children, nor will it help those children lead normal and fulfilling lives.

Lombardi stated that making amends would help "purify memories" so that we can all work together in the future. Basically he wants to buy back people's loyalty to the church. And seeing as how the church has nearly unlimited assets and resources at its disposal, that seems easy enough.

Bill Maher, a liberal talk show host and comedian, spoke about the issue in his show "Real Time with Bill Maher" two weeks ago. He raised an interesting question: If you were a part of an organization that treats children like this, wouldn't you quit it or try to change it?

He argued that people don't change the institution. "If this was a chain of day care centers, they would've rolled it up and hundreds of people would be in jail right now," Maher said. "The only reason why they are not is because it is religion."

Maher said the reason this happened was because celibacy eliminated people from the priesthood that would not do this sort of thing. "It attracts the wrong kind of people because they know it's the wrong kind of place. It's where the boys are," Maher said. "The Pope should stop denying the link between celibacy and people who get into an organization to be with little boys."

There must be accountability and the church should respond to public opinion.

The United States was founded on the basis of separation between church and state, but when situations like these become commonplace, it is time to reestablish justice. There were about 200 priests removed from their posts in 2002, according to ABC News. However, if priests are still molesting children after these punishments, the punishment is clearly not stringent enough.

It is time to bring about major reform to the Catholic Church. Since the church is clearly hiring the wrong crowd, it is time to consider overhauling the ordination process.

The church is naturally creating a bad name for itself when its inaction appears to perpetuate abuses. The Catholic Church should revisit the issue if celibacy, as Protestant churches have done, background checks should be conducted every year and priests should be kept under a microscope so that clergy are not allowed to do this.

People go to priests for leadership and guidance. When the supremacy of the priesthood is lost amidst sordid and psychologically crippling acts, one thing is certain: the Catholic Church's legitimacy will be among its casualties.