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For the first five months of this year, a Roman Catholic bishop in the United States had in his possession photographs that a priest in his diocese had taken of little girls’ genitals. The bishop did not remove the priest from his parish and did not report the priest for more than five months. By his inaction, the bishop harmed children and their families in his diocese. He harmed faithful clergy. He also alienated countless people from the Roman Catholic Church and confirmed beliefs that it is better to stay away from church than to go. In his own mind, the bishop may have had good reason for his inaction, but he did not see the whole picture.

This article argues that the bishop and other clergy do not understand sexual abusers of children. Sexual abusers must be removed immediately and permanently from the presence of children. It’s as simple as that, for God’s sake. Next comes the report to the police and possible trial and conviction. Then there are apology, reparation, penitence, and personal and institutional reform.

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