Sex Abuse Scandal

Dr. John Haas reacts to Peggy Noonan's call for new blood at Vatican

Dr. John Haas and Peggy Noonan.
Dr. John Haas and Peggy Noonan.


In response to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Peggy Noonan in which she criticized the Catholic Church for the “second wave” of sex scandals and charged that the “old Vatican needs new blood,” one critic is saying that Noonan should “applaud” the Church for reforms instead of criticizing it.

Noonan's April 17 Wall Street Journal opinion column claimed that the latest sex abuse scandals surrounding the Church have appeared to settle down and that the Vatican is likely thinking that the “worst is over.”

Noonan then argued that as a “Catholic,” she feels that this is not a positive development since the “more relaxed the institution, the less likely it will reform.” After likening the recently reported scandals to what happened in 2002, Noonan states that the “old Vatican needs new blood” and that in particular, the Church needs a “woman's touch.”

Responding to her column in remarks provided to CNA, Dr. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC), stated that Noonan is “stuck in the past with regard to the Church’s response to sexual abuse.”

Noonan “charges Vatican officials with complacency and declares, the 'more relaxed the institution, the less likely it will reform,'” noted Dr. Hass, “But Peggy has apparently not noticed that tremendous reform has occurred.”

“In fact, more reform has taken place in the Catholic Church than in any other social institution in which the abuse of minors has occurred,” he added.

“In 2002 the U. S. Bishops approved a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. They hired the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to conduct an independent investigation of the problem. They established a National Review Board chaired by a woman (Peggy called for a woman’s touch), Justice Anne M. Burke,” Dr. Haas pointed out.

Additionally, the “National Review Board monitors the policies of the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection of the bishops and oversees its annual audit. Five of its current 13 members have that 'woman’s touch,'” Dr. Haas noted.

The NCBC president also stated that no other social institutions have put safeguards in place “that even begin to approach those that have been established by the Catholic Church. There is nothing on a national level that tracks abusive school teachers, for example. And such negligence by these other institutions leaves more children at risk.”

Offering further proof of the Church's involvement in being proactive in combating sex abuse following 2002, Dr. Haas explained that the “National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland had its inaugural meeting in May 2006.” This board, he said, “was headed by the layman Justice Anthony Hederman” and “(f)our of its members are women.”

“Pope Benedict severely criticized the Irish bishops for their handling of the abuse cases, and four have offered their resignation,” he added. “And the Holy Father just met with abuse victims during his trip to Malta, not shying away from a public acknowledgment of the sins of the Church and its desire to make amends.”

“None of this seems to express complacency,” Dr. Haas wrote.

“Peggy Noonan and others should recognize and applaud the reforms which have taken place in the Catholic Church and urge other institutions working with the young to be equally as bold and as far-reaching in establishing programs to protect our children,” the NCBC president said.

To read Dr. Haas' full response, click here or visit

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