Church’s silence code
should be discarded

The issue: Accusations of sexual
misconduct by priests has engulfed
the Catholic Church.

SCORN and disgrace besiege the Roman Catholic Church as Easter approaches, and no parish can claim refuge from the pedophilia scandal. The preference to handle allegations of sexual abuse within the walls of the church and the secrecy of civil lawsuit settlements has protected abusers from criminal law enforcement. That code of secrecy needs to be abandoned.

A handbook for employees and lay people in the church's Honolulu diocese provides that anybody receiving a complaint involving a minor must contact authorities. "We are required by law to report it," says the Rev. Gary Secor, a clergy representative. Unfortunately, that policy has not kept church leaders from concealing allegations of sexual misconduct.

The scandal has focused on Boston, where the Rev. John J. Geoghan, a priest who has allegedly molested more than 130 people, has been defrocked and convicted of abusing a 10-year-old boy. The Archdiocese of Boston, aware that Geoghan was a child molester, reportedly moved him from parish to parish over a period of three decades. Cardinal Bernard Law recently turned over to authorities the names of 80 priests suspected of abusing children over the past 40 years.

New York's Cardinal Edward M. Egan now is feeling heat for his handling of sexual-abuse cases during his 12 years as bishop at Bridgeport, Conn. Documents related to lawsuits brought against eight priests who were accused of sexual abuse indicated that Egan allowed several clergymen accused of abuse to continue working and never referred the cases to law enforcement.

Western regional leaders of the Jesuits, the Catholic Church's largest religious order, neglected to alert authorities to allegations of sodomy, molestation and false imprisonment at a Los Gatos, Calif., retreat, according to the Los Angeles Times. One of the four clergymen named as defendants in a lawsuit against the Jesuits' California Province, which includes Hawaii, was convicted last year of committing a lewd act on one victim. Authorities learned of the allegations from a nearby shopkeeper, a friend of the two mentally retarded victims on whose behalf the suit was filed.

A committee created 10 years ago to address accusations of sexual misconduct in the Honolulu diocese recently reviewed four cases in which priests were removed from active ministry because of sexual abuse of a minor or "danger of sexual molestation," said diocesan spokesman Patrick Downes. He said the most recent local case was nine years ago.

Lynne Jensen, 33, who lives on the mainland, in October asked the Honolulu diocese to pay bills for therapy required because of sexual abuse by a priest when she was 6 or 7 and living in Kahaluu. The church denied liability and told her that the priest is retired and living in church quarters on Oahu. That seems to be consistent with the policy of church leaders in other parts of the country.


Vehicles on Kalanianaole Highway near the Makapuu Lookout risk being hit by falling rocks.

State is stuck between
rock falls and hard place

The issue: The Department of
Transportation plans to cover the cliffs at
Makapuu to prevent possible rock falls.

THE method by which the state deals with the potential hazard of rock falls on the highway at Makapuu must be reckoned with the effects it will have on nearby communities, the landscape and the interests of tourism. The Department of Transportation should explore the possibilities fully and seek consensus before proceeding.

The plan the state adopts could influence how similar conditions are dealt with throughout the islands where the geographic limitations that forced cuts through cliffs and hillsides to create roads in the first place will present few options for other routes.

The DOT's current plan is to swathe the cliffs above Kalanianaole Highway along Makapuu with a retaining net that will supposedly keep loosened rocks from falling. The netting is a temporary solution, one that has been used above Kamehameha Highway at Waimea and Honoapiilani Highway in West Maui.

The state says it will conduct hearings to inform the public about its plan, which includes blasting away 15,000 to 18,000 square yards of rock with dynamite. Presumably, the DOT has had geologic studies done on whether this will stabilize the cliff or undermine it further.

The project will require that the highway be partially closed, a concern for Waimanalo and other East Honolulu residents who use Kalanianaole to get to and from town. Businesses, such as Sea Life Park and tour bus companies, also would be affected as well as those in Hawaii Kai that depend on the flow of tourists along the popular scenic route. Because the project would take about a year, the economic repercussions could be considerable.

It would be a shame if the netting that will be stretched across the cliff face mars the area's natural beauty. However, the DOT says it is considering using a colored mesh to blend with the rock face.

The state acknowledges that the plan is a stop-gap measure. For the long term, it is considering other proposals: a protective cover over the existing highway, a cantilevered road away from the cliff or a tunnel through the hill. All of these would involve considerable expense. Moreover, they would significantly alter the area's view plane. With the state having established the Ka Iwi preserve and the city acquiring land across nearby Sandy Beach for a park, these plans seem counter to their intentions to sustain the scenic nature of the coastline.

There's no doubt that falling rocks along the road present a danger and the state can't ignore the potential for lawsuits. Although it already has sketched out a plan to deal with the problem, the DOT should be open to other solutions. Unlike the way it handled the traffic-camera program, it should pay heed to the desires of the public.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

John Flanagan, contributing editor 294-3533;

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