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Recent revelations of cases in which Catholic priests have sexually abused minors over the course of the last five decades have drawn intense media scrutiny and public outrage. But discipline of the clergy for sexual offenses is not novel in the history of the Catholic Church, and canonical structures have long been in place to address the problem. This Article argues that the recent crisis has resulted in part from a failure to respect and enforce the relevant provisions of canon law. If bishops had fulfilled their duty to abide by the rule of law, especially in the cases involving clergy who are serial child abusers, there probably would have been no crisis. This Article proposes that an important aspect of responding to the present crisis must entail recommitment to the rule of law, thereby allowing injured individuals and communities to heal and forgive.

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