WASHINGTON, D.C.–The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans, is outraged at the recent grand jury finding in Philadelphia that 37 Catholic priests in active duty have credible allegations of sexual abuse. The Philadelphia archdiocese suspended 21 of the 37 Roman Catholic priests who were named as child molestation suspects on March 8.

Two grand juries–one in 2005 identifying 63 active duty Catholic priests with allegations of sexual abuse and this finding in 2011 identifying 37–have found the Catholic Church’s response to child abuse within the church woefully inadequate.

The panel created by the Catholic Church in 2005 was found to have worked mostly to protect the church, not the victims–an unsettling realization after consistent reassurances from the Catholic Church that they are protecting children. How many innocent lives have been forever tarnished? It seems that the Catholic Church only responds to public, legal intervention and is incapable of independently protecting children and identifying abusers. NBCI seeks to eradicate sexual abuse within the Church–we call on all religious leaders to join us putting the protection of children first.

The Child Victim’s Act, which was authored by Delaware State Sen. Karen Peterson, eliminated the civil statute of limitations for sexual abuse of children. It gives child victims of unspeakable sexual trauma the chance to speak up in a way that they were previously unable to.

It also allows those who cover up and enable predators to be exposed. It is clear that sexual abuse, especially when perpetrated by a trusted religious authority, leaves an indelible mark on a child.

These broken children must have the opportunity to address their abuser in whatever timeline facilitates positive mental and physical health for the victim–Catholic priests can no longer hide behind statutes of limitations. These children deserve justice now.

Over the years we have expressed, in the strongest of terms, the position of the Black church regarding the Catholic Church sexual-abuse scandal. We have made it very clear–we condemn the perpetuation of sexual abuse. We condemn the church’s lack of transparency. We no longer believe that the Catholic Church is utilizing the necessary resources to end the evil abuse of God’s children.

Therefore, I have ordered our faith command leaders nationwide to advocate the passage of the Child Victim’s Act in every state to ensure that Catholic and Protestant abusers are held accountable. Similar bills are pending in other states, including New York, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii and they have NBCI’s full support. Additionally, five years ago I asked our NBCI faith-based leaders to meet with their state attorney general’s to implement effective reporting and investigative channels to identify and remove predators from positions within the church. I am happy to report the success of this collaboration and I am calling on the Catholic Church to follow our lead.

Leaving hundreds of thousands of victims in its wake worldwide, this scandal has cost over $2.6 billion dollars, with physical and emotional costs impossible to calculate. Abusers continue their insidious molestation under the protection of the Catholic Church and very few ever are tried in a court of law. According to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice only 6 percent of all priests against whom allegations were made were convicted and about 2 percent received prison sentences since 1950.

Pope Benedict XVI has admitted that “the greatest persecution of the church doesn’t come from enemies on the outside but is born from the sin within the church.” NBCI agrees that there is sin within the Catholic Church. However; the Catholic Church is not being “persecuted.” Rather, it is the innocent children, in their quest to strengthen their faith, who are persecuted by Catholic clergy. We are simply asking that the church take full responsibility for the lives irrevocably damaged.

After nearly 60 years of abuse allegations and indictments it has become clear that the Catholic Church is a moral threat to the Christian faith. Each child whose innocence is stolen represents a crack in the Catholic Church’s credibility–it is now very clear the Catholic Church is shattered. We are dismayed that the damage the Catholic Church inflicts upon children weakens the global message of Christ. The Catholic Church abuse scandal has not only affected Catholics worldwide, but Protestants as well. The numbers are staggering and shake the very foundation of the Christian Church. The numbers speak for themselves.

An extensive new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that the number of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today (16.1 percent) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children.

Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.

While those Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion have seen the greatest growth in numbers as a result of changes in affiliation, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes. While nearly one-in-three Americans (31 percent) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24 percent) describe themselves as Catholic.