Ambiguity is sneaking back into how the Catholic Church deals with pedophilia priests. The issue was supposedly laid to rest when America's Roman Catholic bishops earlier this summer promised "zero tolerance" for, and aggressive disciplining of, priests accused of child molestation.
But resistance within the church to that strict policy is spreading across the nation. Parishioners are rallying behind accused priests, and in some cases the priests are fighting back by filing their own lawsuits against the alleged victims.
Experts in church law are questioning whether the policy - which can result in defrocking - violates priests' rights. The bishops themselves are being accused by some religious orders of ignoring Catholic teaching on redemption and forgiveness.
According to the Associated Press, some parishes are letting the abusers continue their church work, albeit away from children.
In the ecclesiastical realm, the resistance to bishops' tough anti-pedophile stance is something Catholics will have to work out among themselves.
But in the secular realm, there's nothing to work out. The law is clear. Child molestation is a crime. There are no special conditions, for priests or any other clergy, on how child abuse is investigated, prosecuted or punished.
As far as the general public is concerned, including Catholic laity, a measure of uncertainty within the church is not significant so long as the secular law is certain and uncompromising.