Clerical sexual abuse and the future of Catholics


Catholics today are confronting horrible revelations of clerical abuse. Will this ongoing scandal change our church? Yes, undoubedly this encounter with dreadful home truths is already changing us.

The sickening revulsion we have felt toward accounts of distant concentration camps, torture chambers, serial murders and genocides is now induced by descriptions of sexual abuse of  vulnerable children and adolescents.  As the stomach heaves with disgust, the mind flinches and protests—no, oh no.

Priestly sexual abuse and its cover up by church authorities are forcing us to admit that corrupt evils exist inside our community and not only outside.  These offenders are from our own communities and their victims are like us. The sins of lust and abuse of power that come to light are destructive and all too similar to other moral atrocitie of history.

Self -justifying leaders that deny moral responsibility appear in our Christian community as in other self-serving institution. Ambition, careerism, and self-protective behavior are engendering complicity with evil.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Lord Action the great Catholic reformer declared.  

It is particularly disturbing to acknowledge that “religious” individuals can engage in monstrous acts, while at the same time administering and receiving the sacraments, proclaiming the scriptures  and leading prayers in worship. Obviously external religious behavior can be carried on with no sacramental effect on the inner person.   

Bitter disillusionment accompanies these realizations of the crisis.  Religious persons and institutions must be judged as more perverted and blameworthy than others when they betray the truth. Salt that loses its flavor and hypocritically whitened sepulchers are despicable in their hypocrisy.     

 Another adjustment the abuse crisis is forcing is a changed understanding of the psychology of persons.  Individuals possess different inner personal parts or dimensions in their make up, and these can be inadequately integrated or unified in a self.  This unevenness or fragmentation of personality helps to explain why some religious sex abusers also have good qualities that helped them win friends and avoid detection. Only when their destructive tendencies become dominant do they act out. But other abusers, like the psychopaths studied in psychology, are innately incapable of any empathy and so wholly immoral.  

So here we all are, in a church that is  bruised, chastened and challenged.  As fallible, self-deceptive, self-justifying  human persons ourselves, can we admit the shadow side of our religious life and the power of sin?  The work of truing, reforming and reconciling await, and it won’t be easy.  Any suggestions for how to begin?

Tim O'Leary
5 years ago
David #58 and #60
I went through all your links. I cannot respond to the many items in just a few lines so here I go. I agree with your point that we should focus only on the facts (hard evidence and not on unsubstantiated hearsay) and try to be objective.

I was familiar with most of these events from news stories at the time although it makes me angry again to go through the details, particularly of Marciel Maciel and Oliver O’Grady. The Maciel case is the most pernicious because of the calculated criminal duplicity of a founder of a new order of priests. Maciel fooled a lot of people in the religious and secular world (never facing any legal charges), but, apart from innuendo, I can find no evidence proving Pope JP II was not also fooled about Maciel's true nature. Nothing that Maciel may have said to his son (seeking $22M from the Sunday collections of average Catholics, 1/3rd to the lawyer) or others should be taken as credible, given his proven self-serving lies. Maciel has now gone to his judgment (2008), more perfect than any human court.

As regards Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, Wikipedia says he was asked to resign by Pope JP II and did so Sep-1995 “following allegations of child abuse” (back in the 1970s). The Austrian government didn’t investigate (because of the statute of limitations) but the current Pope Benedict still pushed for an investigation and Pope JP II agreed in 1998 (but he had already been removed in 1995), maybe after some delay. You probably agree that Pope Benedict appears to be the most heroic or at least the most aggresive in these reports in investigating and removing this “filth” in the Church but not everyone does as they try to implicate him too.

The Fr. O’Grady case is also very bad. But, while I don’t think Cardinal Mahony was a great pastor (in some doctrinal areas), I cannot find hard evidence anywhere that implicates him with “orchestrating” a cover-up. The idea that he fled LA from the police, when he was just on a short travel trip, does not hold water (he wasn’t arrested when he returned nor since, even after the film). Multiple other claims in the documentary are undoubtedly false (such that 10% seminarians from one school & 100,000 US priests are pedophiles, vs. the 4,000 in 70 years in the John Jay Report), so this isn't evidence. Of course, the documentary gets awards from every left-wing group, underlying the ideological utility and intention of this film. In other sources, Cardinal Mahony is described as “instrumental” in addressing the Church’s child abuse. The documentary claims President Bush officially grant immunity to the pope from prosecution. Where is this documented? How could this work in international law? What rubbish.

It appears that Cardinal Law followed those psychiatrists who viewed child abuse as a psychiatric rather than a criminal matter, referring them to psychiatrists and therapists, and when getting a recommendation from the doctors, sending them back to parishes. This was of course a major mistake, given the history of recidivism of child abuse. While he was not charged with any illegal act, Cardinal Law admitted his negligent moral wrong-doing in his statement: ''To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologize and from them beg forgiveness.''

There is enough to criticize in the handling of the child abuse crisis but why the need to bear false witness, except for political or bigoted reasons? Why exaggerate the already bad numbers except to weaken the Church’s evangelical mission? Why go after innocent priests and Bishops as well as the guilty? Christ will separate the wheat from the chaff. His Church is Holy yet ever in need of reform and forgiveness. I wouldn't be eligible for any other type of Church.

Finally, on forgiveness, I leave you with a link to a story yesterday on CNN's website regarding the sex offenders and their mothers (not a Catholic story but still on topic). Just to ponder. I am not sure what to think.
Mary Sweeney
5 years ago
I found ''The Addictive Organization'' by Anne Wilson Schaef and Diane Fassel extraorinarily helpful.
Mary Kilian
5 years ago
There is general dysfunction in the church akin to living in a family where one or more members have an addiction.  One of the first things we need to do is sit down together and come to an agreement about our problems but the BIG issues are simply not on the "official" agenda.  These are things like place of Vatican II, celibacy, gender and orders, humanae vitae, homosexuality as a "disorder"...I could go on and on. 

Those in authority don't feel a need to take us lay people seriously or our concerns over church leadership and how things have gone.  Those in authority don't even have access to dialogue as the men who control things in Rome, the Vatican shut down any seeming "dissent".  Look at how the various synods called to deal with our problems have been run over the last fifty yrs. - any thought that goes against the party line is quickly quenched.  And all the while we hemmorage people, especially our young. We are in a mess and our leaders plug their ears

Mary Kilian
5 years ago
I really am beginning to wonder if it will take various bishops going to jail for what they've done... including some internationally and some now in safe havens in the Vatican...  Maybe only then will they open their ears and hearts and souls...

Please don't misunderstand me -  I am a middle of the road, daily mass Catholic who loves the Church and would never leave...But these are times that try the human soul - especially in the hierarchy's almost complete in ability to comprehend the depth of the evil they perpetrated and covered up to our young.

I am a parent and am flabbergasted.

Mary Kilian
5 years ago
One solution would be to appoint at least half of the cardinals - women: both lay and religious.  Some of the criteria for their appointment might be that they be mothers, have legal and theological expertise as well as parish pastoral experience
of at least twenty yrs... o clerical types needed.
Carlos Orozco
5 years ago
The power of sin cannot be overcome by superficial "structural changes". First step? Inner purification. No doubt.
David Pasinski
5 years ago
See May 6 editorial in NY Times,, "More Time for Justice," about extending the statute of limitations for one year to hear other sexual abuse claims. Cardinal Dolan and the Catholic Conference continues to oppose this. One big step would be for Catholics to say that we would support this and promote a Hawaii type model (more inclusive than the Markey bill) which would show  good faith in being willing to deal with the painfujl history.

Cardinal Dolan is on the wrong side here even though it is true that one muct be careful for reputations and persons long dead. Still, this is not the side for the church to be on.
Crystal Watson
5 years ago
 Fire all the guys who covered-up abuse ... people like Cardinals Law and Brady are a sign that the church really doesn't care about abuse or lying about abuse, but only about itself.

Institute term limits - a limited term of office for the pope, cardinas, bishops (as it is now for the superiors in some religious orders).  That would help reduce abuse of power and fear of repercussions from whistle-blowing.

Follow the advice of the pontifical biblical commission on the ordination of women, and allow married men to be priests - if women and married men could be priests, there would be amny more cnadidates for prieshood and there would be a better chance of selecting psychologically stable people.

Sell all the artwork in the vatican's museums (to other museums) and give the money to avuse victims and the poor.

OK, i know none of this will ever happen, but wouldn't it be glorious if it did?
David Pasinski
5 years ago
Oh, Crystal.. are you inhaling something???
I'd like one of those paitings when you get them...

I'd be happy if for one month a year bishops wouldbe sent anonymously to another diocese and function as parish clergy in poor rural or inner-city parish, everyday bring communion to some elderly nor disbaled - institutionalized or at home, a few times a week visit the local jail, stop once weekly in a public school and spend time on playground and in office with social worker as well as the nurse (HIPAA permitting!), sit in a very busy local ER from 8 Pm to midnight, go at least a couple times to tha local soup kitchen or pantry, and have dinner in the home at least once weekly with a single Mom and another with a couple with more than two kids who are are both working parents... and spend Saturday nights in such a home and then get up and get the kids ready for Mass...

Change then may happen... 
Juan Lino
5 years ago
I am currently reading Suzanne Noffke's excellent translation of St. Catherine of Siena's "The Dialogue" and it has much to say about the situation we find ourselves in today. 

That's, IMHO, one place to look for a some guidance on "what to do" or "where to begin."  After all, St. Catherine's time was much worse than ours.
Thomas Farrell
5 years ago
Sidney Callahan: You ask if anybody has suggestions about how to begin, which presupposes that it is possible to begin.

But if there were to be any healing in the church after the betrayal of trust by the Catholic bishops in the priest-sex-abuse scandal, the healing would have to begin with the current Catholic bishops, including Pope Benedict XVI.

But Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea has published a perceptive article at NCR online (May 7, 2012) titled "Hierarchy's inability to mourn thwarts healing in the church." She means that the Catholic bishops, including Pope Benedict, are incapable of mourning in a healthy way. As a result, there will be no healing of the bishops' betrayal of trust in the priest-sex-abuse scandal.
Rick Fueyo
5 years ago
I think we first need to define the scope of the current problem. Without intending to minimize the horror of the Holocaust in any sense, we must first also adopt the sentiment "Never Again." Almost any aspect of our ecclesial model must yield to the reform necessary to keep this from occurring. There can be no value higher in the way we conceive of ourselves as a Church.
That aside, is ongoing abuse a problem, or have we ever be adopted the reforms necessary to ensure that this never occurs again? I don't mean to suggest that we can ever ensure that no religious figure ever again abuses a youth. I wish such reform were possible, but to my knowledge, there is not.  But I think we can adopt reforms to ensure that never again will it be reported and ignored, or overlooked.
 I believe that USCCB guidelines require that all matters now must be reported through a lay diocesan council.  I appreciate that not all dioceses have adopted the guidelines, based on statements that those Bishops believe that Catholicism does not have a role for "lay management”, to use an oversimplistic term.    I don't think any problems have come out of those dioceses that did not adopt the guidelines, but God have mercy on the soul of those Bishops if it ever happens, as they seem more concerned with their own control.
So what stage are we now in the scandal?  I read with great dismay about Cardinal Dolan's seeming adoption of the outlook of Bill Donohue towards "getting tough" with SNAP.  That seems profoundly misguided, in my opinion, and just wrong.
But are we just dealing with the legal mechanisms for past abuse, or is there an ongoing need to limit future abuse in a manner that has not yet been addressed?
Jim McCrea
5 years ago
Re:  Dave # 7:

What, and ruin their manicures?  Most of these guy haven't had to do ANYTHING remotely like what you are suggesting for who knows how long?  I'll bet they couldn't start a dishwasher or a laundry machine if their lives depended on it.

If Momma or Sister hasn't done it for them, it hasn't happened.

And you think that they'd do what you are suggesting?
Winifred Holloway
5 years ago
I appreciate all the comments here.  I would suggest that it would be helpful for those of us who grieve what has been happening in our church to just hear at Mass, the priest acknowledge that this is a hard time to be a Catholic.  No lenghty talk, just a mention, perhaps in the prayers of the faithful.  I hear from friends, cradle and committed Catholics all, from far and wide about how hard it is to crawl to Mass on the weekend,  and these are people who love the Eucharist.  "I just slip in and slip out."  Slipping in and slipping out is the new coping mechanism for Catholics aware that the church has become dysfunctional.  We are not allowed to talk about so many things.  The very things, as mentioned in many of the comments, that need discussion.  It is just surreal.  We do happy, clappy and act (b/c we know  what's expected of us) as if nothing is amiss.  Weird and unsettling.  I don't know how much longer I can keep up this deception.
Thomas Farrell
5 years ago
As a follow up to what I said in comment #9, I should say that many people are unable to mourn in a healthy way, not just the pope and the Catholic bishops.
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years ago
#13...what's your point - and I think you are in the wrong comment section.  But the answer is...because it's not as important an issue. Sibleius speaking v. so many children raped and then the cover up...see what I mean.  And for goodness sake, get over it.   Why are you afraid of hearing from those who dissent?  Are you afraid that you might be persuaded that what is at issue is women's health, not abortion.  You see the bishops raise that flag whenever they want to brand a woman, just as in by gone days, they would have yelled names at her.  Just as they now use "radical feminist" to describe NUNs for goodness sake.  Scare words a la 1984 (that's a book you might want to read).   If you only read a little you would know that contraception actually has real benefits beyond preventing birth, in the prevention of cancer and in the alleviation of pain.  Do you think merely letting her speak causes such damage?  WHen politicians with whom I disagree publicly speak, I am not such a weak minded person as to just accept what they say.  And finally, the commencement speaker I had when I graduated from Catholic University is now doing time for political corruption-but he was against abortion and that's all that matters.
Bill Freeman
5 years ago
Maria Byrd - Are you serious?  You are concerned that the Secretary of HHS is speaking at Georgetown?  The RCC is in the midst of the biggest challenge since the Reformation for its criminal behavior and Mafia-like coverup and you are worried about who is speaking at Georgetown?  The CDF and the UCCB have declaed war on 80% of U.S. women religious and you are concerned about a speaker invitation?  Are you for real?
Stephen SCHEWE
5 years ago
Play nice, guys.  America's blog contains the full spectrum of opinion.  Let's keep it charitable even when we're disagreeing with each other.  Maria's a long time commenter, she prays for all of us every day, and she's very much for real regarding what she believes.
Kang Dole
5 years ago
She can pray for me until her teeth fall out, but that doesn't make her comment any more appropriate or any less sick.

Why are the editors not addressing the impending final episode of House? Why are the editors not addressing the fact that my neighbor keeps taking my newspaper? Why are the editors not addressing the now year-round availability of Cadbury Cream eggs?
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years ago
To whom do I confess that I support directly and indirectly a group that:

- raped children or covered up for those who did (yes, I know it was not the majority but it was a sufficient number to turn my stomach);
- is so mysoginist that it denies for all time that women might receive a call from the Holy Spirit to preach Jesus' words and is against any gathering or collective that empowers women, from the girl scouts to nuns, and attacks them with name-calling that seeks to discredit and degrade them further;
- vehemently decries homosexuality as deviant when so many of them are just that;
- overtly seeks to defeat a president who has done more for the poor and working class in this country because they believe they would wield more power under a Republican - you say it's because of abortion? Yes, of course that's why the number of abortions under the previous president went up and why he took such decisive action to end abortion...not.

I wonder if my God will forgive me for sitting by while travesty upon travesty unfolds.  Will God forgive me even though I know what they do?

Craig McKee
5 years ago
The Pope doesn't care. His NUMBERS are up (but not by much):
Just enough to keep this global Eucharistic FAMINE going, and assure the success of his return to Tridentine clericalism.

p.s. @#18. Please, no HOUSE spoilers. We're a season behind here in Asia cuz of the Chinese subtitling.
Amy Ho-Ohn
5 years ago
"Why are the Editors not addressing the fact that Kathleen Sibleius is speaking at Georgetown University?"

Maybe they can't figure how to spell her name.
Helen Smith
5 years ago
Amy Ho-Ohn
"Maybe they can't figure how to spell her name."

i fali to see how your comment contributes anything constuctive to this conversation.
David Pasinski
5 years ago
I don't know the reasson for mentioning Secretary Sibelius speaking at Georgetown and think it's fine that they have such an official. It is interesting given the flap about Villa Maria and Vicki Kennedy and all of the other random litmus tests that crop up this time of year as far as speakers. Don't know what this says except than each university and diocese still retain some unique histories and relationships. I guess that's the state of American Catholiicsm today.. good or bad.
David Pasinski
5 years ago
I see that I misspelled her name also - unintentionally! I also saw on The Huffington Post the objections being raised about her speaking. She is not a commencement speaker and is speaking at the public olicy institute ceremony with no honorary degree and thus far Cardinal Wuerl, in Rome, had no comment.
Bill Taylor
5 years ago
After long long years I have concluded that much of this rests on a form of sex abuse most Catholics simply take for granted and even honor: celibacy forced on men who feel a call to be a priest.   As one old timer put it, "It's just the price you said you would pay.  It comes with the territory, so live with it."  But if the man did not discern a call in the Spirit to discover and live a life of celibacy...if it comes because that is the price he has to pay in order to be a priest, then it is just a subtle form of castration. 

Reminds me of the fate of the men who became high officials in the court of the Chinese emperors.  To keep them from wanting to steal the royal funds for the sake of their children, the emperor ordered his royal servants castrated. 

And so, our Catholic priesthood rests on a form of institutional sex abuse.  No wonder the institution had so much trouble with the sex abuse of the children.   After all, doesn't the research show that people who have been abused sexually are inclined to abuse?
Michael Casey
5 years ago
I think Maria's (#13) comment, and the reactions to it, bring up a crucial point here.  On one level, Sibleius' invitation makes perfect sense: she the head of HHS, a major gov. organization. Of course she should speak at a university in Washington.
    But Maria's objection gets at a deeper problem. The conservative reaction to the HHS mandate, not to mention the statements of pro-life Catholics in general, don't get the traction they might derserve largely because the clergy has lost so much credibilty on all issues regarding sex and gender.  The bishops circling the wagons and blaming everyone but themselves only makes it worse. I and many others find ourselves painted into some unfortunate ideological corners.
   To clarify: Not everything more conservative Catholics (or the bishops) say is bigoted gibberish to be dismissed. The issues are more nuanced than our political categories allow. There may be genuine, valid arguments against the HHS mandate, for instance. There are certainly valid arguments against abortion.
     But the Church leaders can't really make any of these more nuanced arguments, which might inform a more liberal mind, because, on matters of sex and gender, they have (less than) zero credibility.  It doesn't help that people who recognize this credibility gap are called silly names like "dissenter" and "radical feminist", and told they are not pure enough. To be polite, purity is not something the Catholic clergy should be speaking about right now.
      My guess is that if the hierarchy would open up to some desperately needed reform and stop acting like a bunch of angry misogynists, they would be much more successful in convincing moderate or liberal Catholics of the importance of pro-life positions,  as well as making non-conservatives more welcome in a Church that used to define itself as catholic, not just Catholic.
Jane & Francis Thomas
5 years ago
mcasey- an excellent point!  there is much in Catholic teaching that is of value, especially in this commercial, disposal society we've built.  Human dignity is at the cornerstone of such much of our teachings.  The real tragedy is that this valuable teaching that the world needs so much is never heard because the Bishops' antiquated, illogical, and misguided attitudes towards sexuality, including the role of women and celibacy, has undermined their credibility.  Their cover up of the sexual abuse scandal - and their ongoing passivity that leads to new, recent cases being revealed each month - rips from the Bishops any credibility they might otherwise have had.  Their actions and attitudes have ensured that they are no longer the moral authority of the church.
John Barbieri
5 years ago
The pope and the hierarchy show by their behavior that they just don't care.
The laity are simply there for them to order around (if they still can) and exploit. 
Since any reform would have to come from them because they hold all the power, the outlook for the church is discouraging. It has lost so much of its' moral authority. The hierarchy does not seem to have noticed that the culture no longer reinforces christian morality. The church has to convince people that its' message is of benefit to their lives. It cannot compel obedience. Those days are gone - never to return. As of this writing, the church isn't getting it done. If it continues on its' current path, it seems headed for the museum at best or the scrap heap of history at worst.
5 years ago
Pre-Vatican II Catholics like me, would be very familiar with the terms, “Church Suffering” “Church Militant,” “Church  Triumphant,” meaning the Suffering Church in Purgatory, the Militant Church on earth battling human perversities and the societal wiles of Satan, and finally the Church Triumphant in heaven, where souls obedient to God’s Commandments and the Precepts of the Church, merit  eternal life. I think they are somewhat   valid designations, but need in-depth clarification when used as teaching devises. But now, following the clergy sex abuse scandals, the   designations  may have  “other” meanings  for some Catholics.
See the “Suffering Church” as  visible  in the persona of the youthful victims of clergy sex abuse, suffering  the travail  of clergy pedophilia or homosexuality, along with their families and friends.  But I would like to include as well the “abusers”, for we may be sure they are also  suffering ,  their sins and crimes ever before them.  Including them may be  offensive, but  Divine Charity in which we Christians  through Baptism are mandated to live, require their inclusion I believe  as members of today’s “Suffering Church” praying for them along with their victims.
Understandable, but unfortunately so, today’s “Church Militant” is comprised of many angry Catholics, angry at the Church because of the horrific clergy sex abuse scandals and the real, or perceived belief that Church leadership remains (with a few exceptions) insensitive to the injury that the  scandals have inflicted  not  only  on victims but on  the entire Body of Christ (the Church) as well.  Add to this, anger with the Church for its uncompromising adherence to teachings viewed by many as no longer necessary or applicable, along with a rejection of clerical “high off the hog” lifestyles and liturgical pomposity, and we end up with a militancy against the Church   destructive of the Catholic Faith for many.
About the “Church Triumphant”  today  it may  come across as the “Church Arrogant” to a growing number of disenfranchised Catholics,  relative to the  Episcopal mishandling of the clergy sex abuse scandals, wherein angry laity feel that Bishops (not all) feel “triumphant” in beating back pesky intrusions of the laity. Many  feel, that with approval from the Vatican, Bishops are once again acting “”prince-like” foot pressing down on the necks of laity in submission. Also part of ecclesial arrogance is noted in the type of “priesthood” now leaving our seminaries. The newly ordained appear to be more modeled in cultic, rather than the servanthood style, opting for lacey vestments and even Tridentine “cardboard” type chasubles etc, etc. This irritates a large section of the Church, as trumphalistic.
There are grains of truth in all of the above, but in my opinion attitudes expressed in some ways are gross misrepresentations of truth and exaggerations of reality. Yet it must be addressed by the powers that be, adequately refuting its errors, otherwise Catholic Church membership will continue to be swept away in the turbulence of the times!  
But even a little knowledge of Church History will show that this “swept away in the turbulence of the times” has happened to the Church time and time again, in one way, or the other. Laity open to the docility of truth and priests and Bishops humble of heart, will do much to restore” tranquility of order”
proposed by Pope Pius XII as a prerequisite to “peace.”  This will be hard “sweaty” work, beads of Baptismal water like sweat, oozing from the soul in  a kind of spiritual osmosis cooling a fevered Church in pools of mutural forgiveness, making ring true once again, what the Roman Pagans once said of the early Christians, “See how these Christians love one another!” Future Catholics, Present Catholics, please listen.  
ed gleason
5 years ago
 Abuse cover-up? In  Ireland, Cardinal Brady insists on clinging to his job after new allegations that he ignored notorious Smyth disclosures. [See Whispersintheloggia]
A good move for him would be to say " I am stepping down now because I should have acted then but I was too embracing of a cover-up culture. I sorry... God bless the Church' But no...
A hierarch who thinks that his personal status is more important than the entire Irish church/ laity is a sad example of why a Reformation II is the only answer.
Of course Brady will go. but will he go kicking and quibbling, a sight too disgraceful to watch.?

Molly Roach
5 years ago
Truing up, reforming and reconciling this calamitous mess is a truly daunting prospect.  Here in Philly, where an overwhelming number of Catholics-including priests and religious-have not read the Grand Jury Reports from 2005 and 2011, there is very little familiarity with the evidence.  Narratives about what is happening are spun right out of the air : last year a priest told me that one of the priests pulled for administrative leave was pulled for just kissing a little girl on the cheek.  When I asked him if he'd read the newest Grand Jury report, he admitted that he had not.  So what will we do when convictions are arrived at,in the court cases?  People who can ignore the existance of evidence will certainly misconstrue convictions based on that evidence.  I can say with real sadness that I deeply miss the vision of a heroic clergy that I had before everything blew up in 2002.  But I conclude that I cannot assign this kind of heroism and that I have to find ways to live it.    
Jack Barry
5 years ago
On how to begin:   Yesterday, one beginning was attempted in Dublin where 1000 priests and laity met to figure out how to move “Towards an Assembly of the Irish Catholic Church”.   The 800-member Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) organized it, expecting a crowd of about 200.    Bishops were invited but did not appear.    The Brady flap mentioned above is a minor addition to the turmoil that has erupted in Ireland following a number of government reports on Church abuse history.   
The ACP site shows their Objectives and an initial statement on conference.    Brief news notes are under ''Catholic Church Conference'' at   
5 years ago
I am curious about what prompted Mr. Callahan to write this blog item now?  Did something new happen?  Or is it a slow news day?
Bill Mazzella
5 years ago
1. Stop calling clergy, Your Grace, excellency, Father, his Holiness, etc. Get rid of the contradiction now. Your behavior not the office is the criteria. The Lord was crucified and these "disciples" seek titles and privilege. 
2. Realize that most Catholics oppose this corruption. It is the five percent with money who keep the hierarchy afloat. Let the bishops open the books every year with the annual steward or Cardinal appeal.
3. Demand that the cardinals, bishops and pope feed the poor or homeless, personally at least once a week.
4. Let the poor and homeless dine at the Cathedral once a week for openers.
5. Stop picking on brother and sister Catholics for being conservative or liberal. Unite against a feudal hierarchy.
6. Let the bishop meet with a different women's group at least once a week. Issue a meaningful startement.
7. Have the Archbishop wash the feet of ten different disciple at least once a week.
8. Insist that a reasonable hierarchy remain which stress sevice as the number one duty.
For openers. ........
Bill Taylor
5 years ago
In response to Molly Roach.  Unfortunately, in my diocese, a priest was suspended because the father of an altar boy did not like the way he held the boy's hand during the Our Father.  When the bishop finally reinstated the priest at a priest's general assembly, he asked the priests present to avoid holding a server's hand during the Our Father.   Most priests, myself included, will not touch a kid.  Sme say they will not even look a kid in the eye.  This is how far it has gone. 
Bill Freeman
5 years ago
Taylor - I refuse to do any youth-related ministry - none.  I have laypeople do it all or it doesn't get done.
Matthew Pettigrew
5 years ago
What Taylor and TJ describe is sad but, at the risk of stating the obvious, it's not the fault of the kids or their parents. Bad priests did bad things to innocent children, and the consequences will be felt for a long time. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and attended a Catholic grade school and Catholic high school. I personally knew priests - men whom the parents and the children admired and respected and befriended - who ought to be in jail now if they did what they've been accused of doing. Respect and trust may come again, but the priests and the hierarchy have to prove that they are worthy. Some of Bill Mazzella's suggestions (No. 34) could be steps in the right direction.
Tim O'Leary
5 years ago
The timing of Sidney Callahan’s article is a little suspicious (May 7). Three days earlier (Friday May 4), in Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput announced the outcome for 8 priests from an investigation begun by the police and where in February of last year, 26 priests had been removed for alleged child abuse (and immediately branded as pedophiles, and defamed for life). Three were cleared and returned to their ministry (confirming that some completely innocent priests are being caught up in this dragnet), 5 were removed from ministry, of which only one was removed for alleged sexual abuse of a minor (the others could have had affairs with adults, etc). So, 1/8 or only 12.5% of those identified by the police is likely to be a pedophile.

The rigor of the process was explained by Archbishop Chaput. It is very impressive and can be read here: Over a year of investigation, over 400,000 pages of relevant documents, “interviewed 227 witnesses, across the United States and in several foreign countries, and conducted countless site visits to parishes and schools where incidents were alleged to have occurred. Many cases involved a search for additional evidence including yearbooks, parish records, photographs and public documents. Some cases dated as far back in time as 40 years, which posed significant investigative challenges.”

This was major news but I cannot find anything in America on it. Yet Sidney Callahan posts 3 days later on this very subject with no mention at all of these events. And of the 30 plus commentators, no mention of the innocent priests maligned. Just a stream of bile, anger and hate. I can find no faith in this string. No sorrow for one’s own sins (the log in one’s own eye), just hate and schadenfreude  for the clergy of the Church. No facts or figures, just insults of the most exaggerated and bigoted type. Is there no one above who believes that God is in charge at all times and justice will reign. Forget all your reforms and deforms. Begin by reforming yourselves.
Jack Barry
5 years ago
Tim O'Leary  -  
Please note that it has taken 3 Grand Juries to inspire the performance you commend.   An outside view this week (5/7/12) comes from an unusual Washington Post editorial on ''The passivity of the Catholic Church'':   
''While Catholic leaders insist they have turned the tide against clerical sexual abuse, the church’s behavior suggests that its default is to protect the abusers and their supervisors who turned a blind eye.  Until that changes, the church’s promises of zero tolerance will remain an illusion.''   
Bill Freeman
5 years ago
Sorry Tim - but no accolades for beginning to promise to do the right thing. Remember Dallas and its promises?   Far too little and far too late.
Michael Barberi
5 years ago

There is some truth that some innocent clergy have been inadvertantly maligned in a rush to judgment, and that some Catholics are using inappropriate language to defile the Church. However, the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, and the significant issue of cover up by the hierarchy, is not confined to one city in the U.S. This issue is a significant problem in many other cities in the U.S., and to many countries throughout the Catholic world, like Ireland.

The causes of this problem are complex but they point to many factors, the least of which is ecclesiology, and an exaggerated fear on the part of the Vatican to admit to any intrinsic error in governance, any morally wrong mentality of putting the authority and credibility of the magisterium and its hierarchy ahead of the safety and moral integrity of the innocent. This issue is not an unfortunate problem of time and place caused by the very few, that will pass. It is a fundamentally deeper and wider problem.

The Roman Curia believes that these allegations are blown out of proportion by the secular press and attorneys that hope to part-take in financial settlements. Some of this is true, but it pales in comparison to the harm inflicted upon innocent children and to the credibility and the authority of the Church as a symbol of Christ's love.

The overwhelming majority of those who believe they have been betrayed are not being insensitive to innocent priests who may have been inappropriately maligned. Some Catholics may be using imprudent and uncharitable language, but they do not represent the majority of Catholics that are appropriately complaining that the Church is not fulfilling their moral responsibilities. I don't believe you meant that the majority of those complaining should "begin by reforming themselves", for this would be a misguided suggestion.

Anne Chapman
5 years ago
Mr. O'Leary, you wrote: ''Forget all your reforms and deforms. Begin by reforming yourselves.''

Why should that be the first order of business? It was not the people in the pews who protected sexual molesters, but the hierarchy of the church.

 The hierarchy and the pope have consistently blamed everyone except themselves for the pedophile scandal that became so large because they protected the criminals instead of turning them over to the justice system. The pope has asked the people in the pews to be penitent, to reform, to confess their sins.

It was not the people in the pews who systematically kept silent about crimes they knew had been committed. It was not the people in the pews who covered up for rapists and molesters. It as the bishops, directed by their oath to Rome to remain silent in matters that might cause embarassment to the church. Twenty-two men were elevate to cardinal a couple of months ago. They repeated the same oath of silence to protect the institution. Reform is needed at the very top - not in the pews.

It is the hierarchy of the church that has not yet come clean, and not reformed. There are NO POLICIES in place that call for the disciplining or removal of bishops who protect pedophiles. As we know, the most egregious offenders, such as Law and Levada, were rewarded in Rome for their failure to protect the kids.

Until that time comes, some innocent priests will join the young as victims of a situation created by the sinful moral failures of the bishops and the pope. They are to blame. Not the people in the pews. They must reform. Why are you so anxious to seek reform among those who did not commit the sins of enabling child abuse? Why do you not ask for reform of the hierarchy?
ed gleason
5 years ago
Tim O'Leary says"The timing of Sidney Callahan’s article is a little suspicious (May 7]'
  suspicious? you have to be kidding.. If you want to read about Philly testimony try this link below. 
Also read the Grand Jury excepts posted there about how the Cardinal B covered up
 for a priest who did sexual acts with a consecrated host. [too strong to post here] 
And the AD said there were 'boundary violations..'

5 years ago
The defilement of one solitary child trumps any and all considerations of sullying the reputation of the "church". First of all the church is the people of God, not buildings, hierarchy or any other institutional practices. We are all called to imitate Christ, including the hierarchy! What Bill Mazzella is suggesting would seem to be a better imitation than what presently occurs among too many clergy.

What is being expressed in this blog is the pain, frustration and anger of those in the pew who, in many cases have reached a breaking point. Many in the hierarchy just don't seem to get it; those that do and who remain silent are cowards.

I would share a poignant example of how clueless many in positions of authority are: I happened to attend a service at a local parish some time ago where an auxialary bishop- Dennis Sullivan lamented the the fact that relious practice in Ireland had fallen off dramatically. He suggested that what Irelands needs is another St. Patrick, insinuating that the people needed to be evanglived once again. The abuse by some of the clergy in Ireland over many generations is mind boggling, and this bishop finds fault with the faithful! Meanwhile his boss Dolan is charged with setting things right over there. We need a reformation!
Tom Maher
5 years ago
Tim O'Leary # 38

Thank you for your many excellent points critical of this post "Clerical sexual abuse and the tuture of Catholics".  This post should be viewed very skeptically foro its many unfounded excesses.  This post is far too fatalistic and  hopeless. As you point out  effective corrective action has been taken.   

The author answes "Yes" to the question she poses: "Will this ongoing scandal change our Church"? 
The author"s theme is her own dire personal view of the Church as being inherently incapable of self-correction due to the corrosive effects of the clergy sexual abuse scandals.  This is an extreme view that must be more carefully evaluated for its plausability and is not judtified by the facts or logic.  ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
Michael Casey
5 years ago
"The author"s theme is her own dire personal view of the Church as being inherently incapable of self-correction due to the corrosive effects of the clergy sexual abuse scandals."

Generally, organizations that have structurally, furtively and stubbornly condoned criminal behavior in their administrative ranks aren't allowed to "self-correct".  That's why we have law enforcement. 
    Enron didn't 'self-correct too well; nor did the big Wall St. banks. The Nixon administration kinda flunked that one too. The current leadership of the Church, given ample opportunity to self-correct, have instead chosen the Nixonian path of lashing out at perceived enemies. Instead of making real structural change the leaders have gone after nuns and "dissenters". Some viewed these moves as cruel or just bizzarre. A better term would be craven.
     It's not the abuse crisis that makes the Church hierarchy incapable of self-correction. Just the reverse.
Michael Barberi
5 years ago

Thank you for your concise and accurate comment.

If I may add two thoughts it would be these: The capability to self-correct will happen in time; and, what we have now in the Roman Curia is a lack of moral imagination where the narrative gets repeated so often that it becomes the truth and all other evidence and reason is ignored.

We see this played out in many large organizations: Ford engineers and management ignoring the Pinto's improper placement of the gas tank that exploded in simple rear end accidents; management ignoring the Bronco's tendency to overturn at 40 miles per hour on a simple turn; Morton Thiokol managers failed to understand the engineer's point of view and signed off on the launch of the Challenger, with disasterous consequences. 

In these cases, no one stepped back from their situation, to look at their roles, decisions and actions from another perspective to evaluate or reassess their activities. No one tried to imagine a wider range of possible issues, consequences and remedies. No one challenged themselves because they were absorded in the narrative that they were right when many saw things differently. 

This is a lack of moral imagination, as Patricia Werhane brillantly explicated in her book "Moral Imagination and Management Decision-Making. It applies to all large organizations especially the Catholic Church.
Tim O'Leary
5 years ago
Some responses to individuals who addressed my comment (#38) above

Anne #42
You ask why we should begin with correcting ourselves before we decry the sins of others. I say that is what Jesus told us to do. He expressed great anger at those who sought no repentance for their own sins while they were condemning others. Despite the news reports, the hard statistics show that child abuse is no more a uniquely clerical or Catholic issue than any other crime, either in relative or absolute numbers. The vast majority of convicted child abusers of course come from the laity, and are non-Catholics. And I am not just talking about the over 1 million abortions each year in the US. The National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) has a map of sex offenders of children and had the figure of 747,408 in November 2011. This is 238 per 100,000 people in the population. In 2011, 187,862 children were sexually abused in 2011 in America, 2/3rds boys - National Children’s Alliance stats. Also, in certain parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia, there appears to be an epidemic.
Jack #39
I read the Washington Post article you linked to, which is about the failure of the Jesuit order to police itself in the 1990s, in particular Fr. Schaeffer, who went on to be elected to the board of Georgetown University even after he “failed” to take sufficient action. My understanding is the Jesuits are not under the jurisdiction of the US Bishops. But I agree they too need to be reformed.
Mcasey #47 & Michael #48
All organizations find it hard to police themselves, including as you mention the US government. Even the current Obama administration has been accused of going beyond the law in several areas. I believe the Catholic Church, from top to bottom, has been doing all in its power (zero-tolerance, etc) to get its own house in order and has made great progress. But this is a prudential judgment on my part, and I could be wrong. Reform can always be improved. As John (#44) said, even one child abused is unacceptable. But this is of course true in the Church, in families, in public schools. But I believe the Catholic schools are safer than most other institutions, having gone through this fire.

All institutions tend to 1) disbelieve charges against one’s own members (denial), 2) worry about scandal and the damage to the organization, 3) try to handle it inside first, 4) rely on organizational procedures rather (usually designed for different threats), and 5) often are slow to reform until the problem becomes public or hits a critical mass. While this is awful, think of how you would deal with a discovery in your own family (domestic child abuse is the place of most sex abuse, and the wife often protects the husband or boyfriend). This institutional pattern of behavior affected the Church, as it does the public schools, (I note recent news stories from LA and NYC and see the present government’s HHS report (2010),  summarized online It states that only about a fifth of the child maltreatment cases recognized at schools were reported to civil authorities and investigated. 20% of the “school sentinels” who contributed to the study indicated that their schools, as a matter of policy, do not even permit them to report to child protection services. The authors lament that despite similar findings of analogous studies in 1980, 1986, 1988 and 1993, no real progress has been made in getting schools to stop protecting perpetrators and start protecting victims.

I sincerely believe that much of the bishop-bashing and especially the more nasty comments above are less concerned with child abuse (notice how little anger is expressed for the pedophiles - most target the bishops) than with getting the Church to change its doctrine on faith and morals. But the Church cannot be reformed by doing that. What is needed is holiness. It was a revival in holiness, such as the founding of the Jesuits, that permitted the Church to recover from the near-fatal blows of the Protestant reformation or the French revolution. What we need now are more saints! And God will provide.

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