The Dallas Morning News documented that year the fact that two-thirds of U.S. bishops were involved in cover-ups of sex abuse.

twothirds

There were several factors at work in the sex abuse crisis—including misguided compassion for abusive priests, a “magical” attitude toward the effects of repentance and confession, and a misguided faith in the power of pop psychology to treat incurable diseases like pedophilia and deadly sins like Lust.

But the main driver of the scandal, as the fearless Catholic journalist Philip Lawler explained in his authoritative book on the abuse crisis, The Faithful Departed, was simple worldliness: A vast and powerful Church infrastructure was built up by heroic missionaries and fiercely faithful, impoverished Catholic migrants—who came here legally when the U.S. needed an almost infinite supply of strong Sicilian ditch-diggers and chaste Irish nannies. The kind of men who founded the American church were a lot like the men who founded the U.S. government—heroes willing to risk life and limb, to face ridicule and thankless toil in a cause most people thought hopeless. (Imagine George Washington in a mitre.)

The Church continued to grow as faithful men sternly schooled in Jesuit spirituality and Thomist theology faced down hostility and anti-Catholic mobs, to build a massive network of Catholic parochial schools, and resist evil laws imposing Prohibition and eugenics. (You might think of these men as the Andrew Jacksons and Abraham Lincolns of the episcopate.)

As time went on, and Americans began to accept that Catholics really weren’t filling their church basements with dynamite and scheming to make the pope our king, life for bishops became a lot more comfortable. It started to attract a different kind of man, with another set of priorities—glad-handing, ward-heeling power brokers, more in the mold of Lyndon Johnson.

When a crisis of faith erupted over birth control, it turned out that the upper ranks of the clergy were largely composed of men like Richard Nixon or William Jefferson Clinton. Those were the kind of men who were faced with the tough choice of turning an abusive priest over to the police—and facing the public scandal and possible lawsuit—or covering up for him and either bribing or intimidating the victims into silence. The scandal was the love-child born of the world and the flesh, but the Devil did play his part. He served as matchmaker.

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Divine injunctions forbid the Vatican boasting of its good work, so the only news we get is bad news


One of the biggest propaganda coups against the Catholic church in recent years has been to portray it as riddled with paedophiles whose vile activities it has sought to cover up. Apart from the occasional defensive flash when a senior churchman is wrongly accused of inaction, the church has merely apologised and asked for forgiveness.

Well, so it should. One child abused would be one too many; but it is frustrating that the church does so little to put its role in proportion. Meek and mild may be good, but leaving the ordinary members of the flock bleating in bewilderment as the wolves of Fleet Street snarl around them, jaws foaming with allegations, is not so good.

After all the dust had settled in America, 98% of priests were untouched by allegations, let alone convictions. We do not yet know the final figures for Ireland but what we do know is that there is nothing unique to the Catholic church about child abuse. Teachers, care home workers and scout masters are just a few other examples, while the biggest category of abuse is, horrifically, within families. The church of course would never seek to compare its own sins with those of others, so this point is never made.

The same applies to the allegations of cover-ups. In the 1970s the National Council of Civil Liberties, an eminently respectable body staffed by eminently respectable people like Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman, actually allowed affiliation with the Paedophile Information Exchange, so little was the nature of paedophilia understood.

Cases were often dealt with by magistrates and sentences could be light. In the 1980s I was doing Samaritan training and, far from reporting cases, we treated child abuse no less confidentially than any other crime. It was the mid 1990s before we had a sex offenders’ register in this country. Why would the Catholic church be expected to know what the rest of the world did not?

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Tom Roeser on the Dan McCormack priestly abuse case

There was entirely too much rush from civil and moral judgment to protect those archdiocesan and seminary officials from their responsibility for McCormack in my view.

The whole thing was outrageous. Everyone… everyone… associated with this scandal has been promoted in one way or another-including the seminary rector who told the Sun-Times after the scandals rocked the Church that he, the rector, would ordain McCormack again. AGAIN!

Outrageous! The entire case wreaks with purposeful ineptitude… the seminary records of McCormack having “disappeared”… the rector being promoted auxiliary bishop of Chicago, promoted again to bishop of Tucson, promoted yet again to number two in the leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

If that isn’t rewarding a person who… having expressed little remorse for his culpable toleration of clerical perversity isn’t disgusting… serving as a gift for malfeasance of duty… I don’t know what is.

Read more at TomRoeser.com