All posts tagged: abuse crisis

Confronting a Sinful Church

“For our good and the good of all his holy Church.”[1] Even seven years after the new translation of the Roman Missal, I will occasionally stumble over this response if I am not concentrating. However, over the past months as the disturbing reports about now-laicized Cardinal McCarrick and the horrific details from the Pennsylvania grand jury report have come to light, the word “holy” has sometimes stuck in my throat at Mass—not because I am lacking sufficient attention but for precisely the opposite reason. In the wake of this ongoing scandal, I heard from longtime Catholic friends who feel misled, angry, and/or betrayed. One friend, so disturbed by the sordid tales of systematic abuse and cover-up by Pennsylvania clergy released last August, as well as her by own parish’s inability to respond, quietly left her pew in the middle of Mass for the door. As Catholics struggle to move forward by supporting victims, pressing for meaningful reforms, and trying to hold together a faith under siege by corruption, our liturgy functions as a double-edged sword. …

The Four Waves of the U.S. Catholic Abuse Crisis

  Where We Are  For many of us, the Catholic Church is our extended family and the center of our daily lives: the community within which we celebrate the sacraments, worship God, teach our children, serve the poor, cheer our kids’ CYO teams, build lifelong friendships, and so much more. Given that context, it is no surprise that over these past months American Catholics have been devastated and angered by revelations regarding sexual abuse and abuse of power in our Church. As we think about how to move forward, I would like to give an overview of our current moment; a brief review of how we got here; and finally, a description of what might lie ahead. This latest iteration of the clerical abuse crisis began with revelations regarding Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s abuse of children and predation on seminarians as he was protected by a culture of clericalism that looked the other way at every turn. It soon moved on to the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and its horrific accounting of decades …

Contributions Towards a Structural Analysis of the Catholic Abuse Crisis

Child abuse is always a horrendous crime. Nevertheless, Catholics sometimes think the abuse scandal mostly does harm to the Church, because some Catholics use the scandal to further their own agendas such as the lifting of obligatory celibacy for priests. Everything changes when you come to know a victim of child sexual abuse personally, especially if they are a friend of yours or someone you have known for many years. Abuse becomes a visible problem when it is given a face. When that happens both sadness and outrage follow. The ultimate aim of questions raised about coping with the abuse, and the new perspectives that answers to them raise, must be oriented towards a hoped for healing of the survivors and their families. As more details about clerical child abuse become known there are two possible approaches for a responsible coping with what has happened. The first approach is reflection upon the reasons why this massive abuse by clerics in the Catholic Church happened (1). There are various causes for the abuse: individual causes (1.1) …

The Roman Church as Casta Meretrix

You (=Jerusalem) committed fornication because of your renown, and you lavished your fornication on every passer-by. —Ezekiel 16:15 We should realize that everything said about Jerusalem applies to . . . the Church. —Origen, Homilies on Ezekiel Origen is speaking of the members of the church. . . The more “ecclesiastical” they are, the more he has them in mind. Above all, he is thinking of those who are the Church’s official leaders and preachers. He spares them as little as the prophet spares the whore Jerusalem. —Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Casta Meretrix” As the current wave of the clerical abuse crisis began to rush over us, I could not help but think of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s essay “Casta Meretrix [The Chaste Whore].” He opens that essay with Luther’s fiery denunciation of the Roman Church as the whore of Babylon. But then, in a surprising turn, he shows that such an identification preceded Luther by over a millennium. For nearly a hundred pages, he lays out text after text from dozens upon dozens of …

Guidelines for Any Appropriate Response to the Catholic Abuse Crisis

A Memory and a Hope: The Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 2018. I went to the 5:30 pm Mass at our parish. It was just this day that the Pennsylvania Grand Jury investigation was made public. I felt overcome by a tide of sadness, a very deep sadness in which I could not seem to touch bottom. It was as though all the beautiful things in the world that I had cherished had been tarnished and blasted with corruption and swept away by chaos, scandal, and embarrassment. At the very same time I had the most vivid impression of the beauty of the Feast we were celebrating, here towards summer’s end, contemplating Mary as the Eschatological Icon of the Church. This is as intimate and hopeful and ennobling Truth as any there are. I felt an equal tide of gratitude welling up within me just as deep and maybe even deeper than the sadness I was feeling. This was instead a tide of gratitude for the Church who, for all these centuries, had faithfully …

What Did Pope Francis Mean to Say with His Strange Abuse Crisis Letter?

I was received into the Roman Catholic Church exactly one calendar year before Pope Francis published his letter in response to the most recent paroxysm over the Church’s sexual abuse scandal and its cover up.[1] I have been a Christian my entire life, at once nurtured in the Gospel message that “the Kingdom of God is at hand” and recurrently disappointed by the faithlessness and callous immorality of Christians. About a decade of appropriating the Catholic intellectual tradition finally folded me into the Roman flock (though marrying a Latina Catholic from Texas played a role as well). The small boat of Pietist Evangelicalism in which I was raised welcomed philosophy and theological speculation, but the broader Evangelical sea by which it was tossed contained an aged Leviathan of anti-intellectualism. Along the way, I learned from Catholic thinkers about intellectual persistence, hermeneutical charity, patience of judgment, and how to distinguish reflections that are exciting in implication from those that are reliable in their conclusions. In light of recent revelations and accusations, I have felt a terrible …

Confusing the Self-Emptying Love of the Cross with Political Power

Recently, First Things asked a group of “younger” Catholics to sign a letter related to the substantiated charges of sexual abuse against Theodore McCarrick. I signed this letter (despite my identity as a “former” young person who is moving toward forty), disgusted that the promise to protect the young made by the bishops in 2002 has been broken. Much of my young adult life has unfolded in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis. In 2002, my former bishop, Anthony J. O’Connell resigned from the Diocese of Palm Beach, having admitted to molesting children in his charge at St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary. As a member of the diocesan youth Council in Knoxville, if this bishop had not been moved to Palm Beach, FL, I would have spent the night at his house at what was once an innocently named event, “Bunking with the Bish.” In 2003, my undergraduate seminarian classmates were pulled into our common space so that we could hear about Fr. Sam Peters, CSC—popular rector of Sorin Hall at Notre Dame. Fr. …