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HomeImmutableXAfter Two Decades, Abuse Crisis Has Humbled the Catholic Church

After Two Decades, Abuse Crisis Has Humbled the Catholic Church

From the outbreak of the Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis in 2002 until his death more than three years later, St. John Paul II had never met a victim of sexual abuse by a priest. did.

In contrast, Pope Francis has met many victims of abuse and their supporters since the 2013 elections. He will meet next year with a representative of indigenous Canadians protesting the historic abuse of children at a housing school run by a Canadian church.

Those meetings are a sign of how the Catholic hierarchy has undergone that change. Responding to abuse scandals, It made the church poorer and less influential in the countries where they appeared.

“Church leaders have come to realize that they must take ownership and responsibility for what has happened,” said the president of a hypothetical university advising a US bishop on the prevention of abuse. And said Francesco Cesaleo, a former chairman of the National Review Board. .. Now, “there is a recognition that the church needs to be redeemed, not just admitted,” he said.

In 2002, prominent Vatican officials and cardinals from several countries issued highly defensive official statements after the Boston Globe began publishing reports on the abuse and concealment of local clergy. .. They minimized the number of predatory priests and accused plaintiffs of lawyers and hostile media scandals.

In contrast, the French Independent Commission has this year with priests, church employees, and volunteers. Sexually abused about 330,000 minors Since 1950, there have been only terrible apologies from Pope Francis and the French bishops in this country.

Pope Francis is praying for the victims of sexual abuse of French bishops and clergy in October.


Vatican Media Distribution / Shutterstock

Pope Francis symbolizes that change. In early 2018, he said the Chilean bishop was slandered when he was accused of concealing the abuse. But later that year, he met the whistleblowers, summoned Chilean bishops to Rome, and accused them of “abusing power” in their ranks. All 34 bishops have submitted their resignations. The Pope finally accepted eight people.. This episode highlights the danger of abuse that previously focused on Western nations has spread to Latin America.

“I don’t know what their internal dialogue is, and whether they are really humble, but certainly their public relations strategy goes from denial or minimization to a very compelling expression of self-blame. It has changed dramatically, “said Anne Barrett Doyle of, which tracks abuse cases around the world.

Barrett Doyle said the church has made substantial changes to its response to the scandal, but not enough. Only the United States still requires “zero tolerance” by canon law. That is, automatic evacuation from the ministry of clerics convicted of one act of abusing minors.

In 2019, the Pope has begun a global process to investigate bishops who conceal abuse or abuse by others. However, activists rejected the general surveillance model proposed by US bishops and criticized him for leaving the church hierarchy to the police.

Bishops in the United States have established child protection measures that the Vatican encourages around the world, and most of the accusations in the United States are now historic. Still, the crisis continues to hurt the status of churches in the United States and abroad.

“The tragedy of abuse has resulted in a poorer and more humble church,” said Bishop Franz Joseph Oberbeck of Essen, Germany last month. “We have lost trust. People have lost trust in churches, priests, and bishops.”

Bishop Franz Josef Oberbeck, Essen, Germany.


Sebastian Gornow / Zuma Press

According to church statistics, 9.1% of German Catholics attended the Mass on Sunday 2019 on a regular basis, down from 12.6% in 2010 when the German church was hit by a series of abuse scandals.

According to a Gallup study, the proportion of Catholics in parishes decreased from 76% to 58% between 1998 and 2020 in the United States. This is twice the rate of decrease in Protestantism.

The decline of organized religion was already underway in many Western countries, but the scandal exacerbated the problem. “We lost people because of this,” said Susanne Healy, a family therapist who is currently chairing the American Bishops’ Council.

In 2019, 27% of US Catholics surveyed reduced Mass attendance in response to the crisis of abuse, according to the Pew Research Center.

In a 2021 survey by the Center for Applied Research at Georgetown University’s Apostolic Employment, 31% of adult American Catholics said they were embarrassed to identify themselves as Catholics due to the danger of abuse. rice field.

Jimmy Prisca, Scranton, Pennsylvania, is one of those seeking compensation from the Church for sexual abuse that occurred many years ago. If he accepts the settlement, he fears that he may never know the truth about his alleged abuser. Photo: Alexander Hotz / WSJ (Video from 7/11/19)

Philip Roller, author of the book The Faithful Department on the crisis of abuse in Boston, said the bishops’ remarks have now lost public respect. “It’s too easy for a cynic to say,’Oh, you’re too busy defending the rapist.’ And it doesn’t have a really good comeback. “

The crisis had a major impact on the church’s finances. From 2004 to 2020, according to the US Catholic Episcopal Conference, US Catholic parishes and religious orders spent $ 4.3 billion on allegations of abuse, primarily payments to victims and attorneys’ fees.

According to Pennsylvania State University, 31 dioceses and religious orders in the United States are calling for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection. In addition, a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 26% of US Catholics reduced the amount donated to the parish in response to the abuse scandal.

Some donors have transferred donations to an independent Catholic nonprofit organization that engages in humanitarian activities, and the founding executive of the Leadership Roundtable, a group established to promote transparency and accountability in church operations. Director Kelly Ali’s Robinson says.

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The crisis exacerbated the ongoing cultural war within the church. Some conservatives condemned the moral laziness and homosexual crisis between priests, as the majority of the reported victims were adolescent boys.

Progressive pointed out instead To the need for overhaul Of the teachings and practices of the church. In Germany, at an ongoing conference inspired by the study of historic clergy abuse, bishops and the general public, the church congratulates same-sex couples, removes the priest’s bachelor duty, and empowers the general public. , Discussing whether to order a woman to a priest.

The crisis has led people to “question the basic truths of the Church and whether those truths are in fact immutable,” Cesareo said. “It will take several generations before we can get out of the way in a way that allows the Church to reassert its voice and position in society.”

Write to Francis X. Rocka

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