One of the biggest obstacles I faced when I began my journey back to the church was that of the “Clergy Abuse” crisis. How could I believe in an institution that covers up severe wrongdoing by those who we are supposed to trust?
According to the Catholic Church, they are the absolute moral authority. We are instructed to follow their teachings when it comes to right and wrong, good versus evil. How can we when the leaders don’t follow their own rules? “Do as I say, not as I do ” cannot and does not apply here.
We were told twenty years ago that this problem was taken care of and it wouldn’t happen again. Now we find things haven’t changed and are as bad as ever, if not worse. After twenty years the abuse goes on and is still being covered up at high levels. How can I justify this? What can I say to someone who has left the church or who might be thinking of converting to the Catholic faith?
I began writing this post last week due to a brief illness. Since then there is more trouble for the church. A Grand Jury in Pennslyvania investigated all but two of the dioceses in the state and uncovered abuse by three hundred priests. They estimate at least 1,000 victims but it could be even more. There is also evidence of a massive cover-up. While most of this abuse ended in the early 2000’s (after the original scandal in Massachusetts) it still is a problem. I am still reading the report but the introduction alone is enough to make me ill.
The report does mention that things have gotten better, reporting allegations to the Police is happening and action is being taken.
At the same time, we recognize that much has changed over the last fifteen years. We agreed to hear from each of the six dioceses we investigated so that they could inform us about recent developments in their jurisdictions. In response, five of the bishops submitted statements to us, and the sixth, the bishop of Erie, appeared before us in person. His testimony impressed us as forthright and heartfelt. It appears that the church is now advising law enforcement of abuse reports more promptly. Internal review processes have been established. Victims are no longer quite so invisible. – Grand Jury Report Page 6
This is all good but it is still a problem. I realize that the clergy is made up of humans who are subject to temptation and sin. But for this to go on for so long and to have been covered up is wrong no matter how you look at it. I do believe that on the Last Day these people will be called in front of our maker and will be accountable for their sins. But going back to what was to be my original point in this post – How can we as faithful Catholics explain this to others? How can we justify something that there is no justification for?
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