U.S. Catholics in crisis after ‘horrific’ grand jury report in Pennsylvania

by WorldTribune Staff, August 20, 2018

The Catholic Church is reeling after a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania revealed allegations of abuse by more than 300 priests against 1,000 children over a 70-year period.

“This has been the summer from hell for the Catholic Church and our sins are blatantly exposed for the world to see,” Vatican adviser Rev. Thomas Rosica wrote on Aug. 17.

Clouds over a Roman Catholic church in Pittsburgh. / Reuters

This summer also saw Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resign, the first-ever resignation of a U.S. cardinal accused of sexual abuse; an investigation into widespread abuse in Chile; and a cardinal on trial in Australia.

In Pennsylvania, the grand jury’s report found a systemic coverup by church leaders of child sex abuse and also alleged that priests used church property to produce child pornography.

In a three-page letter issued by the Vatican on Aug. 20, Pope Francis said: “With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

The new revelations come as faithful continue to leave the Catholic Church in the U.S. About 27 percent of former Catholics who no longer identify with a religion cited clergy sexual abuse scandals as a reason for leaving the church, according to Pew research in 2015. And among former Catholics who now identify as Protestant, 21 percent say the sexual abuse scandals were a reason for leaving Catholicism, Pew says.

“It’s almost unsalvageable. The church is in pieces. People have completely separated their faith from the organization,” said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University.

McGuire added “The fact that we thought all the worst had come out already – this is what creates cynicism. People were like: ‘OK, it’s all cleaned up, now we’re moving on.’ … Now we know: The church is a fallible human organization.”

Fortune noted that the U.S. Catholic Church “has spent and committed to spending nearly $4 billion in settlements and court awards relating to sexual abuse cases involving priests and other church officials over the last 65 years, according to a 2014 report; most of those payments came in recent years. Some dioceses have filed for bankruptcy protection, however, and avoided paying out some judgments.”

In the Aug. 20 Vatican letter, which was issued in seven languages, Francis referred to the Pennsylvania report, acknowledged that no effort to beg forgiveness of the victims will be sufficient but vowed “never again.”

The pope said, looking to the future, “no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”


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