US Catholic Faith in Real Life

That lingering sex abuse crisis

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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Prsident of the U.S. bishops' conference Cardinal Francis George expressed a desire to be moving away from the sex abuse crisis in his opening address to the bishops at their November meeting:

There are some who would like to trap the Church in historical events of ages long past and there are others who would keep the bishops permanently imprisoned in the clerical sexual abuse scandal of recent years.  The proper response to a crisis of governance, however, is not no governance but effective governance.  Loss of trust, we know, weakens relationships and will continue to affect our ministry, even though clerical ranks have been purged of priests and bishops known to have abused children and the entire Church has taken unprecedented means to protect children and to reach out to victims.  In any case, the sinfulness of Churchmen can not be allowed to discredit the truth of Catholic teaching or to destroy the relationships that create ecclesial communion.

Whatever the Cardinal's hope, however, the sex abuse crisis continues to undermine the credibility of the bishops. Consider the criticism of Bishop Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, currently involved in a dispute with Rep. Patrick Kennedy over the Congressman's support of abortion and being Catholic. The issue came up in a debate for the open Massachusetts Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy, as reported by the Boston Globe:

“It seems to me a little bit ironic that a church that was willing to overlook the victimization of many, many children over several years is now turning around and saying to people who are good Christians, good Catholics, that, ‘You can’t join this,’ ’’ Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is Catholic, said during a campaign forum broadcast last night.

Said her rival, US Representative Michael E. Capuano: “And they wonder why people stop going to church.’’ Capuano, who is Catholic, then ticked off issues on which he disagreed with the church, including abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and prohibitions against the ordination of women and married men as priests.

I'm beginnng to wonder if, now that some bishops seem willing to openly take on particular politicians, some politicians might feel free to go public right back. I'm not sure this is a good turn of events, but if they keep heading in this direction, the bishops can expect to have clergy sex abuse thrown in their face over and over again.