The latest headlines reveal the Catholic Church’s role in covering up cases of sex abuse, discovered by a Pennsylvania grand jury that concluded more than 300 clergymen of six dioceses had abused more than 1,000 children in the past 70 years. One juror said the evidence suggests there are thousands more victims. The report is nearly 1,400 pages and is absolutely stomach churning. The intimidation tactics employed to harass victims would normally lead one to think it is a report on the activities of the mob.
In world news, Australian Archbishop Philip Wilson has resigned in the wake of the allegations that he covered up sex abuse for decades. Back in May, all 34 bishops of Chile offered their resignations to Pope Francis after a document leaked accusing them of a sweeping sex abuse cover up and widespread negligence in the Church hierarchy. Missouri’s Attorney General is opening a statewide probe into alleged abuse by clergymen. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, D.C., has resigned because of an investigation regarding his own history as an abuser and an enabler of this sort of sickening behavior.
These are simply facts. Here is another: the Catholic Church, for decades, participated in abusing children, enabling abusers, threatening and re-traumatizing victims and endangering the most innocent individuals under their care.
Now how do I, born and raised a Roman Catholic, go and sit in my pew and get a lecture about morality and ethics from a pulpit that has participated in these acts — or at least stood by as they happened?
Am I painting with too broad a brush? This abuse and its enablement were systemic, and each new grand jury or investigation exposes just how far the fraud and deception go, all the way up the hierarchy. No more apologies, no more internal investigations by the Church. It is clear they are unable, either because of ineptitude or because of more sinister motives, to handle cleaning house and reforming. It is time for action.
To be clear, many of these news stories are about abuses that happened more than a decade ago. However, that does not lessen the degree of how outrageous and morally repugnant they are.
It means that the Church still has not reckoned with its past. This abuse was not simply a few bad apples or dioceses; it went up to the Vatican. The words of the Church are losing meaning among many who sit in the pew and give hard earned money to an organization that continually lies to its members. This newest scandal is similar to the wake-up call of the 2002 Boston Globe series about Church abuse.
There is a great quote from the movie The Patriot in which the reverend says, “A shepherd must tend to his flock and at times fight off the wolves.” Well, it seems that the flock needs to do a better job protecting each other.
If the Church chooses not to reform itself and enact harsher, more systemic measures to prevent these atrocities, its members need to act, either by leaving or making their voices louder.
The Catholic Church has entered a critical period in its history. For those who choose to ignore or move past the scandals, their silence speaks volumes, their excuses for these crimes morally unacceptable.
This article is not meant to make you leave the Church. Rather, it’s simply a Roman Catholic struggling to balance with the continuing moral failures of his religion.
Ryan Spolar is a senior Honors Bachelor of Arts major. He is a staff writer for the Newswire from Cleveland.