In August 2018 Pope Francis issued a letter to all Catholics in the wake of various revelations.
The months previous to this saw two different types of sexual abuse exposed:
The first concerned the abuse of adults, and brought a new evil to light It manifested certain bishops sexually forcing themselves on clergy and seminarians under their care. In the English-speaking world, this has led to ex-Cardinal McCarrick being defrocked. The manifestation of the networks of deviancy involved in this is sickening.
The second saw a public commission in Pennsylvania document hundreds of allegations of clerical abuse of minors with many truly perverse and disturbing accounts. The Pennsylvania report is monumental in the time span and number of cases it covers. Since the Pope's letter he has removed two Chilean bishops for abuse of minors.
The above revelations raise many concerns, but among the most immediate might be the question of how much of this is also true locally. I would make three observations:
(1) The Local Situation
The revelations reported above, and the analysis below in Eberstadt's article, describe sections of the Church in the USA and some other places. However, these horrific descriptions of networks of deviancy do not hold in every diocese and do not hold in every country. While it seems, tragically, that every diocese has had some individual cases, only a few seem to have signs of networks of perverts. Similarly, while some bishops have failed grievously, other bishops have responded effectively to abuse and acted to prevent it. The statistics are much better in some dioceses than in others. I would note, personally, that I've not seen signs of such networks in our own Diocese. This might seem small consolation, but I think it gives us hope that the situation can be remedied: Promote the effective bishops and retire the failing ones.
(2) Frequency/Infrequency of Abusers
How likely is it that a local priest is an abuser? Media reports create the impression that abuse by priests is common. However, while abuse by a priest is a great evil, coming from someone in a position of great trust, we should note:
In fact, a thorough study indicates that:
That's very different from the impression created by the media. That said, most of us would have hoped for priests to be more than twice as safe as the general public, which makes the next point relevant (namely, that recent decades are an anomaly, not the norm, and that we can reasonably hope the future will be different from the recent past).
(3) The Past, and hope for a better Future
There are two, rather different, reasons to think that the future will not be a continuation of the recent past, one is generational and the other is a change of policies.
In terms of policies, we might note that almost all of the reports of abuse concern events from past decades. A major reason for this is that the safeguarding procedures that have been in place since the turn of the century would make it difficult for events such as those described in the Pennsylvania report to happen in the same way on the same scale still today.
But there is also the effect of a significant generational shift occurring within the clergy. It might be noted that Cardinal McCarrick is an old man and the Pennsylvania reports almost entirely concern events some decades ago. These horrors were largely a phenomenon within an older morally-confused generation influenced by the after-effects of the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
This generation is dying out and the younger generation of priests coming forward manifest a very different dynamic: they are becoming priests because they want to be different from the society around us, because they are committing themselves to a chaste counter-cultural lifestyle -they don't want to belong to the secular sexually promiscuous culture. There is, with this, a generation of young committed laity emerging too.
I have put together analyses from a few perceptive commentators below, along with the Pope’s recent letter. A statement has also been made by our Bishops' Conference of England and Wales (which can be read here) and a letter from our Bishop (which can be read here).
Fr Dylan James, Parish Priest
28th September 2018 (updated 18th Oct 2018)
I list below some noteworthy articles, most of them written in recent months:
The Elephant in the Sacristy, by Mary Eberstadt
"this crisis involving minors --this ongoing institutionalized horror-- is almost entirely about man-boy sex"
Cardinal McCarrick's abuse of young men serves as a horrific example of the analysis that Eberstadt offered in 2002. Her analysis remains definitive and is very different from the narrative fed to us by the secular media.
What makes the abuse crisis within the Catholic Church different from abuse in other organisations is the large number of homosexual predators involved, meaning homosexual-predator-priests living a deviant double life. The key statistic in this regard is this: 80-90% of victims were teenage boys, rather than girls or young children. This indicates that there is a specific issue within the Church that needs addressing: somehow a large number of actively homosexual men were ordained priests in the second half of the 20th century (Church law, since the time of Pope Benedict, now says that men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" should not be ordained, see here).
This crisis is unique to our moment in history, though sadly we are living through it.
"three related issues: abuse of power, homosexual abuse and the failure to observe celibacy, and the failure of the bishops to police themselves… the crisis of 2018 is exactly the same crisis as the 'long Lent' of 2002. The elephant in the sacristy, then and now, is the conflation of those three issues."
"The Church has been uncomfortably silent on matters of sexuality, family, and marriage because some in her leadership do not live these teachings themselves. ...In my experience, the priests and bishops who are comfortable talking about, defending, and promoting the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage are confident in their vocations."
“Corruption of doctrine always brings with it the corruption of morals”(Cardinal Muller)
“It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord”.
Bishops who hid abuse should resign, says Pennsylvania prelate (Bishop Persico)
Donahue offers some noteworthy clarifications questioning the accuracy of many parts of the recent media coverage