Most Catholics would like to see the media publicity regarding past sexual abuses go away. The majority of the abuse occurred before the year 2000 and the Church has made great efforts to purge their ranks of homosexuals and predatory priests. But unfortunately the abuse that did go on during the mid-to-late twentieth century was so massive and damaging that some now refer to it as the “Era of Abuse.” Complicating this situation is the cover up that existed along with the abuse.
The problem of abuse keeps being reignited by reports such as the Pennsylvania Report where over 300 priests were accused of molesting more than 1,000 children over decades. The Pennsylvania Report, as damaging as it was, is now being duplicated in neighboring states such as New York and New Jersey as well as by the Justice Department.
Criticism has now been extended to the Pope especially in his efforts to address the abuse in the Country of Chile. Under Pope Francis, Chile is for the first time no longer a majority-Catholic nation. In an open letter this past summer to the world’s Catholic faithful, the pope suggested that everyone in the Church shared responsibility. Altogether, the pope has accepted the resignations of seven bishops in Chile and defrocked many priests.
Unfortunately, the media has found a ripe topic to fill the Internet and the thousands of pages of print across the nation. And unfortunately, there is not much the Catholic Church can do to prevent the coverage from expanding and resurrecting past abuse. The magnitude of the scandal adds to its coverage in the media. Each time a bishop resigns or defends his position, the story makes headlines. Did similar cases of abuse occur in other churches and schools? I can guarantee that it did. So what makes the Catholic Church abuse so newsworthy? I think the fact that it occurred and went on for so many years in an environment of secrecy and involved ranking bishops and prelates who went out of their way not to address the abuse but rather to transfer the problem from diocese to diocese. It is almost as if the Catholic Church was ashamed to admit the abuse and hoped for a way out of a tragic situation. This failure to act is what hurts the Church so much.
When will these abusive allegations stop and when can the Church return to the business of Christ’s mission on earth? My take at this point in time is that that it is here to stay for quite a few years. The only thing that the Catholic Church can hopefully hang its hat on is the fact that the abuse did stop and the Church has taken every effort to cleanse itself of this moral disease. As part of our punishment, the Church is going to have to live with the repercussions of this sad situation for years to come. How many years? No one knows.