A Battered Faith
Sex Abuse Scandal Has Forever Changed the Catholic Church

By Connie Lynne Carrillo
The Kansas City Star [Kansas City MO]
February 14, 2004

Once a millennium, an overpowering urge beckons me to clean out our closets and drawers and cart bloated bags of clothes to local charities. This millennium's purging struck a bittersweet note. I stumbled across a small, blue Catholic prayer book — worn, frayed, forgotten and exiled to the bottom of a jam-packed drawer.

As I began rummaging through it, bygone memories came flooding back and suddenly, overwhelmingly, a realization swept over me. Just like my old clothes, this church of my memories was gone. What happened? Where did it all go?

I am an alien in the neo-modern, mega-Catholic Church; lost in austere, cavernous, unruly monstrosities, where I may no longer worship, venerate and reflect, but now must raucously “assemble” in the din of an irreverent “gathering space.”

And now, my church has become a bastion of hypocrisy, mired for two nightmarish years in a monumental, devastating, unending sex abuse scandal. When our saintly, beloved pope speaks, the world snickers, his moral authority undermined, his own house in disarray.

And, in his twilight, this great man must bear the burdensome reality that he let this one get by him; his 25-year legacy of holiness stained by the worst scandal in modern church history. Our church transformed into a war zone; our battlefield littered with wounded souls; our priesthood offered up on a platter for sexual predators to devour.

Our bishops claim an “institutional mind-set” clouded their judgment. They were victims of the times, considering sex crimes diseases to be treated and cured, rather than felonies to be reported and punished. Or were they just protecting their own? Even the most minimally rational citizens know that the rape and molestation of minors has always been considered a crime so unspeakably appalling that perpetrators are often murdered in prison. But not our bishops, who harbored and covered up for these individuals for decades, contaminating and decimating our priesthood, shaming and humiliating our decent and faithful priests.

Meanwhile, lifelong Catholics were alienated, families torn apart; lives were destroyed, hearts broken. Worldly, arrogant bishops fiddled while Rome burned. Confident they were above the law, they artfully dodged prosecutors, abdicated societal obligations, lived in palatial mansions, vacationed in seaside villas, drove fancy cars and wasted untold millions of our hard-earned dollars on lawyers, hush-money, country-club treatment centers and grotesque, monster churches and cathedrals. Our children, teachers, schools and poor urban parishes were callously abandoned; our disabled children were excluded from our elitist Catholic school system.

Hack, new-age, psycho-babbling theologians consider all these unholy aberrations their personal triumph. They proclaim, victoriously, that the church they have shaped and molded since Vatican II has finally come of age and thrown off the shackles of the Middle Ages! But when I peep out of my foxhole on the Catholic battlefield, I witness an unmitigated disaster, a church in shambles. It is disgraced, beleaguered and unraveling in an incomprehensible maelstrom of scandal, denial, decadence and depravity.

We were expendable, exploited for sexual gratification, then discarded. Victims were shunned and abandoned when they dared to cross the “thin blue line,” exposing our dirty little secret. How could so many “Judas priests” betray us, our children, the very souls they were ordained to shepherd? We'll learn how many when the bishops conference releases its audit on Feb. 27.

But when will we learn how many “Judas bishops” we have? How many knew of these sex crimes and conspired to conceal them? How many refused to warn parishes, or authorities, that dangerous sexual predators were in their midst, generating a holocaust of more and more victims? How many perpetrated this colossal cover-up, as heinous as the crimes themselves? How many of them will be rendered unto Caesar?

I cast the crumbling prayer book onto the millennial “gone” pile. But it haunted me all day, called to me, stubbornly refusing to take its leave. In the end, I granted the reprieve and rescued it from banishment. Some pages tumbled out and a long-lost, yellowed clipping slowly floated to the floor. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke's prophetic admonition, so cruelly taught, at such a human toll.

I tenderly placed the book on the nightstand. These ancient, forgotten prayers have worked miracles, I surmised. Hope for my church springs eternal. But nothing will ever be the same.

Connie Lynne Carrillo is a freelance writer who lives in Kansas City, North. To reach Midwest Voices columnists, write to the author c/o the Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108 or send e-mail to


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