The unbearable ugliness of the Catholic Church

The Week

August 29, 2018

By Damon Linker

How will the Roman Catholic Church survive the scandals engulfing it on every side?

It’s a hyperbolic question, but one with a serious intent.

Of course the church will continue to exist in some form. Two-thousand-year-old institutions with a billion adherents and solid growth rates in the developing world don’t disappear overnight, no matter how thoroughly corrupt they are revealed to be.

But in what form will it survive?

Four decades ago, Ireland was among the most homogeneously and fervently Catholic countries in the world. When Pope John Paul II visited in 1979, he was greeted by crowds of well over a million people. Last weekend, three months after the overwhelming passage of a referendum that repealed the pro-life provision of the Irish constitution, Pope Francis addressed a crowd roughly one-tenth the size.

What has changed? In the intervening years, Irish Catholicism has been crushed by an avalanche of scandals involving the widespread decades-long abuse (sexual and otherwise) of children in the country’s schools and childcare system.

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