NEW YORK (NY)
December 27, 2018
By Christopher White
In what has been one of the darkest years in the history of the American Catholic Church, it may sound strange to speak of highlights.
Yet, as the storm clouds of the clerical sexual abuse crisis overshadowed much of 2018, and lingers into 2019, looking back on the past year reveals that while there were moments of shame and showdowns with the government, there were also a few moments in which a beleaguered Church managed to sparkle that are worth recounting, too.
1. “A Summer of Shame”
What began in June – when the archdiocese of New York revealed that then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had been credibly accused of a sexual abuse of a minor – has now erupted into a full-blown crisis.
The following month, further reports would emerge, revealing that McCarrick had serially abused seminarians during his years in Metuchen and Newark, New Jersey. Pope Francis would take the nearly unprecedented action of removing McCarrick from public ministry and accepting his resignation as a member of the College of Cardinals.
When a Pennsylvania grand jury report was released in August – chronicling seven decades of abuse of over 1,000 minors at the hands of more than 300 predator priests, it would prompt over a dozen states to announce they would begin similar undertakings, with federal authorities hinting that a national investigation may soon be announced.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., one of the most powerful members of the U.S. hierarchy, would have his resignation accepted by Francis in October as a continuing part of the fallout from the Pennsylvania report from his time as bishop of Pittsburgh in the late 1980s and 1990s.
In November, the U.S. bishops gathered in Baltimore hoping to pass new standards and protocols for the accountability of bishops accused in sexual abuse or its cover-up. Their plans, however, were put on hold after a last minute intervention from the Vatican requesting that they wait until after a global summit on the topic in February to be held at the Vatican – extending a long summer of shame over sexual abuse, into what is looking to be a bleak winter.
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