Selling people the Vatican “gets it” on abuse a challenge right now


Mar 31, 2019

By John L. Allen Jr.

Having just returned from an 18-day swing through the U.S. that took us to Boston, Denver, South Bend, Anaheim, Simi Valley, Whittier and Detroit, here’s probably the most common question I got along the way from American Catholics vis-à-vis the home office in Rome: “Do those guys over there get it?”

The “it” refers to the clerical sexual abuse crisis, and, more specifically, the gravity and depth of the situation as experienced by American Catholics over the last several months, and thus the perceived need for urgent and dramatic action.

Obviously, it would have been great if my answer could have been, “Yeah, absolutely, of course.” That would have been reassuring to the people we met, and also would have made the lives of the pastors, parish ministers and bishops we encountered infinitely easier.

Alas, recent experience dictates a more complicated response. To grasp why, let’s consider developments in just the last few days.

To begin, last week a Vatican-backed investigation commenced in the Argentine diocese of Oran regarding accusations of both sexual and financial misconduct against its former shepherd, Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta, who’s now the number two official in the Vatican’s Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, meaning its main financial administration center.

Archbishop Carlos Alberto Sánchez of neighboring Tucumán has been assigned to conduct the probe, which apparently will involve interviewing seminarians who’ve claimed to be victims of abuse by Zanchetta.

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