April 24, 2019
By Josh Shapiro, the attorney general of Pennsylvania.
The images were heart-rending. Flames roaring through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, its Gothic spire collapsing into the inferno. A gash into the heart of Catholicism, one observer wrote.
As breathtaking as the fire was the response, from Catholics in France, Rome and around the world, united by their resolve to take swift action. French business leaders pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for repairs. President Emmanuel Macron vowed that Notre Dame will be rebuilt within five years. Other countries promised financial aid. Pope Francis himself reached out to Macron to express his “solidarity with the French people.”
The rapid response is appropriate and affirming, as the followers and leaders of one of the world’s great religions come together, united by their humanity to save a monumental symbol of their faith.
But where is the unity and common purpose to protect the human embodiment of that great faith? Where is the sense of urgency and acceptance of responsibility to support the victims and survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy?
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where I am attorney general, a statewide grand jury working with my office led the way last year when it published a groundbreaking report that identified 301 predator priests, more than a thousand victims of sexual abuse and an institutional coverup that stretched all the way to the Vatican.
And yet, after the grand jury released its report, along with a set of recommendations to protect victims and ensure this kind of abuse and coverup never happens again, the response from the church and its leaders was far less affirming and swift than the response to the Notre Dame fire.
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