June 24, 2019
By Mark Shea:
Dear Mr. Shea: I know you have heard this a million times, but one things that is giving me hesitancy to become a member of the church is the current corruption of the hierarchy/sex abuse cover up. I understand that these incidents have fallen since 2002, but many of those who protected abusers are in the church. I believe, as an outsider, that Catholic laity should have the ability to be critical of bishops and priests who stray from Catholic teaching.
Understood. A couple of things, simply from the perspective of an ordinary layman:
Catholic laity, especially in the US, are plenty critical of their clergy, right up to the Pope. Some of that criticism is richly deserved and goes, not to bishops but to cops, as it should. The irony of the abuse scandal and the reforms that come from it is that the American Church really has performed a sort of miracle of reform. One lawyer who has prosecuted over 500 suits against the Church (an agnostic, by the way) has argued that the Church’s work in reforming itself in the US should be a model for every institution troubled by sexual abuse (which is essentially every institution that brings adults and children together, since predators are attracted to prey). He has written a book about it: https://amzn.to/2JZkiIO The great irony of the abuse scandal is that the guy who oversaw the reforms and who did a brilliant job of it, as far as they went, was Cardinal McCarrick, who saw to it that a system was put in place that held everybody but himself accountable. It is one of the weirdness of life that a really and truly gifted and competent bureaucrat who knows who to run and reform systems can also be a grave sinner. Given such a task myself, I would have curled up into a fetal position and had no idea where to start, as would most people. This guy knew what he was doing and brought all his skill to bear to really fix a massively broken system—and to cover up his own sins. Weird.
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