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Perhaps it’s ironic — if not a touch appropriate given his name — but a prominent Villanova University professor is quoted at the beginning of 2019 as saying the Roman Catholic Church is facing its greatest crisis in 500 years.
“This is not like the Protestant Reformation; no, it’s not. But [it] is in my opinion the most serious crisis since Luther’s time.,” he said. “While this crisis has gone global, one strain of it is peculiar to the United States, where it is inseparable from such hot-button issues as forbidden sexuality, homosexuality and gender.
These comments were made at an hour-long talk at the Virginia-based Bishop Keane Catholic Institute. The professor — might one here say, named just a tad ironically: Massimo Faggioli. (Indeed.)
In terms of accounting to this egregious, shocking, embarrassing, theological crisis that is literally driving hundreds, if not thousands, to leave the Church — yes, that’s with a capital “C” — it’s costing millions and millions of once tax-free, dioceses donated dollars.
According to online bishopaccountability.org the following is not atypical of costs incurred: “Over 3,000 civil lawsuits have been filed against the Catholic Church in the United States.”
“A Roman Catholic Diocese paid $30.9 million in 1998 to victims of one priest. In July 2003 another Roman Catholic Archdiocese paid $25.7 million to settle child sexual abuse allegations made in 240 lawsuits naming 34 priests and other church workers,” the site said.
Bishop Accountability reports also that that figure reached more than $3 billion in 2012.
According to well-known LGBTQ writer Andrew Sullivan in a New Yorker article titled “The Church’s Corruption is Exposed,” the sex offender tally is extensive.
“The majority of accused priests in the United States 55.7 percent had one formal allegation of abuse made against them, 26.4 percent had two or three allegations, 17.8 percent had four to nine allegations and 3.5 had 10 or more allegations,” Sullivan wrote. “A major aggravating factor was the actions of Catholic bishops to keep these crimes secret and to reassign the accused to other parishes in positions where they had continued unsupervised contact with youth.”
And — no big surprise — the Roman Catholic Church is not alone. Fundamentalist and evangelical churches are also not exempt from close, and, one might add for them, unexpected scrutiny, lawsuits and criminal sentencing.
After months of research, a group of Fort Worth Texas Star-Telegram investigative reporters documented “at least 412 allegations of sexual misconduct in 187 independent fundamentalist Southern Baptist churches and their affiliated institutions” based in 40 states and Canada.
The Star-Telegraph expose reports also that some 168 “church leaders” were accused or convicted of sex crimes against children, with as many as 45 of them continuing in ministry after being so identified.
A prominent journalist in the crusade against the rampant sex abuse since 2003 has been Kathy Shaw, who died last year at age 72.
She courageously and bravely compiled a national register of misconduct accusations so that the largely uninformed public could for the first time grasp the dimensions of the ongoing sexual abuse scandal.
She collected hundreds of cases in several languages and posted them on her first-of-its-kind blog, Abuse Tracker, still carried these days by Bishopaccountability.org.
“She connected people who were suffering in isolation and blaming themselves and assuming they were the only ones,” David Clohessy, former national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said in Shaw’s New York Times obituary. “She helped them understand that, in fact, they were part of a system of corruption that could only really be addressed with a personal response, including open disclosure, therapy application, and calling the police. A truly collective response including pushing for broad change.”
Earlier, as a religion reporter for The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Shaw was credited in 2003 with bringing into glaring light a confidential 1962 Vatican document that mandated — get that, mandated — complete secrecy by church leaders in dealing with cases of sexual abuse by priests and their bishops. Just maybe an old — and many decades too long — hush-hush secret is finally being shouted from the religious and secular rooftops. Will it change things for the better? One must surely hope so. God only knows. If and when.