Catholics Demand Pope, Bishops Take Greater Action Against Sex Abuse

by David Nussman  •  •  July 31, 2018   

Numerous Catholics call for investigations, punishments, apologies and reforms

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DETROIT ( - Catholics around the world are calling on Pope Francis and other Church leaders to do more to address the priest sex abuse scandal.

They're also sharing their opinions on the sex abuse crisis, especially the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick scandal. Collectively, they argue that much more is needed from Pope Francis, the Vatican and the American bishops.

Catholic convert Sohrab Ahmari, writing for Commentary magazine, interviewed highly respected psychiatrist Dr. Paul McHugh on Monday about the sex abuse scandal. A Catholic, McHugh was on the board of laity appointed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2003 to address the scandal. In the interview, McHugh warned that Church leaders tend to make clerical sex abuse a psychological issue or the result of a lack of official protocol, rather than a moral and spiritual crisis.

"They haven't done enough penance — moral penance," McHugh said. "We should have a day a year when everyone from the Pope down shows penance for this."

Michael Brendan Dougherty of the National Review showed a similar objection to bishops downplaying the sex abuse crisis as a problem of insufficient policy:

My office doesn't have a policy against plunging hammers into the necks of my colleagues. But my co-workers would not excuse themselves from the duty to stop me from doing this by citing the absence of such a policy in a rulebook, or by explaining that their job description did not explicitly include language about hammer-wielding colleagues. O'Malley is blaming his lack of action on a lack of policy, when the problem is a fear of confrontation, insufficient zeal, or — most likely of all — his moral compromise and passivity in the face of a well-known culture of sexual abuse, blackmail, and moral impunity within the Catholic episcopacy.

Dougherty's piece went on to say, "They need new policies to confront predators; the fear of perdition doesn't move them to do so. Nor does respect for the seminarians or their congregants. Nor does self-respect. The reaction of the cardinals goes some way toward explaining how a man like McCarrick flourished in their ranks."

They haven't done enough penance — moral penance. We should have a day a year when everyone from the Pope down shows penance for this.

Catholic, conservative columnist Cynthia M. Allen wrote in a July 26 op-ed for Texas newspaper Star-Telegram, "The golden anniversary of Humanae Vitae should be a glorious celebration of God's truth. Instead, it is mired in scandal because some church leaders who vowed to promote a culture respectful of these sexual values have not upheld them in their own lives."

Allen argued, "The revelations about McCarrick foster a cynical understanding of human nature that puts the subject first and make it increasingly hard for priests to speak with any moral authority to their rightfully dubious flocks. They can restore that authority by preaching the truth in word and action."

Charles Collins, managing editor of Crux, proposed five ways that Pope Francis can save face and reform the Church in the wake of the priest sex abuse scandal. Included in this list is, "Justice belongs in a courtroom, not an administrative office."

Collins also argued that the Church should do a thorough investigation to make sure any and all abusive clergy are brought to justice. He wrote, "Corruption investigations of this sort are also ones that require investigators to have special expertise and significant professional experience. The Church could announce its intention to work together with INTERPOL and other competent agencies (The FBI and Scotland Yard often assist other countries in complex criminal investigations, for example)."

Marjorie Murphy Campbell, a canon lawyer, wrote an open letter to the USCCB in The Christian Review on July 23:

With this shameful exposure of Cardinal McCarrick's history, the USCCB enters a new, ominous chapter. The bishops must confront serious questions about the role and credibility of the Conference itself, [its] ability to provide moral correction and guidance for the Catholic laity and, whether it functions in compliance with Canon Law "for the common good and for the welfare of the individual churches" [447] or has metastasized into an opaque organization for the positioning and protection of bishops.

Campbell's open letter recommended that the American bishops establish an independent lay board to investigate how Cdl. McCarrick was able to get away with sexual predation for so many years.

EWTN's Raymond Arroyo interviewed Campbell on camera for The World Over. During the interview, she asked rhetorically, "Who calls the fondling, groping and sex with young seminarians and young priests 'consensual sex between adults'?"

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She elaborated on her proposal of a lay investigatory committee, arguing, "This commission can't be urged to dig a trench with handcuffs on. This has to be a commission that is given complete and full access to the records of the USCCB, and every bishop is obligated to cooperate with."

Donald Wittmer wrote in Catholic Journal, "The hierarchy of today's Church may have to step back, and recognizing the problems that exist, take a pro-active approach to addressing the issues."

He added, "It may have to move from the defensive position that it has taken, especially the one of denial, to becoming pro-active in restoring the faith to the masses of Catholics that are looking for an answer to these accusations."

Victims, Catholic laity and indeed innocent clerics viewed as possible miscreants by a cynical public need action to be taken to at last root out the abusers, work out the causes and enact reforms.

Catherine Pepinster is a former editor of left-leaning U.K. Catholic publication The Tablet. She weighed in on the sex abuse scandal in a commentary piece for The Guardian, saying, "If Francis is to get to grips with this scandal then he must act fast. A tribunal needs to be set up in Rome to deal only with abuse cases, run by expert investigators, and testimony needs to be heard."

Pepinster's article also stated, "The scandals now lead to routine expressions of sorrow from the Vatican and other Catholic outposts. But this is not enough."

She went on, "Victims, Catholic laity and indeed innocent clerics viewed as possible miscreants by a cynical public need action to be taken to at last root out the abusers, work out the causes and enact reforms."


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