The Clergy Abuse Crisis

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A Survivor Speaks: What Catholics Have Said to Me. “I wanted people around me to be mad for what happened to me. When they weren’t, that was painful. The people who were enraged at what happened were the people who stuck by me.”

Benedict vs. Francis vs. Vatican II: In Benedict’s Recent Words. The most politicized American Catholics tend to be those most committed to a narrative of competing papacies and competing ages of the Church. Benedict’s letter, in part, warns us about the reduction of the Church that comes with these narratives.

Benedict and the Crisis: What does theologizing have to do with the abuse of children? It may thus be fair to ask what school of theology these priests have been formed in, and what school of theology is lived in their lives. Questions of theological foundations are not mere “abstract questions” or irrelevant theorizing. These are real questions with real consequences.

In The Atlantic: parents respond to the clergy abuse crisis. On March 17, my work with YArespond was featured in an article in The Atlantic. The piece explored how parents are responding to the current crisis in Catholicism.

Lessons from a survivor of clergy abuse. YArespond recently hosted a survivor of clergy sexual abuse for an evening conversation, so that we can better understand, respond to, and facilitate healing for survivors. We learned a lot from our three-hour discussion, but here are just a few of the takeaways…

Inside the Closet of the Vatican: Interview on Viewpoints with Todd van der Heyden. I was recently featured on Viewpoints with Todd van der Heyden, where we discussed Catholicism, homosexuality, the Vatican summit on the clergy abuse crisis, and Frédéric Martel’s recently released book “Inside the Closet of the Vatican.”

Clerical Transparency vs. “Coming Out.” From the Vice President and Academic Dean of the Dominican House of Studies: “I have no patience for priests who ‘come out’ as gay and insist the priesthood is some sort of cage.”

Responding to the Clergy Abuse Crisis: How a Law Background Influenced a Local Response.On February 21, 2019, I spoke at the University of St. Thomas School of Law on how my legal background shaped the work of YArespond in addressing the clergy abuse crisis.

The Zero-Sum Clergy Abuse Game.I worry that failing to recognize both the complexity of these issues and our relative lack of education in this complexity will only lead to create further damage, by creating false solutions with unintended harmful consequences and by assigning blame where it may not be appropriate.

Can we drink this cup? Nouwen and the abuse crisis.If we want to be Catholic, and to drink fully from the cup of salvation, we are not permitted to choose. We must drink from all of these. These are all ours: the beauty and the horror, the charity and the abuse, the art and the scandal. 

I, too, am responsible: reflections on the abuse crisis.We the laity must also be different. We can’t perpetuate clericalism by saying that the abuse crisis is the sole responsibility of the clergy. It should be obvious by now that most of the clergy are poorly equipped to deal with this situation. So we, too, are called to stand up. 

Catholics: don’t ask for “change”.The problem with calling for “change” or “transparency” is that such calls are too vague. If the laity are merely seeking change, then Church leaders could make minor adjustments to procedures and policies and say that they have “heard” and “responded” to the laity. 

Young adults on the crisis: transparency and reporting.Many found the “defensiveness of Church leaders” frustrating, while others expressed that they were upset that many weren’t talking about it and “pretending it’s not out there.”

Young adults on the crisis: transparency and formation.“But, as we discussed this, we bumped up against our lack of knowledge. We just don’t know what factors lead most directly to these situations, and how can we begin to fix systemic problems without understanding what they are?”

Young adults on the crisis: despair and hope.“Many expressed frustration and sadness. People felt shameful that this was happening in the Church. Some said this made them sick, while others said they weren’t even shocked by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report because these situations are so ‘rampant’ in the Church. “

YArespond: Learn more about the Catholic abuse crisis.Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working with a group of Catholic young adults to respond to the clerical abuse crises running through the Catholic Church. We’re trying to equip the Catholic laity to have informed responses to these complex and difficult issues! 

Ban abuse survivors from seminary.The collected data of the John Jay report, spanning sixty years and covering every diocese in the United States and thousands of priests, found that, considered as a whole, one feature stood out as a predictor of post-ordination sexual abuse of a minor: experiencing sexual abuse as a child. 

Blaming homosexuality: chastity, suicide, and the abuse crisis.SSA/LGBT/homosexual Catholics in the pews (many of whom really want to be faithful to Church teaching) hear the clergy and their peers blaming them for the abuses running through the Church. They might reasonably themselves, “Am I doomed to abuse? Should I just kill myself first?”

Courage and Freud: The John Jay Report.In the 1990’s Fr. Harvey advised bishops on rehabilitating abuser-priests. He likely transferred his “expertise” in clergy reorientation into his ministry for those with same-sex attraction. However well intentioned he may have been in that former work, he was terribly, terribly wrong. 

What do you mean, “crisis”? We have (at least) three..One of the difficult things about discussing the clergy abuse “crisis” is the way we frame it. It seems to me that right now what the Catholic Church faces is not one crisis, but three.

Catholic Young Adults Discuss: Cardinal McCarrick.We have conversation in every forum except for the most intimate location of the (domestic) Church: a living room. So last week I hosted a group of Catholic young adults in my home to discuss Cardinal McCarrick, the clergy abuse crisis, and related topics.

Banning gay seminarians won’t end gay priests.We know that the majority of recent clergy scandals have involved priests abusing other men. Would banning gay seminarians help to prevent this? And how would such a ban work?

Heterosexual clergy who touch other men.You might be surprised to discover that a man who taught that “homosexuals are narcissists who are incapable of forming long-term relationships” and who advised seminarians, “You’re not gay, you just think that you are,” would have had sexual relationships with other men. 

Are gay priests to blame for the clergy abuse crisis?.Although gay priests are not the only clerical perpetuators or abuse, it’s clear that the majority of sex scandals in the Church involve clergy abusing other men and even young boys. That’s just where the statistics seem to fall at this time.