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By Jane Clark Scharl, Crisis Magazine, September 17, 2019
It was only a year ago that the Pennsylvania grand jury released its report on sexual abuse by priests. It was only a year ago that allegations broke about Theodore McCarrick and the network of sexual abusers who have infiltrated the highest levels of the Church. It was only a year ago that Archbishop Viganò’s explosive accusations of negligence on the part of Pope Francis seemed poised to shake the Vatican itself.
It’s hard to believe. One year out, and we hardly seem closer to any real solutions.
New revelations of abuse continue to trickle in—though sometimes, as with Bishop Michael Bransfield, it’s more of a deluge. All in all, things have unfolded roughly the way many faithful Catholics feared they would. There were tears; there were vague statements of regret; and there were synods and meetings at the Vatican. Donald Cardinal Wuerl stepped down as Archbishop of Washington, though he remains comfortably ensconced in the powerful Congregation for Bishops. After months of discussion, McCarrick was quietly defrocked and lives now in a friary in Kansas, where he continues to insist on his innocence. Any sense that significant changes were at last on the horizon has dissipated.
This is not acceptable.
Our most pressing questions have not been answered. Why did Pope Francis not act when he first heard the charges against McCarrick? Why were predatory priests simply moved from parish to parish in so many dioceses with no accountability? How did it become acceptable within the hierarchy to suppress, ignore, downplay, and outright deny clerical sex abuse?
Perhaps most haunting of all, why are civil authorities at the forefront of investigating abuse within the Church, and not our bishops? ….