Pondering the abuse crisis…

A lengthy, unpleasant and challenging post follows. But I think it needs to be said.

The Catholic church is suffering crisis, perhaps its greatest since the reformation, with righteous anger directed at the hierarchy regarding (yet more) revelations of predatory abuse following fresh investigation in America. The crisis goes to the top this time after a highly reputable Archbishop then blew the whistle on an alleged active gay lobby within the Vatican. The most serious allegation being that Pope Francis rehabilitated Cardinal McCarrick, despite knowledge that he was a predatory homosexual and part of the lobby, and only disciplined him (softly) once it became apparent his deviancy led him to interfere with children as well.

Earlier this year a book was released called the Dictator Pope; it was a profoundly difficult read because, if only ten per cent is true, it also points to evil at work within the Vatican. The central claim being that a homosexual lobby operates at the highest levels of the church and is embroiled in multiple scandals sexual and financial. The book alleges this lobby, under a self imposed guise of a “Mafia”,  even manipulated the last conclave to ensure the Papacy would protect them. It chimes with what Vigano is now claiming.

I would love to disregard such accusations as conspiracy…I sincerely hope it transpires that they are false.  But with so much smoke warnings of a fire cannot simply be dismissed with integrity. ‘Move along, nothing to see’ doesn’t hold up to scrutiny within the present climate. Not with 1000 fresh victims in less than a handful of dioceses, according to the latest report, and over 100 clergy guilty of deviant behaviour. Not with bishops colluding in abuse and others covering. So, with or without help from on high, we must get to the truth no matter the cost. The cancer in the body of Christ needs ripping out. If a lobby exists it must be held to account. But does it exist? If so who are they? And who protects them? Without greater transparency and accountability from the Vatican it is hard for us to know anything for certain.

What follows represents my personal fears and nagging questions in the face of these allegations. Some fears may be unfounded and fuelled only by speculation and rumour, please God that is true. But ponder the crisis we must for every fresh revelation suggests that “something seems rotten in the State of Denmark (the Vatican)” to (mis) quote Hamlet. And we who love the church must be ready to respond.

The Pope seems to keep rotten company

Even if the book is shown to be conspiratorial rumour the Holy Father does seem to choose questionable friends within his inner circle. At his election he chose to appear on the balcony with Daneels, who like McCarrick was rehabilitated by the present regime despite being mired in scandal. Then there is Paglia, who removed every orthodox member of the JPII commission for life and family and replaced them with those friendly to the LGBT cause, also mired in scandal. Or ponder the man Pope Francis appointed to clean up corruption within the Vatican Cardinal Maradiaga, who, it turns out, has scandals of his own. Cardinal Cocopalmeria is another close advisor again linked to newspaper scandal.  And then there is Ricca, given much responsibility by Francis despite having been embroiled in numerous scandals. I could continue linking. But you get the picture. Meanwhile those faithful to Church teaching have been alienated and frustrated. Could it be because a gay lobby is pulling the strings in the Vatican? The number of scandals like those above certainly makes one pause for thought before denying it out of hand.

Other questions then surface. Why is the Holy Father surrounded by men whose sanctity seems questionable? Why are so many of his inner circle implicated in homosexual scandal in particular? Why are those who push the homosexual cause, like Fr James Martin, elevated instead of disciplined for preaching a message contrary to the Gospel? There are only three possibilities. 1. Pope Francis is part of the lobby. 2. Pope Francis has reasons for protecting the lobby. 3. Pope Francis is a  poor judge of character. None of which is good news for the Church.

What cannot be denied, except by the dishonest or delusional, is that a deviant form of homosexual lifestyle lies at the heart of the abuse crisis. It is different outside of the church but within it 80% of victims were post pubescent males. Let that sink in. This article makes the point . One begins to see why Francis must answer his accusers. Did he knowingly rehabilitate McCarrick or not? Is he part of the problem or its cure? Evasion of that central question will get us nowhere but only add to the problem.

And what a problem! Not least because the majority of homosexual clergy are not abusers but the vast majority of abusers were homosexual. Not least because, within the present culture, homosexuality has become a golden calf never to be criticised or questioned! Nevertheless we must investigate and know the truth. Is Pope Francis committed to ensuring priests adhere to vows of chastity? And is he committed to rooting out the unhealthy subculture at the heart of most abuse cases? Because, make no mistake, numerous heads will need to roll if this problem is to be sorted and not just brushed under the carpet. Strong leadership is needed.

Lessons have not been learnt

It is here further concerns arise. For despite much episcopal hand-wringing and countless apologies, the response of hierarchy, to date, suggests a tendency for institutional protection over transparency persists. The following three responses, each wrongheaded in the face of abuse, having been too much in evidence since the ‘Vigano crisis’ broke:


When asked about Vigano’s accusation Pope Francis stated he would “not say a word”. This silence in the face of credible accusation is wrong headed even if the intention may be holy. What I think should have been said instead is ‘I plan to look into this very seriously upon my return to Rome.” For silence is the pernicious cloak under which every abuser operates urging victims to keep ‘our little secret?’ Silence is what got the bishops into this mess in the first place as they attempted to sweep grot under the carpet and move abusers on. It will not do. And claims by unquestioning supporters of the current papacy, that silence is somehow saintly and Christ like, have therefore angered me. Never is silence the correct response where sexual abuse is concerned. Never!


The Holy Father got into hot water earlier this year for attacking the victims of abuse in Chile, instead of listening to what they had to say to him. To his credit he later made a grovelling apology. So it is bizarre and deeply concerning that attacking and investigating the reporter of the abuse (Vigano)- instead of investigating the abuse itself- was the first knee-jerk response of team Francis. So much so Cardinal Vigano has gone into hiding for his life whilst none of his claims have been answered.

Now any member of child protection services will tell you this practice of demonising the whistle blower is the last thing that should happen when somebody finds the courage to come forward. And even if Cardinal Vigano were a bad man, as it happens he is deeply respected by many, it would not mean his account was false.

It strikes me the investigation has been all in the wrong places. Instead of going after Vigano the decent thing to have done would have been to hand over files and launch a public and impartial investigation. And given that McCarrick has now been exposed as something of a Jimmy Saville for the church – shouldn’t the men he personally chose for high office, like Cupich and Tobin, be thoroughly scrutinised also? But instead they seem protected. Cardinal Wuerl, mentioned multiple times as enabling the abuse in the recent report, still in office despite loud calls for his resignation. Despite the fact that, being over the age of 75, the Pope could have pulled the plug on him weeks ago. One senses a circling of wagons not a healthy response to revelations of ingrained and systematic abuse.


Since the scandal broke those seeking to protect the Pope from his critics have attempted to politicise the debate. They insist this is merely a calculated ‘right wing attack’ designed to bring down the papacy. It does not wash. Not with the sheer number of victims in so many different countries and across all theological spectrums. Undoubtedly those unhappy with the current regime will shout loudest but I assure you it is not a love of tradition or theological nuance that is angering most people in the pews. This is a matter of simple decency and it is not good enough to deflect our attention via politics on this one.

Nor should we be told the Pope has more important things to concern himself with. That is simply not true. Nor do distractions about Vigano and the Pope’s historic meeting with divorcees help matters in the slightest. None of that is salient to the point in hand. Only one question matters..did Pope Francis knowingly rehabilitate a known sexual predator or not? Or put another way- is he capable of sorting this crisis out or not? Can he and his close circle of advisors be trusted or not?

To conclude: 

I don’t regret becoming Catholic. Ours remains the true church (compromised though it may be by wicked men) nor is the faith itself brought into question by abusers blatantly not living by it. But I am despairing of the present situation and praying the hierarchy would clean up the mess and stop defending the institution at all cost. Dare I suggest the credibility of the church and her moral authority over the next generations depends upon it?

Dear Holy Father and bishops- please listen to those who are questioning, not out of a displaced sense of loyalty, but out of love and concern for the church. Please hold sinners to account and give us holy men for the future.

And we who have little by way of power must pray and keep up the pressure. We must demand answers for the sake of our children and credibility. It is time to be counted as an extraordinary gauntlet is laid at the feet of the Vatican; tell us- who are the sheeps and who are goats? And how do you plan to sort out this mess?

We have had enough of words without action. We cannot continue as before. I continue to pray for Pope Francis daily and continue to respect the office he holds.

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11 thoughts on “Pondering the abuse crisis…

  1. It is right that the clergy remain visibly loyal to the Church at all levels, but at the same time the faithful need reassurance that our pastors are concerned about the dreadful conduct of some Church leaders.
    The Holy Father’s response on the plane to the Vigano allegations seemed to be, stay silent and hope that it will all blow over. That must not happen this time.

  2. Please see my comment regarding abuse under ‘Too many Cardinal Herods’.
    If the approach I advocate is strictly adhered to, then in the future there will be no areas of contention,suspicion confusion and no need for whistle blowing, accusations etc., etc.,etc.
    As regards the present situation as to who knew what and when, or who ignored this or that or indeed whether there is a homosexual mafia at work I think we need to remember that all this has been going on for a very long time. Many of those guilty have died. Abuse and corruption within the Church did not begin after Vatican II. Indeed there are people in their eighties who have recently reported being raped as altar boys. To put this in perspective the situation has probably been going on for centuries.
    So we cannot lay it all at the door of Pope Francis. He has inherited all this from his predecessors during whose pontificates the facts began to emerge. Let’s face it none of Francis’s saintly and blessed forerunners achieved little in this area for all their pontificating!

    1. At no point do I seek to lay it all at the feet of Francis. I merely ask if he is committed to helping us sort out the rot and if he is suitably detached from the problem to do so? That seems fair and reasonable given the current climate

      1. Really ? If not all, then perhaps 80% ? The attacking of the current pope has been the thread which ties this blog together; the lauding of those who do the attacking (the latest being Vigano who, presumably, kept all these stories to himself as well until he judged it was time to detonate the bomb) has been pretty incessant. Still, 500 years after Martin Luther it is striking to hear the call for history to repeat itself.

        1. I don’t think that A Reader has read the testimony of Archbishop Vigano. The whole point is that he reported things and they were ignored. Itis worth reading all 11 pages of it.

  3. David Knowles is correct that such pederasty has long been an evil in the Church. There are fierce denunciations of it from medieval times or earlier. But I think there is good reason to conclude that it has greatly spread and multiplied since V2, because the last 50 years has seen such a breakdown of authority and a moral experimentation.

    Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate saw an enormous number of sinning clergy dealt with effectively, and his measures against McCarrick show that he was starting to tackle the much harder problem of the senior hierarchy. I imagine the scale of that problem and the opposition he faced must have been a major factor in his decision that it needed another, younger and stronger man to take it on. One can accuse him of acting too late about problems he must have known about for many years, but nevertheless he was acting, and the process was building up a head of steam.

    What has made the present crisis so acute is that all that seems to have been brought to a juddering halt 5 years ago by Pope Francis, even while victims had the listen to his warm words, and watch him being lionised by all and portrayed as the great reformer who would do so much. Now, sadly, the evidence is growing that he has been actively protecting some of those whom presumably Pope Benedict would soon have removed from office. I think much of current fury stems from frustration over recent disappointed hope, after things had at last got under way with his predecessor.

  4. It is Archbishop Vigano, not Cardinal V. Best make this small change lest critics use this to attack you. Do see the Canon Law blog by Ed Peters for more useful observations.
    Thank you for your blog.

    “Unlike in the general population, more males than females were allegedly abused. In fact, there was a significant difference between genders, with four out of five alleged victims being male.” (Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States, commonly known as the John Jay Report, February 2004)’
    Well, here it is in black and white – the origin of the *80%”.
    The John Jay Report is a 2004 report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, based on surveys completed by the Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States.
    You cannot find a more distinguished, expert or impartial academic institution in the USA than John Jay. Both the chief researcher and the chief statistician who worked on the study were non-Catholic women. The report was written in the wake of the Boston Abuse Scandal but, obviously before the Australian, Irish, Chilean, Pennsylvanian and British scandals came to light.
    It dealt only with priestly acts of sexual abuse. Physical, emotional and institutional abuses were outside its scope – as, by definition, were the misdeeds of nuns and Catholic laity..
    No victims were interviewed. All of the evidence was obtained through detailed questionnaires sent to Catholic dioceses. The information provided came from diocesan records. “It was clear from the outset that the study team would not itself have access to the confidential Church files.” (John Jay)
    Nonetheless, the researchers worked diligently on the evidence provided on over ten thousand victims and over a thousand anonymous priests. There is no question that the report represents the best study of clerical sexual abuse available at that time.
    So, what link does the report make between child abuse and homosexuality? It makes none at all.
    “The report shows that the vast majority of clergy sex offenders are not paedophiles at all but were situational generalists violating whomever they had access to. Paedophiles, by definition, seek sexual gratification from pre-pubescent children of one gender and target this age and gender group (especially while under stress). Clergy sexual offenders in the Church were more likely to be targeting whomever was around them (and they had unsupervised access to) regardless of age and gender.” (Psychology Today May 18, 2011).
    I urge everyone to read this report in full. It contains no harrowing accounts of abuse but it does provide a comprehensive study of offending clergy and how they so frequently go unpunished – even when they have been reported to the authorities. Any debate on this issue should, surely, be predicated upon the best available fact – not upon prejudice and manifest ignorance.
    Should you read the report you will find that the Appendices too are informative – including findings from previous academic studies. One such study – of non-offending priests – suggests that 85% of priests are emotionally underdeveloped and characterised by “narcissism and repressed rage”.
    Perhaps this explains Vigano?
    Yes, that was a cheap shot. I contend that it is no cheaper than perpetuating the myth of the “80%”.

    1. Come on Steve G. In the very same week that this news broke – two priests arrested in Miami performing sex acts in broad daylight. With each other. Story after story, abuse case after abuse case, Downside and Ampleforth it so often is male on male. Only those wanting to lie to themselves or others would fail to acknowledge this. Sure the majority of homosexual clergy may not be abusers. But it is simply obvious now that the majority of clerical abusers are homosexual. As I have stated, in the interests of fairness, this is not the case outside the church where most abuse, lamentably, occurs in the home.

  6. Thank you for reinforcing my argument:

    The behaviour of the two Miami priests is an outrage to public decency. It is also the act of two consenting adults and has no relevance whatsoever to the abuse of children. The inclusion of this point illustrates perfectly your inability to distinguish between a child abuser and someone whose sexual orientation you find distasteful.

    “Clergy sexual offenders in the Church were more likely to be targeting whomever was around them (and they had unsupervised access to) regardless of age and gender.” (Psychology Today May 18, 2011). Ampleforth and Downside are single sex boarding schools. The “victim pool” was entirely male.

    The argument is not whether or not there are homosexuals in the clergy. It is whether a male adult who sexually abuses a male child is, ipso facto, a “homosexual”. You are, I am sure, not alone in this view. There is little or no academic or case evidence to support it.

    If you read the Jay Report you will find that although the number of offences against children under the age of seven was relatively “small” (but not insignificant – 10% of 10,000, anybody?) 52% of the victims were female. Would you or anyone seriously describe the perpetrators as heterosexuals?

  7. It might be time to take a context look, because the problem is deeper than many may understand.

    The problem of abuse of minors and the vulnerable has been a thread in human life for thousands of years. Sexual activity with the young was not even seen as abuse, in many quarters, until the Church said so. In some societies, the young were not even seen as persons until maturity. I understand that that is still the case in some cultures. Then there is the active and well organised international infiltration of religious, teaching and caring organisations. which has gone on for many years. The foregoing does not give any excuse for the current situation in the Church but it may illuminate part of the difficulty. That must be very openly rectified before the Church can speak with any credible authority.

    We are not in the ‘hot seat’ of the person(or persons) who must deal with the problem and who, as yet, may not have all the facts – we surely do not. There will be, and there seems to have been, a lot of ‘institutional inertia’ But, one thing that stands out, to me at least, is that as soon as the present pope began ‘getting the drains up’, in order to establish what needed dealing with, opposition and obstruction started to appear and the current conservative bloc made its appearance. What is interesting, about some of them, is that they served the previous two popes in senior positions. Should they not have known something about the depth of the problem and taken steps to begin remedial action. Clearly Pope John Paul II did not know the full extent when he summoned the American bishops. The problem cannot be dealt with quietly ‘in camera’ to ‘protect’ the reputation of the Church. That approach has only served the enemy and caused much damage which will take many years to heal. It must be dragged into, and forcefully dealt with, in the light of day.

    It is a bit like an army in the field which discovers that some of its leadership, perhaps unknowingly for some, at all levels has been working with the enemy all along. That discovery must cause severe shock and a certain paralysis while the discovery is dealt with.
    Perhaps I’m unduly suspicious but my unease is coming from many years of encountering ‘management obstruction’ in the secular world.

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