The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims

Pope Francis’ acceptance of the resignation of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl had raised hopes that an important step had been taken in the sexual abuse cases plaguing the Catholic Church. However, by praising Cardinal Wuerl’s service to the church, and keeping him as the archdiocese’s caretaker until he appointed his successor, Pope Francis gave a step backward and disappointed many sexual abuse victims.

According to a Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church released last August, six Pennsylvania dioceses accused Cardinal Wuerl of helping to protect some priests that molested children while he was Bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. The report said Cardinal Wuerl had accepted the advice of psychologists in allowing priests accused of sexually abusing children to remain in the ministry.

It also said that Cardinal Wuerl’s had been mentioned more than 200 times in relation to his poor handling of accusations against abusing priests. Cardinal Wuerl tried to deflect responsibility by saying that the cases had occurred in the 1980s and 1990s when the church hadn’t yet developed clear policies on sexual abuse. “I think I did everything that I possibly could,” Cardinal Wuerl said in a television interview.

The incongruity of his defense was refuted after drawing strong criticism. Cardinal Wuerl, in a sad letter to his archdiocese, accepted responsibility for the actions described in the grand jury report, saying, “I wish that I could redo some decisions I have made in my three decades as a bishop and each time get it right.” However, it must be stressed that in addition to the cover-up, the church avoided reporting the abuses to the police. Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s attorney general, said at the time that the grand jury report clearly showed that Cardinal Wuerl had participated in the cover-up.

In accepting Cardinal Wuerl’s resignation pope Francis wrote, “You have sufficient elements to ‘justify’ your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems and to commit some mistakes. However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you.”

Pope Francis’ support for Cardinal Wuerl could be explained by the archbishop’s support for the social and political changes that the Pope is trying to achieve within the Catholic Church. The Pope himself is being attacked by conservative members of the church because of these actions. Given the extent of Pope Francis’ intended reforms, it is plausible that not too many high officials in the church support him, particularly if these actions curtail their benefits.

By calling Cardinal Wuerl’s actions simply “mistakes”, and by keeping him as a member of the Congregation of Bishops, Pope Francis doesn’t seem to realize the grave harm that the priests’ actions have caused, and the almost irreparable damage done to the Catholic Church. The result of the abuse carried out by thousands of priests around the globe has left people psychologically damaged, many of whom will probably never be able to overcome the consequences of these disgraceful incidents.

The credibility of the Catholic Church as an institution has been shattered by the extent of the abuses. Unless this is acknowledged, and those guilty of the abuse or their cover-up are properly investigated and punished, the Catholic Church will continue to lose believers in droves, and cease to be the place of spiritual comfort that people desperately need.

More articles by:


Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Ellen Lindeen
What Does it Mean to Teach Peace?
Adewale Maye and Eileen Appelbaum
Paid Family and Medical Leave: a Bargain Even Low-Wage Workers Can Afford
Ramzy Baroud
War Versus Peace: Israel Has Decided and So Should We
Ann Garrison
Vets for Peace to Barbara Lee: Support Manning and Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Mueller Report Changed my Mind on Term Limits
Jill Richardson
Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t
Mallika Khanna
The Greenwashing of Earth Day
Arshad Khan
Do the Harmless Pangolins Have to Become Extinct?
Paul Armentano
Pushing Marijuana Legalization Across the Finish Line
B. R. Gowani
Surreal Realities: Pelosi, Maneka Gandhi, Pompeo, Trump
Paul Buhle
Using the Law to Build a Socialist Society
David Yearsley
Call Saul
Elliot Sperber
Ecology Over Economy