August 15 is the Feast of the Assumption, a “holy day of obligation,” when Catholics are expected to attend Mass. This year millions of Catholics went to church sick at heart. I was among them.
The day before, the attorney general of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had released a grand-jury report declaring that hundreds of Catholic priests had sexually abused minors. The grand jury’s conclusions were summarized in reports that landed on the front pages of the New York Times
and other newspapers around the world, as well as lead stories on all sorts of television news programs. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro spoke on The Today Show
and nightly news broadcasts. No Catholics serious about their faith, indeed no one of any sensitivity, could have read about the report without feeling horror and shame. And anger. It was bad enough to read graphic accounts of anal and oral rape, sometimes combined with sacrilegious perversities; it was doubly appalling to be told that church leaders had systematically covered up these crimes and allowed abusers to go unchecked.
Within hours, the Pennsylvania grand-jury report was propelled to international status. The Vatican expressed “shame and sorrow.” Adjectives piled up from Catholic and secular sources: abominable
. The New York Times
editorialized on “The Catholic Church’s Unholy Stain.
Months have passed but the report’s impact has not. At least a dozen states have announced they would follow Pennsylvania in conducting their own investigations (Illinois issued a preliminary report in December); the Justice Department has suggested that it, too, might get into the act. Pope Francis has called for bishops from around the world to address the sex-abuse scandal at the Vatican in February, where the Pennsylvania report will undoubtedly be a chief exhibit—as it currently is for Catholics both on the right and the left writing farewells
to the church.
In fact, the report makes not one but two distinct charges. The first one concerns predator priests, their many victims, and their unspeakable acts. That charge is, as far as can be determined, dreadfully true. Appalling as is this first charge, it is in fact the second one that has had the greatest reverberations. “All” of these victims, the report declares, “were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institutions above all.” Or as the introduction to the report sums it up, “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all.”https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/pa-grand-jury-report-not-what-it-seems?utm_source=Press+List&utm_campaign=f098968bc0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_01_09_05_22&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_01bf0cc1e6-f098968bc0-92468121