Church in Crisis
Since January, when the Boston Globe broke the story about Bernard Cardinal Law’s handling of cases of sex abuse by former priests, an almost continuous series of disturbing stories has been repeated nationwide. In the wake of revelations of sexual abuse, nearly 300 priests and bishops have been removed from their ministry or resigned.
The shock at the magnitude of these abuses has been matched, if not surpassed, by the anger at the way some bishops dealt with cases—moving guilty priests to new parish assignments without informing parishioners, using legal negotiations and out-of-court financial settlements to keep victims from making allegations public, giving the impression they were more concerned about protecting the church’s reputation than children.
It’s created a backlash. Laity are protesting, demanding more of a voice in church matters. They’re collecting funds and distributing them on their own to Catholic charities, bypassing church channels. Abuse survivors are fighting back. In Kentucky alone, approximately 150 lawsuits have already been filed against church officials. Nationally, as much as $1 billion may be paid in settlements, says Thomas P. Doyle, a military chaplain who co-authored a 1985 report on clergy sex abuse.
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