“Let us build the city of God. May our tears be turned into dancing. For the Lord our light and our love has turned the night into day.”
The Catholic Church is in trouble. An astonishing and stomach-churning report by the Pennsylvania Attorney General documents hundreds, if not thousands of cases of abuse by over three hundred priests from six dioceses over the course of 70 years.
While many of cases are old, some of the facts that have come to light are new. Two priests were essentially trafficking in child pornography. Sadism, rape of boys and girls, whips, threats, base manipulation—the report reads like a script written for a twisted XXX-rated movie.
In the Diocese of Erie, a 7-year- old boy was sexually abused by a priest who then told him he should go to confession and confess his “sins” to that same priest.
Another boy was repeatedly raped from ages 13 to 15 by a priest who bore down so hard on the boy’s back that it caused severe spine injuries. He became addicted to painkillers and later died of an overdose.
One victim in Pittsburgh was forced to pose naked as Christ on the cross while priests photographed him with a Polaroid camera. Priests gave the boy and others gold cross
necklaces to mark them as being “groomed” for abuse.
The abuse “was rampant and widespread,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference in the state Capitol. “It touched every diocese, and it is horrifying.”
What is more devastating is that the report chronicles a massive cover-up. Most earth shattering for the church is what could be described as the widespread, institutionalized and systematic cover-up by other priests, bishops and others in authority.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. is directly implicated in the report. He was Bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese for 18 years when much of the abuse was still occurring and near all of it was somehow being covered up.
His predecessor in the D.C. Diocese, cardinal Theodore McCarrick has his own problems. McCarrick has been forced from the College of Cardinals. He is accused of abusing not yet adult seminarians using his authority and even taking advantage of the good graces of the boys’ families.
Incidentally, though he was not able to vote for Francis in the last conclave because of his age, McCarrick was instrumental in promoting then Cardinal Bergoglio for the papacy.
Francis’ response was curt and to the point. “Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated,” the Pope wrote.
But the City of God is in crisis.
The faithful are badly shaken and, as Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston noted, “the clock is ticking
on the Catholic Church.”
“Awake from your slumber! Arise from your sleep! A new day is dawning for all those who weep. The people in darkness have seen a great light. The Lord of our longing has conquered the night.”
Let us rebuild the ‘city of God.’
Michael Sarafa is Co-publisher of the